Canada’s Budget Proposes Extension of Copyright Term for Sound Recordings, Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty

On April 21, 2015, Canada released its 500-page budget plan, which includes several references to intellectual property.

Among its copyright proposals, Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to amend the Copyright Act to extend the copyright term of sound recordings and performances from 50 years to 70 years.  The budget states,

The mid-1960s were an exciting time in Canadian music, producing many iconic Canadian performers and recordings.  While songwriters enjoy the benefits flowing from their copyright throughout their lives, some performers are starting to lose copyright protection for their early recordings and performances because copyright protection for song recordings and performances following the first release of the sound recording is currently provided for only 50 years.

Canada currently follows the international standard of providing 50 years of protection for sound recordings.  Canada is involved in the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a regional trade agreement with a total of 12 currently negotiating parties including the United States.  The United States has proposed a copyright term of life plus 70 years, or 95 years for published corporate works such as sound recordings.  Other countries with pre-existing bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with the United States (Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore)  have pushed back against the extension to 95 years, instead advocating for a period of 70 years, the term that has been agreed to in previous US FTAs.  While the Canadian budget applies only to sound recordings, the proposal could indicate an intention to support the same term in the TPP.

On a more positive note, the new budget includes a number of proposals on “Helping Canadians With Disabilities,” including introducing implementing legislation for the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  The budget calls to improve access to print materials for those who are visually impaired:

The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The ability to access printed information is essential to prepare for and participate in Canada’s economy, society and job market. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1 million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakesh Treaty). Aligning Canada’s copyright limitations and exceptions with the international standard established by the Marrakesh Treaty would enable Canada to accede to this international agreement. Once the treaty is in force, as a member country, Canadians would benefit from greater access to adapted materials.

This proposal is a welcome one and ARL urges Canada to move toward swift ratification.  Implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty would greatly improve access to accessible format works.  The Marrakesh Treaty allows for the cross-border exchange of accessible formats, allowing countries to avoid duplication of efforts as they can import existing accessible copies from other countries.  The Marrakesh Treaty currently has 8 ratifications and will need 12 more for entry into force.