Sunday, January 31, 2016

Canada considers copyright registration - again

The Embassy News reports that Canada is considering making the extra twenty years' term extension under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement conditional on copyright registration.

Such a move would have many advantages, and would permit those works that are not registered to fall into the public domain.  However, Embassy notes that the Berne Convention, a foundational copyright treaty, prohibits making formalities such as registration a condition of granting copyright.  As Embassy notes, the Berne Convention is ambiguous as to whether this prohibition lasts for the full term of copyright, or whether it covers only the initial Berne-mandated term of life plus fifty years, leaving countries free to do what they want after that.

This isn't the first time that Canada has hit up against this dilemma.  In 1931 Canada passed a Copyright Act that also required certain types of registration, and the same question arose.  At issue, in particular, was the requirement that copyright collectives register lists of the works they claimed to grant licenses in.  It was felt that copyright collectives were claiming copyright infringement in works they had no rights in and that, to hold them accountable, lists of their works should be published.

No major challenge to Canada's provisions was ever brought under the Berne Convention.

For more details, see The Struggle for Canadian Copyright, pp. 121-125.

Here are the relevant sections of Canada's 1931 Copyright Act:

While the proposed option could be a move demonstrating much-needed copyright innovation with the public interest in mind, an even better option would be not to implement the TPP.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My upcoming talk on February 3rd at McMaster University.