Help Preserve the Canadian Public Domain: Speak Out on the Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations

Canada celebrated New Year’s Day this year by welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Carl Jung into the public domain just as European countries were celebrating the arrival of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, 20 years after both entered the Canadian public domain. Canada’s term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, which has now become a competitive advantage when compared to the United States, Australia, and Europe, which have copyright terms that extend an additional 20 years (without any evidence of additional public benefits).

In an interesting coincidence, the Canadian government filed notice of a public consultation on December 31, 2011 on the possible Canadian entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, trade talks that could result in an extension in the term of copyright that would mean nothing new would enter the Canadian public domain until 2032 or beyond. The TPP covers a wide range of issues, but its intellectual property rules as contemplated by leaked U.S. drafts would extend the term of copyright, require even stricter digital lock rules, restrict trade in parallel imports, and increase various infringement penalties. As I noted last month, if Canada were to ratify the TPP, it would require another copyright bill to undo much of what the government is about to enact with Bill C-11.

A recent study on the implications of the copyright provisions point to many concerns including:


  • extend the current term of copyright protection from the current Canadian law of life of the author plus an additional 50 years to life plus 70 years. The additional 20 years goes beyond international law requirements and has been widely criticized by many groups.
  • new digital lock rules that would increase penalties for circumvention and restrict the ability to create new digital lock exceptions. While Bill C-11 is far more restrictive than necessary to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties, it does include a mechanism to identify new exceptions.
  • new statutory damages provisions that could require the government to reverse the changes found in Bill C-11 that distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement.
  • new rights management information rules that would lower the standard for violation and extend the scope of prohibited activities.
  • new enforcement requirements that may require the disclosure of personal information without any privacy safeguards
  • new copyright criminalization requirements even in cases that “have no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain.” The criminal provision also cover “aiding and abetting”, which may be applied to Internet providers.
  • new ISP liability provisions that would require a notice-and-takedown system contrary to the approach established under Bill C-11
  • a new requirement to provide copyright owners with an exclusive right to block “parallel trade” of copyrighted works. This would stop the importation of a copyrighted work from one country where the good is voluntarily placed on the market to another country where the same good at the same price is unavailable. The Supreme Court of Canada looked specifically at these issues several years ago and rejected attempts to use copyright to stop such activities.

The concerns with the TPP do not stop with copyright. Proposed patent rules would alter the scope of what is patentable under Canadian law, extend patent terms, and create triple damage awards for patent infringements.

Canada has not participated in the negotiations, but is now considering doing so. The government consultation on the possible participation states:

The Government is embarking on a public consultation process to allow all interested stakeholders an early opportunity to provide comments, input and advice on possible free trade negotiations with TPP countries (current nine members and other interested countries: Japan and Mexico). It is essential that the Government of Canada be fully aware of the interests and potential sensitivities of Canadians with respect to this initiative. We welcome advice and views on any priorities, objectives and concerns relating to possible free trade negotiations with TPP countries.

Among the specific issues it mentions are the intellectual property provisions.

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 consultations@ 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).

The TPP would require a massive overhaul of Canadian intellectual property law, far beyond that envisioned by either Bill C-11 or even the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The impact on the public domain would be incredibly damaging, effectively blocking the entry of new works for the next two decades. Canadians should speak out now to ensure that the government does not cave on copyright term extension. li


  1. Link Tester says:

    2nd mailto link is wrong
    The “speak out now” link is wrong.

  2. Form letter?
    Is there any chance that a template letter or petition will be created for this? Although I’d be willing to submit one, it helps to have something that articulates things for people.

  3. Oh goodie… another consultation that the government gets to turn around afterwards and propose a bill that shows they completely ignored what most people had to say.

    All this so-called consultation is a smokescreen for is for the government to claim they reviewed submissions, and if then they are just going to to propose to extend copyright by 20 more years, regardless. Then they will drop the issue in the face of an upcoming election, and shortly after the election, reintroduce their proposal with changes that make it worse (like indefinite copyright).

    I’d like to hope I’m wrong, but you know the saying… “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…”

  4. Ross Judson says:

    Quid Pro Quo
    The fundamental agreement at work between government and authors is simple: The government provides free enforcement of the rules of their business model in exchange for the work entering the public domain after a (currently very long) period of time. Seems pretty fair to me. If authors don’t like it, I suppose they could take on all the costs of copyright enforcement themselves.

    Individual authors don’t benefit from a 70 year copyright term; only successor entities or corporations do.

  5. why
    What’s the purpose of public consultations when the results are ignored?

  6. @Mark
    Indeed, I hold little hope for a fair consultation process. However, if you ignore the request because you know your input will have no effect, then you allow them to later claim that no one objected, thereby making it even more difficult to role things back afterwards when a (hopefully) better government is in place.

    I also have no doubt that the incumbent copyright industries will do their best to hijack the process as they did for the previous copyright consultations, but I see that as all the more reason to ensure your voice is heard.

  7. Here’s my letter
    Ever heard the expression “Everything that is old is new again”?

    If we extend copyright protection then people won’t be able to use past ideas to fuel future creations.

    You might be saying “People will just have to come up with new ideas” and that’s true, and people do.

    The problem with copyright is it freezes a piece of art in it’s from, it’s no longer allowed to grow or change because then it wouldn’t be recognizable to it’s fans/consumers.

    For a few years this works well for people, creators get paid, the artistic expression gains a following but sooner or later this happens:

    Three Stooges: The Movie.

    It’s called “reheated shit”. It’s what happens when copyrights get held on to for years and years and years even after the artists involved have been dead for a long time.

    Do you really want to live in a future that just recycles the same thing over and over again without growing, twisting, mixing or standing a past artistic expression on it’s ear? Do you think it’s fair that the three stooges also worked as security guards on the studio lot to make enough money to live because the three stooges shows weren’t making them enough money? Think it’s fair that more money is made on these guys and they still don’t get to see a dime?

  8. @M: If the democratic process in this public consultation is going to work, at all, categorically do *NOT* use any sort of template letter or mere petition. Something similar was done up for the copyright consultation a few years ago, and my impression was that it largely backfired. Although it certainly led to a lot of submissions opposing the notion of any legal protection for digital locks, as well as many other points that the later-to-be-revealed C-32 (now C-11) clearly ignored, it was also quite evident that a majority of the letters received had been automatically submitted, and it made it more difficult for a fair evaluation of the actual number of Canadians that genuinely cared about the issue. Although even discounting those form letters still left a majority of the remaining submissions opposed to the type of protections that C-11 now would put in place, the number of such letters was a large percentage of the total letter count that my overall impression in the immediate aftermath of the consultation is that it actually had the opposite effect of what was trying to be achieved. When C-32 was introduced, that perception was only amplified.

    Signing a petition or filling in a form letter is easy. Expressing in your own words why you believe something is wrong shows that you’ve put some serious thought into the issue, and that what you are saying genuinely reflects your own opinion. If the issue matters enough to you that you want to send a letter at all, then educate yourself on the issues and write a letter based on that. Do *NOT* parrot what somebody else writes… all doing that shows is that you don’t care enough about the issue to educate yourself and express your own views, and your letter is far less likely to be taken seriously.

    @Darryl: Fair point… I suppose. I’ll have to write something up tonight when I have a bit more time.

  9. I’m shocked!
    Canadians (barely) elect these douche-bags and then get nothing but douche-baggery from them. What a surprise!

    Maybe next time (if there is one) those of you who helped get these douche-bags into power will think for a minute about what kind of scum they might be voting for rather than just going with the highest budgeted campaign of lies. It’s not like these douche-bags didn’t already have the track record of anti-Canadian, pro-corporate and pro-military/jail-industrial complex trolls. Remember how badly Hitler wanted us to be part of the American crime against Iraq?

  10. Thank You Dr. Geist!
    People that are following the subject matter already knew this was coming, but it’s being carefully kept out of the mainstream media.

    The copyright term extension: a healthy Public Domain is without question beneficial to society, but is seen as competition by Big Content (a.k.a. “the rightsholders”). Instead of a drastic term reduction to account for today’s technological changes, Big Content will push for extension after extension.

    Copyright criminalization requirements: what could better than have your bottom line protected on the taxpayers’ dime?

    The exclusive right to block “parallel trade” of copyrighted works: Canada is an immigration country and has embraced people of many cultural backgrounds. Why make it difficult to import content? Note that this argument also applies to Region Lock circumvention.

  11. against_political_shills says:

    Won’t someone think of the shildren!!!????
    I sent this off to those shills.

    Dear Federal Government,

    It saddens me to hear that the Canadian government would hurt Canadian citizens and their rights by extending copyrights for another 20 years. This law will only help big business further drain money from honest Canadians with no benefit to the public. (If anything it will hurt small Canadian entrepreneurs, artists, students, and small business)

    The Federal government should be putting the Canadian public first, and not stop yielding to lobbyist and big business who is neither the public, nor has the public’s interest at heart by extending copyrights for another 20 years.

    name, addy, phone

  12. @Albert: I didn’t vote for them. I am compelled to think that the biggest reason the conservatives got a majority was because of the way many people vote – not for the party that represents their views, but for the single party with that has any real chance of winning the election that is the least objectionable. As bad as the conservatives are, there are a lot of people in Canada who feel that a majority government by another party could be even worse (although not on issues of copyright). If people had, instead, voted for the party that actually represented their ideals, the conservatives might have still taken the election, but with more votes split on the minor parties, they probably would not have attained a majority government that enables them to basically act like dictators for the duration of their term.

  13. Public pressure tactics
    Pressure can have three different results on government in the order of likelihood:

    1) They ignore you and it makes no difference at all to their policies. It can show though, for the record, that there was significant opposition.

    2) It can cause the government to change their policies as long as it is beneficial to them, or what they actually wanted to accomplish anyways (The “good guy we’re listening” ploy)

    3) They listen to what the the electorate is calling for and work their policies to meet that criteria.

    It seems on IP issues we’re stuck at #1, on telecom probably #2, and I doubt we’ll see any of #3 from this government at all.

  14. Sandy Harris says:

    Relevant article
    A good Economist article on the issue:

    “Why the rules on copyright need to return to their roots”

    ” Copyright was originally the grant of a temporary government-supported monopoly on copying a work, not a property right. From 1710 onwards, it has involved a deal in which the creator or publisher gives up any natural and perpetual claim in order to have the state protect an artificial and limited one. … At the moment, the terms of trade favour publishers too much. A return to the 28-year copyrights of the Statute of Anne would be in many ways arbitrary, but not unreasonable.”

  15. Daniel De Groot says:

    email sent
    Here’s what I sent:

    I am writing to indicate my opposition to proposed changes to Canadian intellectual property law which would extend copyright lifetimes as part of the “Trans Pacific Partnership.”

    Canada’s existing copyright laws allow content creators a sufficiently lengthy period of exclusive rights over their creative ideas. Extending beyond 50 years has no legitimate public policy purpose and only seeks to benefit a small number of large corporate interests who have bought up or acquired copyrights for content they usually did not create.

    Canada has no shortage of creative people, artists, musicians and authors who suffer no obvious disincentive effect over the eventual demise of their content rights.

    In fact, it is more likely that extending copyright creates market disincentives towards the creation of new content. The large companies that hold rights over cherished content nearing the 50 year limit could continue to profit from that content, rather than investing in new talent to create new content.

    Next year will be the 50th year since the publication of Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf. This cherished work, which some credit for transforming the image of the wolf around the world, deserves its place in the Canadian public domain. Do not lock down this Canadiana for decades to come.

  16. paranoidduh says:

    is address nessecary? this is probably a conservative service and I wouldnt want to show up on any “lists”.

    it sucks to not be able to trust your government.

  17. @paranoidduh: In a word, yes, your address would be necessary in order to be taken seriously. The government has legally mandated obligations to protect your privacy, so you would not end up on any lists. You might wish to familiarize yourself with PIPEDA. Also, your address gives them a means to contact you, even if it is to simply acknowledge that they have read what you actually had to say.

    Not giving your address suggests you might have an agenda behind keeping your address secret. If your entire basis for not giving your address is because you don’t trust the government not to abuse it, then you are better off to not write anything at all, because that paranoia can reflect poorly on the perception of the attitudes of people who might share your overall position, but not your fundamental distrust of the government.

  18. RE: Mark
    “people had, instead, voted for the party that actually represented their ideals, the conservatives might have still taken the election, but with more votes split on the minor parties, they probably would not have attained a majority government that enables them to basically act like dictators for the duration of their term.”

    Having people voting at all probably wouldn’t have hurt either.

  19. it will never stop
    As I have said before, this is a war we will never win. Here is yet another battle on another front, being waged by opponents that have the kind of time and funding that we (the constituency — that have real jobs in order to pay real bills that all consumes real time out of our lives) will never have to fight back.

    These battles will continue to come until we have been beaten into submission by our corporate-and US-owned government such that the desires and wishes of those corporations is the law of land.

    It’s going to take a lot more than media campaigns and letter-to-MP writing to win this war — more than I think most Canadians are willing to expend.

  20. Copyright Consultations
    Dont forget to mention the original copyright consultations they took several months back…

    66.5% of Submissions Advocated for SHORTER Terms
    80% of Submissions were against enshrining Digital Locks into law.
    0.0006% of Submissions (a total of 5) were for LONGER Terms… You can guess who those submissions were.

    Clearly this is not something a majority of Canadians want if only 5 people could be assed to send submissions to lengthen the terms.

  21. @Daniel De Groot
    “Next year will be the 50th year since the publication of Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf. This cherished work, which some credit for transforming the image of the wolf around the world, deserves its place in the Canadian public domain. Do not lock down this Canadiana for decades to come. ”

    Daniel, I’m afraid I’m the bearer of both good and bad news; first the good news: Farley Mowat is still alive. The bad news is that Farley Mowat is still alive. That means you first have to wait for him to pass away, then -if illustrations are an important part like the Winnie the Pooh books- you MAY have to wait for the illustrator to pass away as well. THEN you will have to wait 5 decades. Then you will have to wait until January 1st of the following year. THEN the work enters the Public Domain.

  22. Mark Baseggio says:

    Someone needs to simplify this
    This issue is so important. Many people are going to pull the tl;dr on this one.

    It’s a hard issue to communicate to the general public. Someone needs to be a hero and package this up in a nice easy to understand site, and provide an email form. We _really_ need to get the message to Ottawa!

  23. SomeAnonymousDude says:

    What message?
    @MarkBaseggio Although I would like to agree with you I personally find its pointless. Hear me out. The current regime cares less about Canadians. Its a mixed bag of evangelists with a narcissistic leader bent on corporate rule. Their constituency is the corporation, not the hapless plods that they manipulate and con (pun intended) to elect them. To them, “consultation” is a media tool to manipulate into any form to support their message.

    Herman Goering was right. “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.”

    It appears that we as a people are stupid enough to allow them into power.

  24. Let’s see the good part of it. It will create the incentive for Hemingway to write more books. 🙂

  25. Alan Cooper says:

    My brief letter to the provided response address (consultations@ was as follows:

    Please take note of my very strong opposition to any agreement which either extends the term of copyright protection for existing works,
    or extends the criminalization of digital lock beaking for purposes in particular of maintaining access to legally acquired content via any medium of the user’s choice and more generally for any purpose that would not otherwise be criminal (including any use that does not violate a copyright).
    Thank you.
    Alan Cooper

    (And by the way, the address on the gov’t website has a space which makes copying it not work – perhaps inserted deliberately to discourage responses?)

    Actually I could live with “protection” of digital locks IF, and ONLY if, it only applied to media on the packaging for which the fact that the product works only on specifically identified devices was displayed in larger and clearer print than any other aspect of content description.

    But the issue of copyright extension drives me really mad! This is just a gift of cash stolen from the public to whomever owns the rights half a century after the author’s death and obviously does not contribute in any way to the original authorship and funding decisions that were made more than half a century earlier. With sufficient data it might be possible to convince me that longer copyright terms for future works would help increase creative output, but there is no way that this applies to works already written and the benefit of an extension is often being given to someone who purchased rights from the author on the basis of a shorter term of protection. If copyright is extended, then authors (and estates) who sold rights with a shorter term should be entitled to sue for recovery of whatever value is provided by the extension.

  26. @Alan Cooper
    “opposition to any agreement which either extends the term of copyright protection for existing works,”

    This means that you do not oppose extending the copyright term for new works. Why?

    “I could live with “protection” of digital locks IF, and ONLY if, it only applied to media on the packaging for which the fact that the product works only on specifically identified devices”

    The whole point is that YOU should be able to decide on what device you want to enjoy the content you bought, NOT the publisher. No matter how big “YOU CAN READ THIS BOOK ON YOUR KINDLE (TM) ONLY!” is, if I want to read it on something else (say my Kindle broke), I should be able to.

  27. Provisions
    Following the hyperlinks, but would you be able to help us out by posting the precise point where you find “TPP copyright provisions that would extend the term of copyright or impose even stricter digital lock rules”?

    Not trying to argue the point, but if I am to write a letter, I would like to reference the precise language.

  28. pat donovan says:

    year of the vulture: re-run world
    year of the vulture: re-run world.

    (re: extension of copyright to European 70 year standards.)

    dead men and zombies on the best seller’s list.

    almost a century of profiteering for orphan works, re-runs and monoculture.

    betcha it’s made compulsory too.

    iconoclasts, history and other sanitized data sets to be made available to interested parties.


  29. ?NONE
    UHM MP3 1999? KINDA LATE?