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US-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal Carries Copyright Implications Across Borders

Nancy Pelosi
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and other members conduct a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on the agreement reached on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal on Dec. 10, 2019. 

Canada and Mexico are one step closer to aligning their copyright laws with the U.S. on Tuesday (Dec. 10) after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump reached an agreement to ratify the trilateral trade deal that will extend copyright term in Canada by 20 years and contains provisions on "Safe Harbor" copyright liability exemptions. The treaty will now have to be ratified by the legislatures of both Canada and Mexico.

Industry insiders applauded the move, but also said they were troubled by any discussions of extending any copyright exemptions in North America. 

Brittain Ashford, executive director, Music Publishers Association of the United States, released a statement in favor of the move saying, "The MPA is heartened by the emphasis on increased protection for intellectual property in the new agreement, which will be a significant help in resolving some long-standing problems in the North American music market. We hope that all governmental bodies involved will see this through to a swift and successful conclusion."

Canadian Music Publishers executive director Margaret McGuffin also welcomed the proposed change saying, "enacting the term extension provisions of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement will ensure that Canadian songs and scores continue to be heard daily on the radio, on streaming services, in video games and in film, television and other screen-based productions around the world." While she urged the passage of the treaty in Canada she added that it must be done with "no conditions."

The International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), a world trade association representing music publishing companies interests, approved of the extension of term limits, but added it is troubled by any discussion of copyright exemptions in the trade talks. 

"A significant impasse has been overcome," John Phelan, ICMP director general, said in a statement. "This deal is as crucial for the music industry as it is complex. We would warmly welcome the prospect of copyright term in Canada -- it's vital that term there arrives at a level which is standard worldwide. Copyright is the bedrock of creative sectors."

ICMP is encouraging the Canadian parliamentary to quickly ratify the treaty and to bring Canadian copyright term limits in line with international norms. They tweeted that "Trilateral Canada-US-Mexico trade deal is 'tangible opportunity' to fix serious imbalance for Canadian music sector." Adding 20 years to Canadian copyright would create a robust creative sector, mean more Canadian cultural exports, and significantly boost the growth of innovative business, according to the ICMP. 

Phelan adds that discussions of copyright exemptions within the talks were "troubling" and any "so-called 'Safe Harbors' risk real regress on music's value." National Music Publishers Association president and CEO David Israelite also released a statement echoing those same sentiments. 

"The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement includes important copyright provisions that will greatly affect songwriters," said Israelite. "We are encouraged by the term expansion for Canadian copyright law that is included in the deal, but remain concerned that the DMCA safe harbors in the agreement continue to devalue creators' work and protect Internet service providers who should be doing more to prevent piracy and infringement."


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