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All rights reserved?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday December 23, 2006 )

“All rights reserved” is a chunk of text you’ll see on many web pages as part of a copyright statement.

Perhaps you use the term yourself on your site. So where did the phrase originate; what does it mean and is it really necessary?

What does all rights reserved mean?

This phrase used to be required for works created in countries that were party to the Buenos Aires Copyright Convention 1910 (ratified in 1911 and proclaimed in 1914). In part, the convention stated “there shall appear in the work a statement that indicates the reservation of the property right” – hence the term “all rights reserved” usually followed the initial copyright notification like so:

Copyright © 2006 Michael Bloch. All rights reserved.

This requirement only ever applied in the United States of America, the Argentine Republic, Brazil, Chili, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay,Peru, Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Enter the Berne Copyright Convention of 1971

The Buenos Aires Copyright Convention is now effectively redundant as all of the above countries (and most other countries) are also party to the Berne Copyright Convention of 1971, which does not have this requirement.

The Berne Copyright Convention is a more complex document providing much strong copyright protection, but also states that “the enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality”.

You can read the entire text of the Berne Copyright Convention of 1971 here

A list of countries party to Berne and various other conventions can be viewed here

So, it seems that “all rights reserved” has had its day and really provides no added protection to your work – and if you’re based outside the USA and South America; it never did :).


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