Canada’s Copyright Extension Explained

In a previous post, we discussed the significance of copyright, and recently, Canada has amended its Copyright Act to extend copyright protection from 50 to 70 years. The amendment stipulates that the duration of copyright is now the author’s lifetime, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and an additional 70 years. This extension of copyright protection now matches the length of those protections in the United States, and was put into place by the new Canada-United States-Mexico agreement (CUSMA), to align copyright protections for the same duration across the three countries.

What does this change mean for the Canadian author? According to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, extended copyright protection empowers authors by allowing them to retain exclusive control over their works for a longer period. This extension increases the opportunities for licensing agreements, translations, adaptations, and favourable publishing contracts for authors by granting them an extended period of control and economic rights over their works. It ensures that influential literary works by renowned Canadian authors, such as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Leonard Cohen, continue to serve as cultural touchstones, and that Canada demonstrates its commitment to supporting and empowering its writers through these amendments. By extending copyright protection, the country honours the worth of literary works, preserves cultural heritage, and creates a favourable environment for writers to flourish and contribute to Canada’s rich literary tapestry.

Some user-orientated groups protested against this expansion, since its implementation means there will be no new public domain works in Canada until after 2043. For museums, libraries, archives, and higher education institutions, this will represent an increased cost associated with the use of copyrighted work. The administrative burdens of obtaining and managing permissions and fair dealing considerations are extensive. The copyright risk from digitizing, preserving, and sharing of these works by researchers and archivists will further constrain these institutions from making orphaned, unpublished, or out-of-commerce works available to the Canadian public.

For the majority of Canadian authors, this extension will matter little. Of the handful of literary properties that may continue to hold relevance in a distant future, financially compensating their literary heirs and assigns is a benefit most authors will likely agree on. For additional information on copyright extension in Canada, take a look at the website of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. In the US, the U.S. Copyright Office has excellent resources available for further reading.

Looking to learn more about copyright? Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss any of your publishing questions.

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