Canada Saves Public From Public Domain, Extends Copyright On Sound Recordings Another 20 Years

from the obtained-royal-assent-to-press-more-'greatest-hits'-CDs! dept

Lest it be left behind by other countries bullied into submission by US trade agreements, the Canadian government has now expanded copyright terms for recording artists from 50 years to 70 years. (It was previously passed, but has now received the Official Royal Assent.) While not as obnoxiously long as the terms afforded to songwriters (life plus 50 years… which will probably be life plus 70 before too long…), it’s still a needless expansion that does little for living artists while carving another 20-year hole in the public domain.

While one would expect a less-than-balanced perspective from a trade-focused entity, Billboard’s “coverage” of the ruling sounds like it was written by the recording industry itself.

Two months after the Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan 2015 for Canada included its intention to amend the Copyright Act from 50 years to 70 years, the bill has been given royal assent and is now law. That ensures that songwriters will enjoy copyright royalties from early works well into their senior years.

Now songs such as Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier” — released 50 years ago this August — are no longer in danger of entering the public domain.

Yes, it’s the much-dreaded “public domain,” which has repeatedly traveled several decades back in time to destroy nascent creative efforts. This “severely limited” time frame only extends to sound recordings. Songwriters and composers will continue to be rewarded for their creative efforts for 50 years after they’re no longer able to cash royalty checks BECAUSE THEY’RE DEAD.

Music Canada — the RIAA of The North — applauds this decision.

In extending the term of copyright in recorded music, Prime Minister Harper and the Government of Canada have demonstrated a real understanding of music’s importance to the Canadian economy. Thank you. We are thrilled to see Canada brought in line with the international standard of 70 years.

Except it’s not really a “standard.” “Standards” tend to be a bit more static. This “standard” keeps edging up periodically, mainly because of Mickey Mouse, the best unofficial lobbyist the recording and motion picture industries have ever had. It’s only a “standard” because the US has kowtowed to the entertainment industry and then passed this bullying along to other countries, using secretive trade agreements and both carrot and stick. A “standard” of $500 weekly protection payments, as “agreed upon” by baseball-bat wielding thugs offering oblique threats would be similarly as “legitimate” as this supposed “international standard.”

As Billboard goes on to note, national treasures like Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young would have faced the ghastly prospect of (their labels) being unable to exploit recordings from more than fifty years ago without this two-decade protection bump. Well, they likely would have continued to see royalties (life+50), but Music Canada’s main patrons, not so much.

This is a win for record labels. It does next to nothing for the names listed above, other than ensure another twenty years of repackaged, decades-old songs — not exactly the sort of “creative effort” people imagine when they talk about the advantages of copyright protection. All this does is give certain corporations the ability to wring a few more dollars out of recordings made more than 50 years ago. It will have zero impact on creative efforts going forward.

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Comments on “Canada Saves Public From Public Domain, Extends Copyright On Sound Recordings Another 20 Years”

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67 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

are no longer in danger of entering the public domain

Great, we are no longer in danger of others being inspired by their work and producing great new things too! We may also make sure that songs that are stored somewhere far from the listeners have plenty of time to finish rotting and vanishing from history!

I’d ask how these people can’t see the insanity of it but I’m convinced they can but they fail to care out of the top of their piles of cash grabbed via regulatory capture.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’d ask how these people can’t see the insanity of it”

1. The people making the laws are heavily influenced by major corporations, not independents or the consumer. They’re not paid to consider every side of the story.

2. The major corporations have no interest in the vast majority of history, only what currently attracts revenue. This is a small proportion of their back catalogue, so they only consider a small number of situations.

3. Therefore, adding 20 years of revenue to the stock they’re interested in is perfectly acceptable, since the works that would lose out are not profitable to them and therefore worthless either way.

4. Creativity, artistic value, protection of human cultural history and simple fairness (retroactively applying a new rule is unfair by its nature) do not matter to them. It’s only insanity if you value any of the above over and above a simple cash number – if money is your motivation rather than art, it’s a sane move.

That’s the problem. These people are not insane, it’s just that they prefer an extra 20 years of revenue from a small percentage of available works as opposed to having all works available to everyone, under the terms under which they were originally created. They don’t care about long-term unintended consequences either, they’ll be dead or retired by then.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In the case of the non U.S. ones like this, the govt usually doesn’t want to put in any of this crap, they just do it at gunpoint from the U.S.

Not this time. Canada’s been consistently spitting in the face of the USTR for years over the stupid 301 (?) report, but this time it appears the gov’t of the day just outright gifted Music Canada for no reason. Well, no reason except there’s an election coming up and bribes/donations from Music Canada (or anybody, really) are always welcome.

I wonder how they can think they’re serving the public when they gut public domain.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

More likely it’s because of pressure on one side to implement the TPP and from the other side that the public hates it. The countries in the TPP are all making their copyright legislation worse (ie: closer to what the TPP requires) ahead of time to match what will be required so they can say the TPP doesn’t require much changes.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

time to finish rotting and vanishing from history!

This is my major issue (besides the fact that it applies retro-actively somehow) with extending the term; orphaned works are already out of control. I’m fine if I can’t use the latest banal pop track for backing in a home movie for the rest of my life. But these durations are so long that no one cares or even remembers the media by the time it’s unshackled. Forget about monitizing it that long, it’s not even worth keeping on a server unless you’re interested in preserving history/culture/all that unprofitable B.S.

You know what? Screw ’em. You want your song locked up for 70 years? Fine. We’ll all pretend it never existed to begin with if that’s what you really want. Just keep it off the radio and outta my face.

Digger says:

Ex Post Facto

Just like new laws that criminalize certain actions, they cannot be applied to actions that have already occurred.

This same “rule” should be applied to patent and copyright extensions.

New copyrights / patents after laws pass extending them would last longer, anything prior remains where it was when applied for.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Ex Post Facto

There’s the “state of law” which forms the base of any modern political system, and is paramount for any republic or democracy.

To a “State of law” several things like “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty” are necessary, and that all laws must be made public.

Applying laws retroactively is contrary to that. It’s actually destroying the base of the state itself. People doing this should arrested for treason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I can rest easy after death now

You’re making a great argument for undeath.

Why let some other bastard make money off your work just because you’re dead? Perform a few easy, dark rites to Orcus Lord of the Underworld, become a lich, and collect those juicy royalties for next to forever at the current rate of copyright expansion.

Anonymous Coward says:

All these copyright extension only increase the income for existing works if the copyright owners keep the work on the market. Where copyright has been transferred to a publisher, label or studio, the work has to be extremely popular for it to be kept on the market, and the main objective of these people seem to be to keep old works out of the public domain until all extent copies have decayed into uselessness, as this reduces the competition for the works that they put on the market.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: fook all actors and musicians

Fixed time after publication, period. There is no point in gambling on an author’s lifetime. Labels should know what they are talking about in terms of years, authors should know it.

I can sing the songs of Mordechai Gebirtig because the Nazis killed him in a concentration camp. No such luck for Sholem Secundam: he died after Walt Disney, so his songs will never be free for performing.

Should I be thanking the Nazis for this present of music? As long as Gebirtig is not snatched from the Public Domain as well, of course. I should not give the vultures ideas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: fook all actors and musicians

Why is that? I’m a musician, am married to a stage performer, and we’re both disheartened with what’s happened to the music and performance industries. Why does my performance become a monopoly of the recording person for 70 years? My live performance does not have the same protections, and the original written music and lyrics are already protected for life + 50.

It smacks to me more of socialism gone bad (performers get a cut of the copyright pie) than a logical setup. Sure, live recording isn’t the same thing as studio work where you’ve got sound engineers and expensive equipment to factor in as well — but that’s being run as a business, and costs are up-front. They’re going to have MORE business, not less, if the previously-recorded works enter the public domain.

In short, the only people who really benefit from these extended copyrights are those who invest money in purchasing copyright portfolios. And even they’re got to have a diverse portfolio and bilk many people out of a living in order to make a decent profit.

Anon says:

Normally

Normally I think copyright rules are onerous and need to be less restrictive. But… This is relevant. There is a huge body of Canadian works approaching 50 years old and still relevant, still played today. by 1965 artists like Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell and Gord Lightfoot were in full swing. In less than a decade, the cream of 60’s and 70’s rock would be public domain – and most of those artists are still alive and in some cases, still performing. I don’t understand why any copyright would not last until the actual death of the artist, at the very least.

This is an example of why protection is needed. Nobody may be watching Steamboat Willie except for nostalgia, but 60’s and 70’s rock is still live and providing programming for at least one station in every market. My only hope is that the actual performers get some slice of that pie.

(That’s the real need for reform – at what point should the majority of the revenue for a work return to the artists? When have the publishers gotten their pound of flesh?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Normally

and most of those artists are still alive and in some cases, still performing. I don’t understand why any copyright would not last until the actual death of the artist, at the very least.

1) Having the recording fall into the public domain has no impact on a musicians ability to earn money from a live performance.
2) The effect of copyright if a recording stays on the market is to keep on earning the artists some royalties for what was at best a few days work, rehearsing and making the recording. In what other occupation can someone be repeatedly paid for one hours work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Normally

…to keep on earning the artists some royalties…

Assuming the artist gets any royalties. There are a lot of ‘cut-outs’ from the 60s and 70s (and even earlier); do any of them get royalties? Let alone those whose recordings are still available in any format?

…for what was at best a few days work, rehearsing and making the recording. In what other occupation can someone be repeatedly paid for one hours work?…

Most rehearsing and recording takes longer than a few days, and doesn’t always take place in a studio.

But I like that question: who else gets repeat payments for the exact same work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Normally

But I like that question: who else gets repeat payments for the exact same work?

Anyone who invests money? That is, if you consider buying stock doing work.

Along with authors, actors, artists, architects, athletes (image rights), software companies, inventors… I’m sure the list goes on.

OP brought up pensions, which is paying people for work they did years ago for the rest of their lives. So, every retired person?

I guess you could throw in every person who is born into wealth and is a trust fund recipient, since their one-time “work” was being born.

But I suppose it just feels better to demonize musicians? Those long-haired hippie millionaires!

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Normally

I don’t understand why any copyright would not last until the actual death of the artist, at the very least.

I’d like a royalty from past employers for some of the brilliant IT work I’ve done for clients in the past. That includes four day sleepless perl hacks which worked flawlessly when rolled out. Some of that was arguably of far more value monetarily to those corps I worked for.

Why are you entitled to special consideration, by law, and I’m not? Some of my work screams artistry far louder than anything Celine Dion or Justin Bieber ever managed. Their stuff was ephemeral; listen to it once and you never want to hear it again. Mine’s still out there working for a living, some of it constantly with no breaks on multiple servers in multiple countries around the world.

This !@#$ is ethically right down at the bottom of the barrel with nepotism and golden handshakes (or golden spoons).

JMT says:

Re: Normally

“There is a huge body of Canadian works approaching 50 years old and still relevant, still played today. by 1965 artists like Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell and Gord Lightfoot were in full swing. In less than a decade, the cream of 60’s and 70’s rock would be public domain – and most of those artists are still alive and in some cases, still performing.”

All of this is completely irrelevant. No artist needs “protection” for 70 years, or 50 years for that matter. Nothing is preventing them from generating income form their work. They* made a deal to be “protected” for a limited time and then contribute to the public domain. This deal is being reneged on so don’t be surprised when this results in the general public losing even more of the shred of respect remaining for copyright.

*Yes I realise this more about record labels than actual artists.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Normally

“here is a huge body of Canadian works approaching 50 years old and still relevant, still played today”

…which was created under an agreement that they’re to go into the public domain after 50 years. Why do they get to change the deal after the contract ends?

“in some cases, still performing.”

So, they’re still making money from their work, they’re just not being rewarded by work they did 50 years ago by sitting on their asses? I’m fine with that. Nothing about a work being public domain stops the original artist from monetising it, especially live.

“I don’t understand why any copyright would not last until the actual death of the artist, at the very least. “

I don’t understand why it should. Copyright gives 50 years of monopoly, but it’s not a pension fund. If they don’t have a retirement fund after 50 years of guaranteed income from a single piece of work, that means they’re horrible with money, not that they should be given further handouts.

Plus, you wave away all the other realities being discussed – that orphaned works disappear from history, that the dead you’ve just dismissed don’t benefit at all, that works deemed not commercial enough to release will often have their rights kept with the label who refuses to release them rather than artist who may still be alive, etc.

“This is an example of why protection is needed.”

No it’s not.

“Nobody may be watching Steamboat Willie except for nostalgia, but 60’s and 70’s rock is still live and providing programming for at least one station in every market”

….due largely to nostalgia. When the boomers die out, it’ll be as relevant to most younger people as the animation you reject offhand, or at least as relevant as music from the 20s and 30s was to that generation.

“hat’s the real need for reform – at what point should the majority of the revenue for a work return to the artists? When have the publishers gotten their pound of flesh?”

That’s a totally different argument, and one where you’ll find different types of support for the artists here. I personally support a copyright of 20 years, with a single option to renew for the original creator only – no selling copyrights to corporations or an estate where profiteering heirs can manipulate culture for their own benefit. But, I’m open to discussion.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the reason for extending copyright is to extend the revenue stream to non artists then the logical solution is to extend copyright to infinity with the stipulation that a time tax [one that increases with time] be leveled to redirect the revenue stream to the people. A tax of this nature would solve all government funding problems as in infinite time the tax would be an infinite quantity of new money usable on social programs. Since, of course, corporations would attempt to reduce tax by abandoning copyright a fine and level including prison time should be leveled on any and all such attempts at tax evasion.

Mitch Stoltz (profile) says:

Actually it's 70 years, not life+70

Totally agree with this article, but I think there’s some confusion about the term that changed: the Canadian copyright term for sound recordings was 50 years from publication, not from the death of the author, and now it’s 70 years from publication. I think other Canadian copyrights are tied to the life of the author, as in the US. 70 years from publication is still far beyond the point where all but the tiniest fraction of works has any commercial value.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Actually it's 70 years, not life+70

Totally agree with this article, but I think there’s some confusion about the term that changed: the Canadian copyright term for sound recordings was 50 years from publication, not from the death of the author, and now it’s 70 years from publication.

That’s exactly what the article says. The only time it mentions life + 70 is in describing a separate aspect of copyright (for songwriters not recordings).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m almost certain that if people actually knew what all current copyright law involved, the overwhelming majority would hold no respect at all for it.

People ‘respect’ copyright because when it’s trotted out for yet another expansion, it’s spun as being ‘for the artist and the little creator who would otherwise be taken advantage of’, but tell people that emailing a song that you like is a crime, that your friend making a copy of a CD/DVD you loaned them is treated worse than stealing a car, that copyright means that nothing made during a person’s lifetime will ever be available for others to use and re-work during their lifetime…

People only respect copyright because they know almost nothing about it, teach them and all that respect will disappear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Need expanded Fair Use too

These laws take away the rights citizens have to these works being placed into the public domain. For extended copyright terms, there should also be extended fair use:

1) Unless you are selling the recording/book/image etc it should be fair use.

This mean the President can sing it, I can perform it publically, I can mix it, but if I am not selling *IT*, then it should be fair use.

jsebean says:

Re: Need expanded Fair Use too

Actually, under Canadian copyright law, it is perfectly legal since the Copyright modernization act to “remix” works non-commercially, provided it’s non-commercial and has no “adverse affect” on the original work (eg. ripping it off and depriving it from money). So yes, you could sing it, even publicly, so long as you do not gain commercially and that you properly attribute it.

Unfortunately, this so called “Youtube Exception” can be used just about anywhere but YouTube, due to the fact that YouTube is American and does not recognize this aspect that is unique to Canadian copyright law.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

what do we get in return?

How about easy and cheap access to all other artists’ works which you can then tranform and build upon to create new works. In other words, culture.

Or were you hoping to rest on your laurels and continue feeding off works you performed decades ago, verging on a century ago? Why the hell would we want that, of anybody? There’s enough freeloaders out there already.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Now songs such as Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier” — released 50 years ago this August — are no longer in danger of entering the public domain.

And that line really tells you all you need to know about how they see copyright. To people like that’s it’s not, or even meant to be, a fair and balanced deal between the public and the copyright owners, no, it’s only meant to benefit the copyright owners, and the public can get bent.

Really, at this point they should at least be honest about their intentions, and push for eternal copyright. Clearly that’s what they think it should be, and that’s how they act when something inches close to entering the public domain, just wish that maximalists would be honest enough to admit it publicly and stop this pathetic pretending that they care about anyone but themselves.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And that line really tells you all you need to know about how they see copyright.

Yeah, and if you take the time to actually listen to the song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYEsFQ_gt7c), why the FSCK does it make any sense to lock it up for rightsholders to monetize it?!? It’s an artist making a political statement! Why are those morans even invited to this party??!? This is my cultural heritage speaking to me.

Because politicians and rightsholders stealing from us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Meanwhile, in another universe...

…the Canadian government, recognizing that there is little incentive for works more than 20 years old, indeed, many rock musicians barely remember what they were doing 20 years ago, in a moment of rationality changed copyright for all musical and literary works, as well as all visual works (paintings, sculptures, etc.) of art excluding film, video, and similar media, to 14 years from date of first publication, renewable once for another 14 years to the original author(s) on payment of a fee that is 1% of the gross revenue for the original 14 years copyright was in force, or a minimum fee of $3,000, whichever is greater.

As for film and video works of any type, copyright is reduced to 7 years from date of first public release, renewable once for another 7 years on payment of a fee that is 5% of the gross revenue for the original 7 years copyright was in force.

The Canadian government further said there would be a brief transition period of one year before implementation of this policy, after which all works not fitting the above categories would instantly and irrevocably be returned to the public domain, where sane people thought they belonged all along.

Responses from around the world have varied to this point, with consumer groups generally hailing the new copyright laws, along with many governmental bodies. Perhaps surprisingly, many major film studios, though none of those in the United States, the United Kingdom, or western Europe, were supportive of the measure.

But, only in another, saner universe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, nah..

I don’t give a crap what Music Canada, or any recording label decides. I make any music in Canada, it goes in the public domain in 20 years flat, choosing to waive any and all past, present and future extensions and protections. I’ll also legally forbid anyone or anything of any nature from “protecting” my works without my express permission.
Because I like the “danger” of the public domain.

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