The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.
The Berne Convention formally mandated several aspects of modern copyright law; it introduced the concept that a copyright exists the moment a work is “fixed”, rather than requiring registration. It also enforces a requirement that countries recognize copyrights held by the citizens of all other signatory countries.
The Berne Convention requires its signatories to treat the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries (known as members of the Berne Union) at least as well as those of its own nationals. For example, French copyright law applies to anything published or performed in France, regardless of where it was originally created.
In addition to establishing a system of equal treatment that internationalised copyright amongst signatories, the agreement also required member states to provide strong minimum standards for copyright law.
Copyright under the Berne Convention must be automatic; it is prohibited to require formal registration (note however that when the United States joined the Convention 1 March 1989, it continued to make statutory damages and attorney’s fees only available for registered works).