(Ottawa) No new books or plays will be added to the public domain until 2043 in Canada, as the federal government extended the term of copyright protection by 20 years just before the end of 2022.
Until December 30, copyright protection for original works of a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic nature applied for the artist’s lifetime, plus 50 years after his or her death.
However, as of this date, the new regulations apply during the life of the artist and 70 years after his death.
This change allows Canada to honor a commitment made under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement and ensures that the same rule will apply in Canada and the United States, where the 70-year period after the artist’s death has been in effect. since 1998.
This agreement gave Canada until December 31, 2022 to comply and moved that deadline up one day.
In a statement from the office of Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, the government said the change also puts Canada on a level playing field with many other countries, including those in Europe, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia.
“Canada will continue to do its part to protect the interests of artists, creators and rights holders, while continuing to balance the needs of the industry,” the statement read.
This means that works of art that may have been republished or reused without permission since 1Ahem January will benefit from an additional protection of 20 years.
This has allowed, for example, numerous adaptations, reprints, pre-episodes and sequels to the play “Anne of Green Gables”, which entered the public domain in the United States in 1983 and in Canada in 1992.
The public domain also allows libraries, museums, and archives to freely use works for historical and research purposes, including the online posting of archives of important documents by politicians and world leaders.
For example, copyright protection for some of the writings of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who died in December 1972, will expire on December 1.Ahem January 2043.
Copyright protection is not retroactive, but rather applies to any author, composer or screenwriter whose works have been added to the public domain by 2043, which means that for 20 years nothing new will be added to the public domain in Canada .
This period touches on the novels of Canadian authors such as Margaret Laurence and Gabrielle Roy, but also international writers such as JRR Tolkien and Roald Dahl.
Writers’ associations often support these changes, because the more certain creators are that they are getting paid for their work, the more incentive they have to create.
Academics, librarians, archivists and museums, however, argue that this limits their ability to access and use hundreds of works, most of which no longer have any commercial value.
“The reality is that the vast majority of works that enter the public domain have little or no commercial value,” said Michael Geist, Canada Research Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Internet and E-Commerce at the University of Ottawa.
“And that’s one of the reasons why many others are really concerned about this extension, because many works may have historical cultural value, but they no longer have commercial value. »
Mr. Geist also questions the idea that the 50-year delay after death stifles creation.
He explained that, in his opinion, no one has had any qualms about writing a great novel in recent years and then he woke up thinking that now he can move on since his heirs have 20 more years of protection after his death. “People just don’t think that way,” she says.
He said the additional protection was of commercial benefit to a small number of people, and that this could have been resolved with an “acceptance clause”, so that rights holders of works that still have commercial value could request an extension.
He also said that it extends the limits of access or use of so-called orphan works, those whose rights holder is not easily reached.
Geist also accused the government of burying the amendment by placing it at the end of a nearly 450-page budget bill last spring. The government has not highlighted changes to copyright law in any of its documents regarding this bill.
There was also no announcement from the government when the cabinet decided in November to set the effective date of December 30, or when it went into effect. In total, the government issued 3,998 press releases in 2022 and none of them related to changes in copyright law.
“Many people have literally woken up in the last two days to this issue and are shocked to learn that it is something that Canada planned and did because it received so little coverage and attention,” Geist concluded.
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