I just checked on GNU's website to get a definitive answer, as a good debate can only take place on a solid ground, and got the confirmation that it's the local copyright law that matters :hgm wrote: It does not seem to refer to any specific country of residence.
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How do I get a copyright on my program in order to release it under the GPL? Under the Berne Convention, everything written is automatically copyrighted from whenever it is put in fixed form. So you don't have to do anything to “get” the copyright on what you write—as long as nobody else can claim to own your work. However, registering the copyright in the US is a very good idea. It will give you more clout in dealing with an infringer in the US.
There's something funny with the way this answer is written : it seems to imply that the USA gave up their exception of registration. It would be interesting if someone who knows the american copyright law well enough could enlighten us on that matter.