Toronto: book stacks at Toronto Reference Library by The City of Toronto (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/gjDrZY

Toronto: book stacks at Toronto Reference Library by The City of Toronto (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/gjDrZY

News

Canadian Publisher on the Term of Copyright: Life Plus 50 Years is “Already Too Long”

Broadview Press, an independent Canadian publisher with hundreds of books in print, has called on the government to ensure that there is no extension from the current term of life of the author plus 50 years. I previously noted the Broadview Press submission in a post on the tiny impact of reduced royalties from Access Copyright. The submission also focuses on copyright term:

Another vitally important copyright issue that has been on the table in recent TTP and NAFTA trade negotiations is the international pressure Canada is faced with to increase the length of the copyright term from 50 years after the death of the author (already too long, in our opinion) to a full 70 years after the death of the author, thereby preventing for an additional generation the publication of competing editions of literary classics—editions that can often be of immense cultural and pedagogical value.

Broadview Press recommends “Canada protect or reduce the length of copyright term to be no more than “life of the author plus 50 years.” It points with approval to the Australian Productivity Commission’s report on reforming Australian intellectual property laws, noting:

An international reference you may wish to consult regarding this matter is the December 2016 report from the Australian Productivity Commission on Reforming Australia’s intellectual property arrangements. This report argues that the life+70 years term is too long and urges the Australian government to reduce it to 50 years or less in the IP review that is currently underway.

The Australian report provides a helpful review of the implications of copyright terms, reaching the following finding:

The scope and term of copyright protection in Australia has expanded over time, often with no transparent evidence-based analysis, and is now skewed too far in favour of copyright holders. While a single optimal copyright term is arguably elusive, it is likely to be considerably less than 70 years after death.

Canada has thus far resisted extending the term of copyright beyond the Berne Convention standard of life of the author plus 50 years. In fact, Canada successfully argued for the suspension of an extension in the TPP last year, recognizing the enormous cost that a term extension would impose on access to Canadian culture and to education, which relies heavily on public domain works.

14 Comments

  1. I think we’re remiss in not having a means of protecting the character “Mickey Mouse” except via copyright. We arguably need a form of design patent to protect the design of a famous character, rather in the spirit of trademark: as long as you use it, you keep it.

    • Chris Brand says:

      Trademark? Much more suitable for protecting a “character” owned by a corporation.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      What you’re saying illustrates exactly what’s wrong with modern “protection society”. You’re completely forgetting what copyright was introduced for.

      There’s no constructive purpose in protecting Mickey, or any other “famous character” for an eternity. Copyright is supposed to be the granting of a TEMPORARY monopoly, that is supposed to END in order to give back to society.

      Just because a creation achieves some sort of “notoriety” doesn’t really provide any more incentive to endlessly break the agreement copyright is supposed to contain.

      This is one of the many reasons society is losing its respect for copyright. Copyright maximalists continue to push for these extensions, which only benefit themselves, while returning nothing back to society.

  2. Selma Solberg says:

    “recognizing the enormous cost… to Canadian culture”, I invite you to compare your salary as an educator with the income of any Canadian professional writer. You will see immediately where is the “enormous cost”.

  3. Let’s be clear. Broadview is an exemplary press, doing invaluable work of the highest quality. But it is in the business of publishing public domain work. Of course it is going to say what it did. It’s not news. And apart from, I don’t know, Iraq, no country has a copyright term less than 50 years. Of course Canada is not going to go in that direction, even apart from foreign pressure. Fifty years works just fine thanks, no need to change either way.

    And yes, Michael Geist costs the Canadian taxpayer a helluva lot more money than any Canadian author benefitting from the copyright protection he would like to dismantle entirely. Give it a rest, Geist.

  4. Mike Law says:

    So I take 20 years to write an academic book. I die in 5 years. My heirs only get the copyright for 50? I own a house. I pass it on to them. They can own it in perpetuity. So why is my intellectual property less valuable than dirt and wood?

    • Because society recognizes that a book has social significance and that after the well-being of the author’s immediate family is provided for – something usually achieved with a fifty-year term – then there is an argument that it is more important that society have free access to the work than it is for the author’s great-grandchildren to profit from it financially.

      • Then those who own Renaissance paintings should not be allowed to charge for your “society,” whatever THAT term means and whoever it stands for, other than those with more votes. For you “free access” should hold there too, no?, for the importance to society? Why is one case permitted and the other not?

        • I’m not sure what you mean. Charging admission to a museum to see Renaissance paintings? Yes, ideally that would be free. Most museums have a free day. Seniors and student discounts. But they have to pay heat and staff and insurance and a million other things. Maybe culture should be free, but maybe one way to winnow things out is to demonstrate that you have an audience willing to pay something in order to get government support. That’s how most arts funding works now, at the institutional level that is. Show you have an audience for your plays or books and get funding to help you do it.

          If you’re talking about the art market, speculators buying and selling works of art, keeping them in private collections, I agree 100%, that’s putrid. One of the irony of the anti-copyright movements is that some of the people who think authors and small publishers shouldn’t be paid for their work and that all knowledge should be free are artists who would give their right arm to have some of their work bought by a rich collector speculating on the future value of their work and hiding it away from sight.

  5. NaBUru38 says:

    The copyright term should be 20 years since publishing.

    For example, the Titanic film, U2’s song Discothèque, and the Windows 98 operating system should be already in the public domain.

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