Earlier this year, the Canadian government launched a timid consultation on copyright term extension. After years of rejecting copyright term extension beyond the international law standard of life of the author plus 50 years, the Canadian government caved to pressure from the United States by agreeing to the equivalent of life of the author plus 70 years in the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement (USMCA). With a 30 month transition period to allow for consultation, this represents an opportunity to mitigate against the harms of term extension.
I submitted my response last night and it is posted here. The submission cites a wide range of experts – including Justice Minister David Lametti and former US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante for the proposition that registration for the additional 20 years is not only permissible under international law, it is desirable. I also include a lengthy appendix of the some of the Canadian authors and leaders whose works will not enter the public domain if term is extended. These include Gabrielle Roy, Marshall McLuhan, Margaret Laurence, Louis St. Laurent, John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, René Lévesque, Jean Lesage, John Robarts, and Bora Laskin.
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For years, Canada resisted extending the term of copyright beyond the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years. That appears to have come to an end with the USMCA, which requires an extension. The Canadian government has just launched a public consultation on the issue, identifying several “accompanying measures” to address concerns about the negative impact of term extension. For the many Canadians that participated in the recent copyright review process, the consultation document comes as huge disappointment as it seemingly rejects – with little legal basis – the review’s recommendation on establishing a registration requirement for the additional 20 years that would benefit both creators and the public.
The consultation is currently open until March 12th. Duke University’s Jennifer Jenkins, who is is a Clinical Professor of Law teaching intellectual property and Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, joins the Law Bytes podcast this week to help sort through the likely implications of copyright term extension for Canada.
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“Free” materials for educational purposes are sometimes derided as sub-standard works based on the premise that you get what you pay for. Inherent in the argument is that value is associated with cost and that turning to materials without cost means relying on materials without value. Yet the reality is that free materials are free as in “freely available” with the costs of production or business models that support those works rivalling conventional publication approaches. Free or openly available materials are not outliers. For example, the University of Guelph told the Industry committee that 24 per cent of materials in their course management systems consisted of open or free online content.
The series on misleading on fair dealing continues with an examination of freely available materials, including four sources: public domain works, open educational resources, open access publishing, and hyperlinking to third party content (prior posts in the series include the legal effect of the 2012 reforms, the wildly exaggerated suggestion of 600 million uncompensated copies each year, the decline of books in coursepacks, the gradual abandonment of print coursepacks, the huge growth of e-book licensing, why site licences offer better value than the Access Copyright licence, my opening remarks to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and transactional licensing).
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The government launched its copyright review earlier this week with a Parliamentary motion to send the review to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I wrote a preview of some of the likely issues, noting the efforts of lobby groups to restrict fair dealing, extend the term of copyright, and target intermediary liability. Yet the letter from Ministers Navdeep Bains and Melanie Joly to committee chair Dan Ruimy, which should be posted online shortly, confirms that the government appreciates the competing perspectives on copyright and the limits of what the law can (or should) do.
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The Ontario Book Publishers Organization recently published a study funded by the OMDC on the use of Canadian books in English classes in Ontario Public and Catholic schools from Grades 7 to 12. The study surveyed teachers and school boards on which books (including novels, short story collections, creative non-fiction, poetry and plays but not textbooks) are taught in English classes. The goal was to see whether Canadian books were included in class lists. The survey generated hundreds of responses (27 from school board participants and 280 from the Ontario Teachers Federation) resulting references to 695 books by 539 authors.
The OBPO argued that the takeaway from the study is that Canadian books are not well represented in Canadian classrooms since less than a quarter of the mentions referred to a Canadian work and none of the top 10 works were Canadian. While that suggests that there is considerable room to increase the presence of Canadian works in the classroom, the data in the study can be used for other purposes. Working with Sydney Elliott, one of my research assistants, we reviewed the OBPO data to identify the presence of public domain works in Ontario classrooms (ie. the use of works for which the term of copyright has expired).
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