Budget announcements often contain news for the IP community, and yesterday’s budget announcement was no different. In the announcement, the government proposed to amend the Copyright Act to extend protection for sound recordings and performances by 20 years.  

Currently, copyright protects a music performance for 50 years from the year it is first recorded (or performed, if not recorded), plus up to 50 more years if and when that recording is published, to a maximum 99 years. (Practically, today first recording is usually not significantly delayed so the term is typically closer to 50 years, than 99 years). The sound recording itself is protected for 50 years from the year it is first recorded, and, if published during that initial term, the copyright extends for 50 years from the first publication. By comparison, copyright protection for musical and other works is typically 50 years plus the life of the author. As a result, the person that writes a piece of music generally receives a significantly longer term of protection than the performer of that music and the copyright owner of the related recording.  

Yesterday’s budget announcement indicates the government may be extending copyright protection for performers, record labels and other owners of sound recordings by 20 years, helping to balance the term of protection with copyright works.  

Interestingly, there was no mention in the budget announcement of whether protection for non-dramatic cinematographic works would also be extended. Cinematographic works (e.g. films) without dramatic character are currently protected for 50 years from first publication (or making, if not published). Theoretically then, if the changes are made as they are proposed, someone who performs in a non-dramatic movie (e.g., the narrator in a documentary) could receive a longer term of protection for their performance than would the owner of the copyright in the movie.

Any change to the term of protection for copyright in performances would also affect the term of moral rights protection in such performances, which runs for the same length as copyright.

Stay tuned to see if the changes are proposed and implemented in the Act — past history demonstrates the road from budget announcement to bill to law can be long and winding.