As part of the proposed 2015 federal budget, tabled yesterday, the Canadian government announced that it intends to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings and performers’ performances to 70 years. The announcement was worded as follows:

Protection of Sound Recordings and Performances 

Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to amend the Copyright Act so that the term of protection of performances and sound recordings is extended from 50 years to 70 years following the date of the release of the sound recordings.

The mid-1960s were an exciting time in Canadian music, producing many iconic Canadian performers and recordings. While songwriters enjoy the benefits flowing from their copyright throughout their lives, some performers are starting to lose copyright protection for their early recordings and performances because copyright protection for song recordings and performances following the first release of the sound recording is currently provided for only 50 years.

Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to amend the Copyright Act to extend the term of protection of sound recordings and performances from 50 to 70 years following the first release of the sound recording. This will ensure that performers and record labels are fairly compensated for the use of their music for an additional 20 years.  

The government has not yet indicated how it intends to implement the proposed amendments, including whether protection will be extended retroactively to recordings or performances that have already fallen into the public domain. There appears to be no plan to extend the term of protection for literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, for which the existing term of protection – the life of the author plus 50 years – is generally much longer than for sound recordings and performers’ performances.

When enacted, the proposed amendments will bring the term of protection for recordings and performances in Canada in line with most of its major trading partners. This will help ensure that performers and record labels continue to be compensated for the use of their recordings not only in Canada but also in many other countries where the benefit of a 70-year term of protection is only extended to rightsholders whose home countries provide for at least the same term.

The government also announced its intention to amend the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the WIPO Marrakesh Treaty, which is designed to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. While Canada has not yet signed the treaty, which was adopted in 2013, it stands to become one of the first countries to ratify it once the planned amendments are implemented. 

The proposed changes come in the wake of two other major rounds of amendments to the Copyright Act in recent years: the Copyright Modernization Act, enacted in 2012, and the Combating Counterfeit Products Act, enacted in 2014.