april: the booklist by stephanie vacher (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4EgeGM

april: the booklist by stephanie vacher (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/4EgeGM


The TPP’s Canadian Copyright Costs Creating Concern

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is still not public – the text may not be released for sometime – but with the leak of the intellectual property chapter, the implications for Canadian law is already well known.  Despite the prior government’s claims that the deal was largely consistent with current law, the reality is that the TPP will require significant changes to Canadian copyright.

The biggest change is a requirement to extend the term of copyright from life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. The additional 20 years will keep works out of the public domain for decades. The New Zealand government estimates that this change alone will cost NZ$55 million per year for a country that is one-ninth the size of Canada. Moreover, New Zealand was able to negotiate a delayed implementation of the copyright term provision, with a shorter extension for the first 8 years and only after the full extension.  The TPP also would appear to bring a copyright takedown system to Canada without the involvement of Canadian courts and potentially without the application of Canadian copyright law.

The Globe and Mail picked up on these issue in a masthead editorial published last week. The Globe notes:

Extending the copyright would come at a cost to Canadian consumers, possibly in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not clear where the benefits are. Nor is it exactly clear what this has to do with free trade.

The Canadian Press also covers the issue, with lawyers noting that the deal may undo Canadian law, creating significant disruptions in the process.


  1. That Globe editorial was yet another embarrassing editorial from the Globe. The first sentence of it is:

    “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a good deal for Canada.”

    But the second last sentence is:

    “But we don’t yet know the scope and details of this.”

    So how do you know it’s a good deal if you don’t know the score or the details?


  2. Hi Michael,

    I have a couple questions on this I hope you can answer. Perhaps they’ll even morph into another article.

    The current Canadian laws allowed for consultation with industry and interested citizens, and actually went through the full process it takes for a law to become a law in Canada.

    Currently, commitments in the TPP would require Canada to change laws, but how can we guarantee these changes will occur? How can a government negotiator promise that the representatives of the people of this country will agree with the negotiators and change the laws in a way that match what promises may have been made in secret around some dark table?

    Considering how recently our own laws were reviewed, and how many people thought even the existing laws weren’t reflecting the will of Canadians, how can any government dream of making a promise for even more draconian measures?

    It seems to me it shouldn’t even be legal for any Canadian government to sign an agreement that requires certain laws be in place before said laws have been created/modified through the parliamentary process. What are your thoughts?


  3. Colin Broughton says:

    Prof. Geist, would you mind commenting on the status of the 2004 SCC 13 ruling on fair dealing, if TPP were to be ratified in Canada. Would you expect the concept of fair dealing in our Copyright Act to simply go away?

    From a public perspective, fair dealing is a large part of the existing quid pro quo.

    It seems to me that the rationale for granting a limited monopoly to the copyright holder is largely negated when oligopolies (aka stakeholders) can lobby for term extensions and other benefits to themselves with no quid pro quo whatsoever.

    If TPP is going to be all about Mickey Mouse, then probably we don’t need it.

    - Colin Broughton

  4. @Scott:

    That’s the whole point. The “deal” is struck between government bureaucrats (of course with some lines of communication with key elected officials) and corporate representatives. Once everything is set, democracy comes into play with the ratification process (“yes” or “no” a/k/a Swallow Or Choke, not pick-and-choose or let’s-do-it-just-a-little-bit-differently). By ratifying the TPP, Canada commits to changing its laws accordingly. Unpopular measures can then, should somebody bother to ask their representative, being shrugged off as “complying with international obligations”.

    The USTR uses some nice-looking ripe fruit to lure our heads into a noose, which, once tightened by ratification, we will NEVER be able to get out of. At least Berne and the WIPO WCT/WPPT have denunciation clauses; find enough countries to stand with you and it’s possible. WTO and treaties like this are whole different story.

    • The worst part of this system is how this current deal is being done: in the dark. Debate on it should have started years ago, commencing with an outline of the key clauses being debated.

      It’s impossible to negotiate with millions of people at the table, but the ratification process should be done by informed MPs, who have listened to and understand the will of their constituents.

      This shouldn’t be left up to the PM, his “industry” advisors, and the party whip.

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        Yes, but we all know it’s a private party, and we’re not invited.

        All these so-called “trade deals” are nothing but a corporate route around “profit-hampering” rules and sovereignties. And, to be the best of my knowledge, the very legality of these deals has never been verified.

  5. James O'Grady says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’d like to ask if we can republish this blog post on UnpublishedOttawa.com so we can share it with our audience and interested Canadians.

    Please let me know if this is possible.


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  9. Pingback: Michael Geist: TPP Text Confirms Massive Loss to Canadian Public Domain