Trade Organization’s overarching set of rules on intellectual property rights,
the TRIPS Agreement, contains language on copyright rules dictating which kinds
of original creative works may be accorded copyrights and the kinds of measures
that may be used under copyright law to prevent infringement. The copyrights
rules and other intellectual property protections put in place by TRIPS were
fitted toward the purposes of a newly complex and interconnected global
economy, in which the value of information and the transfer of it between
different nations are increasingly accelerated. With this in mind, the model
for copyright law put into place by TRIPS is one which allows for digitally-enabled
methods for storing and accessing information to be subject to the protective
and punitive measures of copyright rules.
law is generally expressed in language which takes the form not of empowerment
but of prohibition, so that holding the copyright to something is not couched
as a privilege to use it, but as a privilege to prevent others from using it.
Computer programs and databases are considered to
fall under the protection of copyright law. The same copyright rules for
literary works, as originally established by the Berne Convention, are in force
for computer programs. Separate issues are raised by the placement of computer
databases under the purview of copyright law, in that the medium by its nature
is composed of preexisting information. In order to manifest the degree of
originality required for the granting of protection under copyright law,
databases must be shown to be unique enough in their formatting to be
significantly distinguished from other databases.
Another section of the TRIPS copyright rules apply
to the means by which authors may offer their work to the public in exchange
for financial compensation. Selling the reproductions or the rights to an
original work of authorship had been protected under the systems of copyright
law preceding the adoption of the TRIPS rules, but copyright law governing the
rental rights to works were found to be more ambiguous.
interests of clarifying such copyright rules, the WTO granted the creators of
computer programs the ability to legally block rentals of copies of their work.
When it could be shown that the rental of copies of films and televisions
programs had led to the unauthorized reproduction of such works and consequent
financial disadvantage to the owners, the copyright holders would have
comparable rights for claiming the ability to block the rental of their work.
Another section of copyright law addressed and
rationalized under the TRIPS provisions were the rights of performers in
relation to the copies made of their performances which, if unauthorized, are
commonly referred to as bootlegs. People who record, reproduce or distribute
performances without the consent of the performer will be liable to prosecution
under the TRIPS copyright rules for a period lasting up to fifty years. The
producers of authorized recordings are protected by TRIPS copyright law for the
same period of time.