Under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which entered into force on July 1, 2020, Canada agreed to extend by the end of 2022, its general copyright term of protection from 50, to 70 years after the life of the author. The legislative amendments required by CUSMA provides an opportunity for the Department and the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to consider other potential amendments further to their Ministers’ mandate letter commitments to review the Copyright Act (the Act). To this end, the Departments are undertaking a series of targeted public consultations on select policy issues.
B. Background and Current Status
Responsibility for copyright policy is shared between the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who is responsible for copyright as it pertains to cultural policy.
Copyright is an important cultural tool as well as a major economic driver, but the changing digital environment has presented many challenges.
Copyright is also an area with diverse stakeholder interests to be balanced, including creators and rights holders such as artists, users and consumers, and intermediaries such as social media, search engines and more.
The targeted consultations follow a Parliamentary review of the Act, itself held in 2018-2019 to determine how to better advance the copyright framework. Consultations focus on three main issues and are scheduled to take place by summer 2021:
Canada’s CUSMA commitment to extend its general term of copyright protection and whether accompanying measures should be adopted to address potential implications of term extension;
How Canada should modernize its copyright framework for online intermediaries; and
How Canada should modernize its copyright framework for artificial intelligence (AI) and synchronized devices equipped with smart software, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
C. Strategic Considerations
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and the Standing Committee on Industry, Technology and Science have both completed legislative reviews of the Act. In their reports released in May and June 2019, the Standing Committees put forward a combined 58 recommendations on updating the Act and its framework. The recommendations of the two Committees were not always aligned.
The copyright framework aims to encourage the creation and distribution of copyrighted content through the fair remuneration of creators and rights holders, while also facilitating access of this content by all Canadians.
The consultation on what measures should accompany a longer general term of copyright was launched in February 2021 and closed on March 31, 2021. Following the consultation on how to implement term extension, responses will be published online and will inform the policy development process.
The consultation on online intermediaries is scheduled to launch in April 2021. This will provide an opportunity to look into the extent to which Canada’s copyright framework, for online intermediaries, still achieves its underlying objectives, including protecting and encouraging the use of copyright-protected content online, safeguarding individual rights and freedoms in an open Internet, and facilitating a flourishing digital market. In its latest Speech from the Throne, the Government stated that it will ensure that the revenues of “web giants” are shared more fairly with Canadian creators and media.
The consultation on AI and the IoT will seek to determine if the current copyright framework is well adapted to the emerging technologies. Rapid advances in digital technology such as AI and IoT are having a profound impact on how Canadians do business, innovate and create and share cultural products. This consultation is scheduled to launch in late spring 2021.
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