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Suppose there is a work by author A, whose copyright expires tomorrow (i.e. it goes into public domain) in their country of birth C1. I upload it (tomorrow) online on a blogging site by a company E based in country C2 with servers physically in country C3 (where it is possible that C2=C3, or even C1=C2=C3 but not necessarily). I live in country C4. In countries C2, C3, C4 the work's copyright has not necessarily expired. Can I get in trouble? I am particularly interested on whether I can get away with it if I make C1=C2 or C1=C2=C3.

Thanks.

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    Another situation to consider: the copyright has expired in all of those countries, but not in country C5. Are you liable for making a protected work available to the public in that country? Basically, the answer to your question is that all countries' copyright laws are potentially applicable, but the details will depend on the specific provisions of each country's laws.
    – phoog
    Dec 31, 2022 at 17:47

3 Answers 3

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Each country has its own rules for what works are protected, and when a copyright infringement suit may be brought in that country. A suit may be brought in any country whose laws permit it. If the defendant has no assets in that country, collection of a judgement, if one is awarded, may be harder, than it would nbe in the defendant's country of residence.

In general, suit may be brought in any country where an act of infringement takes place, if the work is protected under that country's copyright laws. However, some countries do not allow suits to be brought against non-resident defendants.

If the copyright expires on different dates in different countries, posting it on the intenet may well be infringement in any country where the rights have not expired, and suit may well be possible in any such country.

Some countries follow the 'rule of the shorter term" and end protection whenever the source country does. The US, for one, does not follow that rule. US copyright of a foreign work lats as long as it would if the same work had been created and published in the US.

Unless the work is PD in all of C1, C2, C3, and C4, it may be possible for the copyright owner to bring and win an infringement suit. Indeed it may be possible for a suit to be brought and won in C5, a country where the work was downloaded and further copies made, even though neither the host, the servers, nor the poster are located in C5.

Not also that the work's "country of origin" may include the country where it was first published, or the current residence of the author, as well as the author's birth country or country of citizenship. Thw works "country of origin" often matters in copyright cases.

Under the Berne Copyright Convention, a non-resident or non-0citizen must be granted at least the same rights to sue for infringement as a resident or citizen, and could be granted more rights in any country that adheres to the Berne convention. Countries that adhere to the WTO's TRIPS agreement must also treat foreigners at least as well as their own nationals. The UCC is effectively obsolete, but would have imposed similar requirements.

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    “Where the infringement takes place” - and countries can disagree about that. If I download from your piracy website in another country, one country could claim the infringement is in your country, another could claim its in my country.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 31, 2022 at 23:11
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You can always get in trouble. Copyright is always protected by the laws of a particular nation, by the courts of that nation. Because of the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, I can sue you outside of my country, and will be treated as a person of that country. The conventions don't say who has jurisdiction, that is where you have to sue, so you have to resort to conventional jurisdictional principles. If you are in Europe, under the Brussels Convention, that means I have to sue you in your country of domicile (if you reside in multiple European nations, I get to decide which country to sue you in). The English courts are slightly different in that they generally hold that you sue in the country where the act took place, but (Lucasfilm v Ainsworth) you can sue in UK courts for infringement that occurs in the US. As you can see, this can get complicated. I can't sue you in Mongolian courts (assuming neither of us has any connection at all to Mongolia), but I could sue you (being a hypothetical UK citizen) in UK courts if you did the infringing deed while in Mongolia.

Mongolian courts enforce Mongolian copyright law, US courts enforce US copyright law. Therefore you first have to decide what country you plan to sue in (from the plaintiff's perspective).

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You are trying way to hard to make this into something more than it is.

If you post it in country C4 and it is copyrighted in C4, that is illegal.

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  • FWIW I didn't downvote. I can post from C1 if needed but I reside in C4. I think my question has merit. Dec 31, 2022 at 18:35
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    -1 This is oversimplified, to the point of being incorrect. A work may be protected in many countries, and suits may be brought in any of them. Dec 31, 2022 at 18:44
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    @Jason Michaels If the work is protected in C4 then posting a copy in C4 is probably infringement in C4 and suit can be brought in C4, unless an exception applies under the laws of C4. Referring to that as "breaking the law" can be misleading. It is a tort which permits but does not require a civil suit by the copyright owner. In most cases it is not a crime. It is still a tort even if the poster does not live in C4. Dec 31, 2022 at 19:00
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    @Jason Michaels No you didn't say that. But many readers may well (incorrectly) understand "breakinG the law" to mean the same thing as "committing a crime". That is why i called it "misleading" I am attempting to prevent or counter any such misunderstanding on the part of any reader. By the way, referring to another user as "twisting words" could be taken as "unkind" and as a violation of the 'be nice" part of the code of conduit. As a mod on another SE site, I advise finding a different way to express disagreement. I am not flagging these, however. Dec 31, 2022 at 19:24
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    This is now closed but, in case someone comes down here: you can live in C4 AND post in C1 either via VPN or simply moving there to post, without changing your residence. Jan 1, 2023 at 10:37

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