Canada’s government may weigh the merits of a registration system for the extra years of copyright protection required by the Trans-Pacific Partnership as part of its analysis of the deal, says David Lametti, the parliamentary secretary for Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
No country currently has such a system in place, though it has been proposed by copyright lawyers and the United States register of copyrights.
A registration system for the extra years of protection could ensure rights holders still get revenue from valuable works during that time, while opening up works that are no longer profitable to the public, said a handful of copyright lawyers who oppose the extended copyright protection term in the TPP.
Canada’s government will sign the TPP agreement, but is not at this time committed to ratifying the deal, according to a Jan. 25 press release from Freeland’s office.
The government is still prepared to explore how it could implement the TPP, including ways to address concerns raised by opponents of the deal’s 20-year extension to copyright term, Lametti said.
The TPP would commit Canada to providing copyright protection for works such as songs, books, software and photographs for 70 years beyond the life of their creator. Current Canadian law provides protection 50 years beyond the life of a creator.
Critics of the TPP’s 20-year copyright extension include Michael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair for internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie and digital rights advocacy group OpenMedia.
Lametti said there “may be ways that we can think about implementing this that would be in accordance with the treaty as negotiated but would still take some of those considerations that people have advanced, in terms of critique, into account.”
“All of these are challenges of governing. And I think it’s fair to say that we can address those [concerns],” Lametti said. He taught intellectual property law at McGill University prior to being elected as a Liberal MP in October.
When copyright protection expires, works become available for any member of the public or any business to use without paying royalties to the creator or company that owns the work.
Opponents of long copyright protections argue that keeping works out of the public domain for longer costs the public millions in higher payments for the work, and prevents libraries and other public institutions from making old works widely available. Supporters of longer terms argue that companies that own the rights to a work will reinvest extra profit from old works into new artists.
Lametti was highly critical last year of a move by the former Conservative government to extend copyright protections for sound performances and recordings by 20 years in the 2015 budget.
- Continue reading Peter Mazereeuw in Embassy here and pictured above is International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland