Last week I posted on the government’s consultation on joining the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations and its potential effect on Canada’s public domain. According to a leaked draft of the proposed intellectual property chapter, the TPP would require countries (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Japan – all current or potential TPP members) that meet the international copyright term standard of life of the author plus 50 years to add an additional 20 years to the term of protection. The extension in the term of copyright would mean no new works would enter the public domain in those countries until at least 2033 (assuming an agreement takes effect in 2013).
While the change would obviously delay all works slated to enter into the public domain by 20 years, it is worth noting the many important authors who would be immediately affected since their works are scheduled to become public domain in the 2013 – 2033 period. I’ll identify some of the non-Canadian authors in a future post (the list includes Robert Frost, Aldous Huxley, CS Lewis, TS Eliot, John Steinbeck, JRR Tolkein, and Ayn Rand), but the impact on Canadian culture and history is worthy of particular attention.
The list of Canadian authors whose work would be blocked from entering into the public domain includes:
- Gabrielle Roy, considered one of the most influential Canadian authors in history. Her book The Tin Flute won multiple awards and laid the foundation for the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s.
- Donald Creighton, widely regarded as one of Canada’s most influential historians, with a major two volume biography on Sir John A. MacDonald that both won Governor General’s awards.
- Marshall McLuhan, one of the world’s leading media theorists.
- Gwethalyn Graham, who twice won Governor General’s awards and who became the first Canadian to have a novel appear on top of the New York Times best seller list.
- Hubert Aquin, a leading Quebec author, whose novel Next Episode, is regarded as a classic of Canadian literature.
- Ethel Wilson, regarded as one of the leading authors from B.C. The province’s top fiction award is named after her.
- E.J. Pratt, regarded as Canada’s foremost poet of the first half of the 20th century.
- Susan Wood, an award winning science fiction author, who received three Hugo awards.
- Winifred Bambrick, who won the Governor General’s Award for fiction in 1946.
- Winthrop Pickard Bell, one of Nova Scotia’s leading historians.
- Thomas Costain, who was a best selling author of historical novels.
- Ralph Allen, an award winning journalist, who won wrote several books on Canadian history.
- Hugh Garner, who won a Governor General’s award for short stories in 1963.
- Germaine GuÃ¨vremont, who won a Governor General’s award for fiction in 1950.
- A.M. Klein, one of Canada’s best known poets and Governor General award winner.
This list is obviously a tiny fraction of the authors whose works would be prevented from entering the public domain for decades under the TPP plan. Given the potential to make those works more readily accessible to new generations once they enter the public domain, extending the term of copyright as potentially required by the TPP would have a dramatic negative effect on access to Canadian literature and history. Looking ahead, the likes of Margaret Laurence and Robertson Davies would be similarly delayed for 20 years.
Now is the opportunity to help preserve the public domain in Canada by speaking out against TPP copyright provisions that would extend the term of copyright or impose even stricter digital lock rules. The consultation is open until February 14, 2012. All it takes a single email with your name, address, and comments on the issue. The email can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, submissions can be sent by fax (613-944-3489) or mail (Trade Negotiations Consultations (TPP), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division II (TPW), Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2).