The judgments of the European Court of Justice, the Court of First Instance and the directives which the member states are obliged to enact into their national laws harmonise the copyright laws of European Union member states into the copyright law of the European Union. Copyright law in Europe can be traced back to the signature of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works on 9 September 1886. All European Union Member States are signatories of the Berne Convention, and compliance with its dispositions is now obligatory before accession.
European Economic Community applied common standard for the copyright protection of computer programs, enacted in the directive on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC) in 1991.
A common term of copyright protection, 70 years post mortem auctoris (from the death of the author) was agreed in 1993 as the directive harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights (93/98/EEC).
The implementation of directives on copyright has been rather more controversial than for many other subjects, as can be seen by the six judgments for non-transposition of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC).
Traditionally, copyright laws vary considerably between Member States, particularly between common law jurisdictions (Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom) and civil law countries. Changes in copyright law have also become linked to protests against the World Trade Organization and globalization in general.