Copyright term extension has emerged as a major policy issue in Canada in recent months. Canada’s general copyright term is life of the author plus 50 years and successive governments have rejected lobbying pressure to extend by an additional 20 years. That changed with the new NAFTA, which includes a life plus 70 years requirement. Canada negotiated a 30 month transition period with no need to extend the copyright term during that time. The Canadian copyright review recommended that any extension include a registration requirement for the extra 20 years.
Paul Heald is a law professor at the University of Illinois, where he has led the world in conducting extensive empirical analysis on the effects of copyright term extension and the value of the public domain. His work has used some creative methods examining data on sites such as Amazon and Wikipedia to learn more about the effects of term extension. He joined me on the podcast to discuss his findings and new work he has been doing on the data in Canada.
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The agreement on a revised Canada-US-Mexico Trade Agreement this week featured both good news and bad news. Among the positive changes in the revised agreement is the significant changes to the patent provisions, including the elimination of the ten years of protection for biologics. That provision would have required changes to Canadian law and added significant new costs to pharmaceuticals. Moreover, the retention of the Internet safe harbour provision is a win for freedom of expression in Canada as it will help ensure that free speech is not lost in the current rush to regulate Internet platforms.
On the downside, many of the problematic digital trade provisions remain unchanged (they can also be found in the CPTPP so their inclusion does not change much) as does the requirement for a copyright term extension to life of the author plus 70 years. The additional 20 years of protection beyond the international standard found in the Berne Convention will be costly for Canadians with little discernible benefit.
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