Cooperation in the Pacific Rim by Jakob Polacsek, World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Cooperation in the Pacific Rim by Jakob Polacsek, World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Canada Threatens to Delay Copyright Term Extension in Response to U.S. Electronic Vehicle Tax Credit Plan

Trade tensions between Canada and the U.S. have been rising in recent weeks with the U.S. Build Back Better Act proposing to create a tax credit for electronic vehicles that Canadian officials argue violates the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement. The U.S. plan is said to be the equivalent of a 34 percent tariff on Canadian assembled electric vehicles. While trade disputes are not particularly noteworthy, the Canadian government response certainly is. Last week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and International Trade Minister Mary Ng wrote to eight U.S. Senators with the following warning:

Beyond possible retaliatory actions, if the U.S. proceeds with the tax credit provisions as drafted, we would see this as a significant change in the balance of concessions agreed to in the USMCA. As such, we would consider the possible suspension of USMCA concessions of importance to the U.S. in return. Those concessions could include suspending USMCA dairy tariff-rate quotas and delaying the implementation of USMCA copyright changes.

Canada now says it is willing to align the EV incentives to address the issue, but the prospect of trade battle is still on the table. The potential copyright changes involved one key, costly change: the extension in the term of copyright protection from the current international standard of life of the author plus 50 years to life of the author plus 70 years. The additional 20 years could cost Canadian education millions of dollars and would delay works entering the public domain for an entire generation. Indeed, Canada long resisted extending the term of copyright given the absence of a strong economic or policy rationale for doing so.

The Canadian letter represents an explicit acknowledgement that the agreement to extend the term of copyright was a significant concession to the U.S. While many would argue that it was a concession negotiators should have resisted (having done so for years in other agreements), it is worth noting that Canada was able to extract some important limitations on the extension.

This includes a 30 month implementation delay that opened the door to considering less damaging mechanisms to incorporate it into Canadian law. That led to a consultation earlier this year in which department officials seemed willing to give away the other important limitation, namely the ability for Canada to establish a registration requirement for the additional 20 years (my submission here). That approach was recommended as part of the copyright review since it provides an ideal mechanism to allow rights holders to extend the term of copyright for their works, while ensuring that the remaining works enter the public domain consistent with the Berne Convention standard of life of the author plus 50 years. Further, contrary to claims in the consultation document that registration “raises serious questions in the context of Canada’s international obligations”, there is broad support from leading copyright scholars that such an approach is permissible under international copyright law.

The latest trade dispute opens the door to shelving the term extension altogether, a move that is clearly in the Canadian national interest. However, should the EV issue be resolved, Canada should unquestionably follow an implementation plan that it negotiated by establishing a registration requirement that would give rights holders the extension they seek and limit the broader harm to Canadian culture and education.


  1. Maybe this is a thing that should be made permanent, in service to anti-pandemic goals?

  2. 1968 tv is public domain and by previous rules cause these arent implemented it means all original star trek 3 seasons of tv are public domain

    1969 and 1970 and 1971 as well
    and note the way that it was written all the doctor who from 1966 right till the 90s is now also public domain in canada

    love the tv rules

    • I don’t suppose you’d have a URL that explains how this all works?

      Most of the stuff I see is about written works.

      • they took it away when the usmca got reworked but it basically said for tv the copyright starts when the show does and includes the whole run of show
        thus by technicality a show like dr who that ran from 1966 uninterupted till 1991 is by that quirk a wording in public domain

        if im incorrect geist will correct me

        • Yes, I know about the term extension in USCMCA.

          What I mean is: do you have a URL that the 50 (or 70) year term of a copyright for a show starts with its beginning, rather than its end, or is it a per-episode thing?

          For example, there’s an Intellectual Property Database search engine here:

          I cannot find anything with Doctor Who, or Dr. Who.

          And I doubt Mr. Geist has the time or inclination to go through all blog comments correcting people.

          I just do want to go around saying “this or that is in the public domain. How I do I know? Some guy commented on a blog said as much.” I want to be able to point to something official and say “Here. I read it here.”

  3. all these by old tv copyright rules are public domain now
    January 10 – Masterpiece Theatre on PBS (1971–)
    January 12 – All in the Family on CBS (1971–79)
    April 2 – The Return of Ultraman on TBS in Japan (1971–72)
    April 3 – Kamen Rider on MBS in Japan (1971–73)
    April 10 – The Two Ronnies on BBC1 in the UK (1971–87)
    June 19 – Parkinson on BBC1 (1971–82, 1987–88, 1998–2004, then on ITV from 2004 to 2007)
    July 4 – The Cat in the Hat (TV special) on CBS (1971)
    August 1 – The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour on CBS (1971–74)
    September 11 –
    Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1971–72) and Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch (1971–74) both on CBS Saturday Morning.
    The Jackson 5ive (1971–73), The Funky Phantom (1971–72), and Lidsville (1971–73), all on ABC Saturday Morning.
    September 15 – Columbo (1971–78) as part of a rotation of detective shows on the NBC Mystery Movie
    September 17 –
    McMillan & Wife on NBC (1971–77)
    O’Hara, U.S. Treasury on CBS (1971–72)
    September 18 – The New Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS (1971–74)
    September 19 – The Jimmy Stewart Show on NBC (1971–72)
    September 21 – The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC2 (1971–87)
    October 2 – Soul Train, the African-American equivalent to American Bandstand (1971–2006)
    October 10 – Upstairs, Downstairs in the UK on ITV (1971–75, 2010–)
    October 25 – The Electric Company, a skit-based children’s program aimed at teaching reading skills, on PBS (1971–77)

  4. When proposed Canadian laws seem stupid, we have to consider who wrote them. No, we didn’t write this one.

    Like China’s criminal accusations against the Michaels, the charade is dropped, and now we see the Illiberal Party’s copyright initiative explicately for what it really is. Will you obey an American law forced on us? I won’t be able to stop my eyes rolling when a minister advocates for it.

    If we abolish the corrupted copyright system where we can, in our minds, it broadens our culture and knowledge. Still, I wonder what damage parliament’s pantomime does to respect for their other legislation. What other technically-Canadian laws weren’t made for and by Canadians?

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