Harper Government Proposes Extending Copyright Protections

Tucked inside Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 433-page 2015 spending plan is a little gift to Canadian musicians: an amendment to the Copyright Act that would extend protections for 70 years.
In a section titled Protection of Sound Recordings and Performances, the Harper government notes that some of the country’s iconic artists of the 1960s are approaching the end of their original copyright protection, Billboard reports.

“Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to amend the Copyright Act to extend the term of protection of sound recordings and performances from 50 to 70 years following the first release of the sound recording,” the plan says. “This will ensure that performers and record labels are fairly compensated for the use of their music for an additional 20 years.”

Music Canada has loudly welcomed this development, with Graham Henderson, the organization’s president, praising the government for demonstrating “a real understanding of music’s importance to the Canadian economy. Thank you. We look forward to seeing the full details when the Budget Implementation Act is tabled.”

It is not “in the public interest” for “Canadian treasures like Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie” to be lost to the public domain, Henderson adds.

The issue at hand is the disparity between the current protections and those in place in other countries. “A 70 year term of copyright has become the norm internationally,” Music Canada says. “More than 60 countries worldwide protect copyright in sound recordings for a term of 70 years or longer, including all of Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Across Europe, Canadian artists are denied [sic] to the full 70 year term of protection due to Canada’s shorter term of protection.”

A long list of Canadian music royalty have come out in support of the action as well, from Kim Mitchell and Brad Roberts to The Sheepdogs and Leonard Cohen.

“In just a few short years, songs we recorded in the late 1960s will no longer have copyright protection in Canada,” Cohen says in a statement released Wednesday. “Many of us in our 70s and 80s depend on income from these songs for our livelihood. We would deeply appreciate any adjustment that would avert a financial disaster in our lives.”

“The copyright of a creative work should not expire in the lifetime of the author,” adds Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy.

Of course, the spending plan must still be approved before the protections are set in place, meaning Cohen’s copyright for Suzanne might still expire in 2018, instead of 2038 as would be the case under extended protection, notes James Adams of the Toronto Globe and Mail.

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