Michael Geist
Michael Geist

The Hullabaloo Over Copyright Extension

Michael Geist has made a name and a tidy income for himself as a tech-friendly crusader protecting the proletariat from the tyranny of copyright protection. 

His most recent headline grabber warned consumers that the proposed 20-year copyright extension on sound recordings could cost Canadian consumers "millions of dollars," presumably in the event that a dwindling few actually went and spent a few 'extra' dollars to purchase recordings once popular 50+ years ago. 

The absence of empirical evidence was perhaps mere oversight — but, as a regular contributor to the Toronto Star and Hill Times, Geist's delerium fanned out over the Internet like pollen during hay fever season. 

Yesterday the Star was moved to print a message from federal Heritage Minister Shelly Glover correcting some of Geist's well-intentioned fantasy, and Geist's nemesis, lawyer Barry Sookman, picked holes in his thesis like it was a moth-eaten sweater.

In light of the hullabaloo over the term extension proposal, FYI reached out to trade organization Music Canada for its own perspective. 

"I am not surprised to see Michael Geist criticise the announcement but his criticisms have already been thoroughly debunked by a series of articles online," MC Public Affairs VP Amy Terrill wrote back.

"Copyright expert Barry Sookman has corrected the professor’s errors from a legislative perspective on his blog. Esteemed economist Dr. George Barker has further debunked four common myths around copyright term extension from an economic perspective at IP Osgoode’s IPilogue.... and at MusicTechPolicy, Chris Castle has a very interesting blog that suggests the real reason for the professor’s opposition to term extension is tied to his close relationship to Big Tech firms."

Terrill continues: "By proposing to extend the term of copyright in recorded music, the government has shown a strong understanding of music’s importance to Canada’s economy. This change will mean performers on Canadian recordings will be fairly compensated for the use of their music for an additional 20 years, as well as helping record labels drive further investment in new Canadian artists."  

She adds that FYI should "encourage  readers to add their voice in support of this measure, either through their own associations or in social media."

For now, the extension to 70 years is just a proposed amendment to Canada's Copyright Act. It is doubtful when tabled the change will be struck down. How meaningful it is from a monetary perspective is hard to say; however, the extended term brings Canada's Act in line with most G20 countries. It is also a term that if in law now would have protected a range of recordings, including "Four Strong Winds", the hit song written by Ian Tyson and recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963. As it stands now, their recording has fallen into the public domain when both are still alive.

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