The U.S. copyright lobby, led by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, appeared last week before a U.S. Congressional Committee hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and made it clear that it wants the U.S. to use the trade agreement to force Canada to extend the term of copyright. Canadian copyright law is currently at life of the author plus 50 years, which meets the international standard found in the Berne Convention. The U.S. extended its copyright term years ago to life of the author plus 70 years under pressure from the Disney Corporation (Mickey Mouse was headed to the public domain) and has since pushed other countries to do the same.
The IIPA says that the TPP should require all members to extend their term of copyright (Japan and New Zealand are also at life plus 50 years), which it claims is needed to “maintain incentives for investment in the conservation and dissemination of older works.” Yet a recent study found the opposite with far more public domain books available commercially than books still subject to copyright.
When the Canadian government conducted a consultation on participation in the TPP, copyright was the top issue raised with many focusing on concerns associated with term extension. As I wrote last year, 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.