We’ll be coming back to this soon, but readers should be aware that there’s a loophole in Canada’s Copyright Act that can be closed immediately through the the USMCA trade agreement. Canada has an odd anachronism in the copyright term for works other than sound recordings–unlike the majority of Canada’s trading partners, Canadian copyright is based on the old life plus 50. (Sound recordings are 70 years from release, essentially.)
What this means is that songs lose copyright protection in Canada 20 years earlier than the rest of the world. USMCA fixes that by harmonizing Canadian copyright term with other Commonwealth countries, Europe, Japan and the US, plus Mexico (which has a longer term).
But–USMCA also has a 30 month transition period from the effective date–and there’s the loophole for Google. For procedural reasons, the implementing legislation was just introduced in the Canadian Parliament even though Prime Minister Trudeau signed the agreement in 2018. The 30 month transition period is not relevant for extending the copyright term unless the Trudeau government is trying to slow walk the implementation. Or got happy feet on the copyright extension due to lobbying pressure from you know who. Why might they slow walk the implementing legislation? Maybe so that Google can rally the anti copyright troops (in the form of Michael Geist of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, which has already happened. And yes, that “Samuelson” is Pamela Samuelson. Small world, ain’t it?).
Google has already successfully lobbied a trade off for copyright term extension (and national treatment) in return for exporting their bogus interpretations of the DMCA and Section 230 that Google uses for profiting from infringement and human trafficking, respectively. Now, of course, they’d like to reneg on the copyright term extension part. (You can tell because Geist loves him some Section 230 and opposes term extension as bad for Canada. How exactly?)
Given that there’s already been a long delay between signing and legislating a trade agreement that Canada’s other two partners have passed, there’s really no reason for further delay in implementing the harmonized copyright term beyond the minimum required votes in Parliament–certainly not another 30 months after enactment. “Life of the author” may seem like an abstract concept, but Neal Peart’s passing reminds us not only of the tremendous contribution to our business by Canadians, but also the march of time. No reason to wait another 30 months.
So the Songwriters Association of Canada, the Screen Composers Guild of Canada and publishers posted this open letter. Let’s keep an eye on this issue and support their efforts.
On behalf of tens of thousands of songwriters, composers and music publishers in Canada, we welcome you back and most of all wish you a productive Parliamentary session.
We thank the government for signing the Canada-U.S.-Mexico (CUSMA) trade agreement last year. Under it, copyright in Canada will be strengthened by extending the term of protection by 20 years, to the life of the author plus 70 years.
What does this mean for innovation in Canada?
Canadian songs and scores are heard daily on the radio, on streaming services, in video games, and in film, television and other screen-based productions around the world.
Modernizing the Copyright Act to ensure Canadian rights holders have the same protections as their international competitors is a much-needed move to help Canadian creators, and the companies that invest in them, to continue exporting their creations around the world. A forward-looking, digitally attuned copyright regime will foster Canadian innovation, investment, and growth in a key economic sector for our great country.
It is imperative that CUSMA be ratified quickly to ensure that Canadian songwriters, composers and the small and large businesses that invest in music publishing are properly compensated for their work. The term extension provisions in CUSMA should be enacted immediately, without unnecessary delay and with no conditions.
Adding another 20 years to the life of a copyright means a robust creative sector, more Canadian cultural exports, and the growth of many innovative businesses that have embraced the digital market. It is long past time for Canada to catch up to its international trading partners in this respect.
CUSMA presents an amazing, tangible opportunity to expand Canada’s music publishing industry, invest more in emerging songwriters and composers and make our Canadian companies even more competitive globally. We urge all Parliamentarians to make the early ratification of CUSMA their top legislative priority.
OPEN LETTER TO MPS AND SENATORS OF THE 43RD PARLIAMENT