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A century of protection for recorded music, and 1.5 centuries for musical and other audio performances

May 8, 2015

By Catherine Lovrics and Tamara Céline Winegust

The Federal Government of Canada has moved quickly to introduce amendments to the Copyright Act to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings and musical and other audio performances through the federal budget bill, Bill C-59, also known as the Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 (the “Bill”).  The Bill was tabled in the House of Commons on May 7, 2015, and Division 5 proposes the Copyright Act amendments.  These changes are consistent with the government’s budget announcement on April 21, 2015, which we reported here and here.

The Bill proposes to amend the Copyright Act to provide longer protection for sound recordings and performances fixed in sound recordings to the earlier of the end of 70 years after the sound recording is published (up from 50) or the end of 100 years after the recording is first fixed.  The longer term would only be for performances recorded in sound recordings, primarily those of musicians and singers, but also narrators of audio books, and other spoken word productions, podcasts and the like.  Theoretically, the changes mean that these performers could get rights for up to 150 years from the first performance if they wait 50 years before making a sound recording of the performance, and another 50 before publishing it.  There is no extension proposed for performances not fixed in sound recordings, which are protected for 50 years from the date of the first performance.   There is also no proposal to extend protection for non-dramatic cinematographic works.

The amendments make clear that the extended term of protection is not retroactive, and will not revive rights, so right holders will be unable to claim copyright or rights to remuneration if protection ended before the changes are implemented.

Notably absent from the bill are provisions relating to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, which the April 21, 2015 budget announcement indicated would be included to enable Canada to accede to that treaty.

Stay tuned to see how quickly the bill moves through the legislative process, and what changes are implemented.

June 2015 Update:

On Friday June 19, 2015 the Canadian House of Parliament recessed for the summer. Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill that includes the above mentioned amendments to the Copyright Act to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings and musical and other audio performances, remains pending before the Senate.

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Tamara Céline Winegust Tamara Céline Winegust
B.F.A., J.D.
416.957.1651  email Tamara Céline Winegust