Canada's Budget Extends Copyright for Sound Recordings to 70 Years

Leonard Cohen, 2013.
REX USA/Brian Rasic/Rex

Leonard Cohen in concert at The O2 Arena in London on September 5, 2013.

Artists including Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn applaud the government's proposal to extend the term of copyrights from 50 to 70 years.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government released its 433-page Economic Action Plan 2015 for Canada and included in the comprehensive and varied report is its intention to amend the Copyright Act from 50 years to 70 years.

The plan, available online, is titled Strong Leadership: A Balanced-Budget, Low-Tax Plan For Jobs, Growth And Security. It was tabled in the House of Commons by the Honourable Joe Oliver, P.C., M.P. Minister of Finance.

On pages 305-306, under the heading Protection of Sound Recordings and Performances, it reads: 

"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 amendment is first referenced on page 301 under Promoting Arts and Culture.

Music Canada -- the non-profit trade organization (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) representing the interests of companies that record, manufacture, produce, promote and distribute music -- responded favourably to the news, releasing its own press release containing data to support the amendment. 

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It states that Canadian artists and music are at a "competitive disadvantage," not aligned with their international trading partners.  More than 60 countries -- including all of Europe, the U.S. and Australia -- protect copyright in sound recordings for 70 year terms or longer.

"By proposing to extend the term of copyright in recorded music, Prime Minister Harper and the Government of Canada have demonstrated a real understanding of music's importance to the Canadian economy. Thank you. We look forward to seeing the full details when the Budget Implementation Act is tabled," Music Canada president Graham Henderson said. "With each passing day, Canadian treasures like Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie are lost to the public domain. This is not in the public interest. It does not benefit the creator or their investors and it will have an adverse impact on the Canadian economy."

Music Canada also gathered quotes from Canadian songwriters in response to the copyright news.

Said Leonard Cohen: "In just a few short years, songs we recorded in the late 1960s will no longer have copyright protection in Canada. Many of us in our 70's and 80's depend on income from these songs for our livelihood. We would deeply appreciate any adjustment that would avert a financial disaster in our lives." 

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"The world has changed since our original copyright laws were drafted," said Bruce Cockburn. "Every piece of music is, at least theoretically, with us forever. Extending the copyright term is an eminently sensible response to this new situation, and a welcome one!"

"I support extending the length of copyright for sound recordings in Canada to 70+ years," added Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy. "The copyright of a creative work should not expire in the lifetime of an author."

"I'm glad that Canada has extended our copyright term, so we can continue to use the proceeds from classic Canadian recordings to invest in great Canadian talent," said hip hop artist Kardinal Offishall, who also does A&R for Universal Music Canada.