The Future of the Berne Convention in Cambodia

12 October 2020

The Future of the Berne Convention in Cambodia

The Berne Convention is one of the oldest IP treaties, dating back to the 19th Century, and central to the international protection of copyright. It provides creators with the means to control how their works are used, by whom and on what terms. The convention obliges countries to enact laws that set minimum standards for copyright protection, most importantly that foreign works are automatically protected.

Presently, 179 countries have signed up to the Berne Convention, so Cambodia was one of the few outliers not to have done so. Foreign works are protected through three basic principles of the Berne Convention:

Works originating in one of the Contracting States (works the author of which is a national of such a State or works first published in such a State) must be given the same protection in each of the other Contracting States as the latter grants to the works of its own nationals (principle of "national treatment") Protection must not be conditional upon compliance with any formality (principle of "automatic" protection) Protection is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work (principle of "independence" of protection). If, however, a Contracting State provides for a longer term of protection than the minimum prescribed by the Convention and the work ceases to be protected in the country of origin, protection may be denied once protection in the country of origin ceases.

According to David Haskel, Partner, Abacus IP in Cambodia, the scope of works protected under Cambodian copyright law in Cambodia is about to explode exponentially. “To date, only domestic works and the very few foreign works that qualified under the current law were protected,” he says. “Once it joins the Berne Convention, almost every work created around the world will be protected. That means that Cambodian individuals and businesses that were freely using such works will now need to get permission from the rights-holder or face legal consequences.”

Although regulation has not been enacted yet, Haskel says, “We can expect the formal accession to the Convention soon, together with the implementing regulation. Down the line, we could expect more copyright enforcement and licensing cases in Cambodia.”


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