News & Events

A copyright registration system would be unfair to rights holders says CMPA’s EDJan 27 2016


Speaking with Embassy, an Ottawa-based publication which examines the international side of Canadian politics, CMPA Executive Director Robert Hutton was clear in stating that, for rights holders, the introduction of a copyright registration system rather than the implementation of the 20-year extension to the copyright term required by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, would be unfair.

“Musical works that remain in public circulation will always have some sort of commercial value,” Hutton pointed out.

“For example, any song that can be found on an online streaming service holds commercial value to that service, which profits from ad or subscription revenue. Rights holders should be able to share in those profits without having to jump through the hoops of registration.”

An increase in the term of copyrighted works to life-of-the-creator plus 70 years to bring it in line with  the approximately 80 other countries worldwide, has become a widely debated provision of the TPP trade deal which was signed in early February by the ministers from the 12 member nations, including Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland. There is now a two-year window during which time the pact has to be ratified or rejected.

The idea of a registration system is to have rights holders register for the extra 20 years of protection around year 50 figuring that it would act as a filter for those works that are no longer commercially viable.

The Berne Convention, to which all TPP members are committed, provides copyright protection for life plus 50 years. It also bans the imposition of formalities, a legal term under which this registration system would fall.

As copyright lawyer Howard Knopf noted in the same Embassy article, it is uncertain whether that ban extends beyond the 50 years of protection and that ambiguity could lead to a legal challenge that argues that imposing a registration system  violates the Berne Convention and TPP text.

The TPP trade deal, which was five years in the making – though Canada arrived at the table late – was signed by the 12 member nations which account for close to 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

Ratification will require the U.S. and Japan and at least four of the remaining 10 countries to agree to the legal text of the deal for it to take effect. Of course, elections are looming in the U.S. and Japan this year.

TPP members include Canada, the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The full Embassy News article is available here.