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A Lifetime Of Protection With The Copyright Laws In Canada

In later November 2022, the Canadian council declared December 30th, 2022 as the date on which legislation to extend the basic term of copyright protection in Canada from 50 years after the author’s life to 70 years thereafter would come into force. After series of consultation and debate, this legislation received its assent on June 23rd, which was prompted by Canada’s commitment under the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement (CUSMA).

It stands true for every individual and creative union that their valuable creations are really precious for them, irrespective of the fact whether they care any monetary value or not. A poem, painting, musical score, performer’s performance, computer program etc, all are valuable creations. Regardless of their merit or commercial value, the Canadian law protects all original creative works, in provision to the Copyright Act. This means that if an individual or a creative union owns the copyright to a poem, song or other original work, they have rights that are protected.

To put it simple, the Copyright Act prohibits other from copying an individual’s work without their permission. The aim of the act is to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas.

The changes brought by Canada are into compliance with a commitment it made under the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), where it stressed to match its copyright protections with those in place in the United States since 1998. The NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to create a free trade zone for Mexico, Canada and the United States. The NAFTA provided coverage to services except for aviation transport, maritime and basic telecommunications. The agreement also provided intellectual property right protection in a variety of areas including patent, trademark and copyrighted material. In addition to this, NAFTA also allowed companies to ship qualifying goods to customers in Canada and Mexico duty free. To follow the rules of the NAFTA, and match its copyright protections with those in place in the US, Canada was given a deadline until December 31, 2022, which it adhered to, a day before.

Moving on, the government believes that such change in the copyright law also puts Canada in line with many other countries. These include Australia, and those in Europe such as the United Kingdom.

When copyright on a work expires, anyone is free to use it without asking permission. This is called as the public domain. But now, with the addition of 20 more years, works will not enter the public domain unit 70 years after the creator’s death. This implies that the additional content in Canada will not enter the public domain until at least 2043. This will include works such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, by JRR Tolkien, whose work will now become public domain on January 1, 2044.

Additionally, many intellectual lawyers are of the belief that the introduced change is not just about the copyright, but also about trade rights. In a statement to CBC News, the Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry mentioned the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement (CUSMA) as the reason for the change.

“In accordance with our trading obligations under CUSMA, Canada was required to extend copyright protection for 20 years, up to 70 years after end-of-life prior to January 1. This brings Canada in line with many other jurisdictions around the world, including Europe, the UK and Australia.” The CUSMA was signed during the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires, where it replaced the NAFTA. At the time, NAFTA created the largest free-trade region in the world and shaped commercial activities on the continent. With the signing of CUSMA, there were many fields which expected alterations, intellectual property being one of them, witnessed changes being evoked soon.

The federal government has argued to extend the term of copyright for a protected work. Canada previously stood alone with respect to the term of copyright compared to other countries, especially compared to its CUSMA economic partners. Their version of the Copyright Act provided the following general rule: unless otherwise stipulated in the Act, the copyright shall subsist for the life of the author and the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, as well as a period of fifty (50) years following the end of that calendar year (Section 6 of the Copyright Act).

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work, dating back to 1886, had established the minimum standard for the term of copyright protection as fifty (50) years. However, many of Canada’s key trading partners had already moved to a term of seventy (70) years following the calendar year of the death of the author, most notably, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Japan.

This change has received a positive response from some artists and creative unions. Marc Jordan, the Canadian songwriter, whose credits include Diana Ross, Cher, Rod Stewart, the rhythm of my heart appreciated the change by stating, “When you go into this industry, you want to know that there’s a way you can make a living, and I think extending that for another 20 years … adds a little bit of value to what you’re doing.”




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