Prime Minister Stephen Harper is currently in South Korea reportedly to finalize agreement on the Canada – South Korea trade agreement. The proposed deal has been the subject of a decade of negotiation with opposition from the auto industry resulting in significant delays. While the focal point of the agreement will be on tariff issues involving the automotive and agricultural sectors, the deal will include an intellectual property chapter. The IP issues have not received any attention (the entire agreement remains secret so discussion has been generally limited), but it is possible that it will require Canada to extend the term of copyright.
An initial Canadian environmental assessment of the agreement suggested that the IP chapter would simply reaffirm existing IP obligations. If the agreement is limited to reaffirming existing commitments, copyright term will not be touched since Canada meets the international requirement of life of the author plus 50 years. However, South Korea’s recent trade deals with both the European Union and Australia feature a minimum copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years (the Australian deal also includes a requirement for “measures to curtail repeated copyright infringement on the Internet”). Whether the Canadian deal contains a similar provision will be worth monitoring, both for the impact on Canadian copyright law and for the international trade implications such as the Trans Pacific Partnership that is currently under negotiation.