International Copyright Relations of Russia - International Copyright - Copyright On Soviet and Russian Works in Other Countries

Copyright On Soviet and Russian Works in Other Countries

Even before the accession of the Soviet Union to the UCC in 1973, some Soviet works were copyrighted in some other countries. One well-known case concerned the actions of the four Soviet composers Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Prokofiev, and Myaskovsky against the movie company 20th Century Fox. 20th Century Fox had published a movie called The Iron Curtain, using music of these four composers as background music and crediting the composers. The four Soviet composers initiated legal actions against the movie company, claiming that the use of their names and music in a movie whose theme was objectionable to them and that was unsympathetic to the Soviet ideology libeled them and violated their civil rights. In the U.S., the courts dismissed these claims in Shostakovich v. Twentieth Century-Fox (80 N.Y.S.2d 575 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1948), affirmed, 87 N.Y.S.2d 430 (N.Y. App. Div. 1949)), in particular because the works of these composers were in the public domain in the U.S. at that time because there were no international treaties relating to copyright between the U.S. and the USSR. The compositions themselves also had not been distorted, so the court found that the composers' moral right to the integrity of the work was not violated.

The four plaintiffs also went to court over this issue in France. Up to 1964, the French legislation treated both French authors and foreign authors exactly the same; works of both were granted exactly the same copyright protection. In a law suit that was ultimately decided by the French Court of Cassation in 1959, the plaintiffs won: the court ruled that works of foreign authors were entitled to copyright in France, and that the works of these four Soviet composers were thus copyrighted in France. It found their moral rights violated and ordered the film to be confiscated.

Another way by which Soviet works could become copyrighted outside of the Soviet Union was the smuggling of manuscripts out of the USSR to have the work first published abroad. This practice, known as tamizdat in the Soviet Union, could result in serious repercussions for the authors in the USSR, but was still employed as one of the few ways the governmental censorship could be bypassed. As a side effect, tamizdat works were granted copyright in the foreign country of first publication. If that country was a signatory of the UCC or the Berne Convention, the work was also granted copyright in all other signatories of these treaties, because they both extended copyright to works of citizens of non-member states, if these works were first published in a member state. A very famous case of a tamizdat publication was Boris Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago, which, after it had been refused by Soviet publishers, was first published in an Italian translation in Italy in 1957. Because Italy was a member of both the UCC and the Berne Convention, the work was entitled to full copyright in all other member states of these two conventions. Pasternak was expelled from the Writers' Union and, after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958, forced to decline acceptance of the award.

Early Soviet authors sometimes benefited from international copyright on their works just naturally. Maxim Gorky and Sergei Prokofiev, for instance, both had lived for some time abroad and published works in other countries that were members of the Berne Convention. These works of theirs were copyrighted in all other signatory countries of the Berne Convention. After the case of Doctor Zhivago, Soviet publishers became more aware of this possibility to have Soviet works covered by the Berne Convention. Soviet state organizations began to arrange for (simultaneous) first publication of some Soviet works in a country of the Berne Convention. For instance, Mikhail Sholokov's novel They Fought for Their Country was officially first published in Italy.

When the Soviet Union joined to the UCC, all Soviet works published on or after May 27, 1973 became eligible to copyright in all other signatory countries of the UCC. This state persisted until the dissolution of the USSR. When the USSR disintegrated, so did its copyright law. The split into fifteen independent states translated into a split into fifteen independent copyright laws, each with its own jurisdiction defined by the territory of the new successor state of the Soviet Union. Through the Moscow agreement, Soviet works first published in the RSFSR, which were thus subject to the Russian law, became eligible for copyright is all other CIS nations, even if they had been published before 1973.

Since its accession to the Berne Convention in 1995, the following Russian and Soviet works were copyrighted outside of Russia:

  • All works copyrighted in Russia in 1995, when Russia joined the Berne Convention, became copyrighted in other Berne countries. By virtue of the retroactivity of the Russian copyright law of 1993, this also included many pre-1973 Soviet works, namely all works published in 1945 or later and also older works of authors who died or were rehabilitated in 1945 or later (or 1941 for authors who lived during the Great Patriotic War), if these works were first published in the Russian SFSR (or later in Russia) or the author had become a citizen of the Russian Federation after the demise of the Soviet Union.
  • All works copyrighted in Russia on January 1, 1996, the effective date of the U.S. Uruguay Round Agreements Act, became copyrighted in the U.S. on that date. This essentially concerned all the same works as above, but using the years 1946 or 1942 instead of 1945 and 1941, respectively.
  • In the countries that had bilateral treaties with the USSR, pre-1973 Soviet works (from any of the fifteen SSRs) were copyrighted even before.

Read more about this topic:  International Copyright Relations Of Russia, International Copyright

Other articles related to "soviet, other countries, works, copyright":

Copyright Law Of Russia - International Copyright Relations - Copyright On Soviet and Russian Works in Other Countries
... Even before the accession of the Soviet Union to the UCC in 1973, some Soviet works were copyrighted in some other countries ... well-known case concerned the actions of the four Soviet composers Shostakovich, Khachaturian, Prokofiev, and Myaskovsky against the movie company 20th Century Fox ... Twentieth Century-Fox, the French Court of Cassation in 1959 ruled that that works of foreign authors were entitled to copyright in France, and that the works of these four ...

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