Canada set to extend artist copyright term from 50 to 70 years

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The Government of Canada has announced its intention to amend the term of copyright for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years in its 2015 Budget.

The move would bring Canadian artists and labels in line with more than 60 countries worldwide who protect copyright in sound recordings for a term of 70 years or longer – including all of Europe, the US and Australia.

Canadian artists currently lose copyright protection to their own recordings after half a century, when Canada’s Copyright Act pushes the tracks into the public domain.

The move has been welcomed by record label and artist body Music Canada, which has long lobbied for an extension.

“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,” says Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada.

“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.”

Without term extension for sound recordings, the early works of Leonard Cohen (pictured), Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, and Anne Murray would be in public domain over the next five years.

“Many of us in our seventies and eighties depend on income from these songs for our livelihood.”

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen said: “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 70s and 80s depend on income from these songs for our livelihood.  We would deeply appreciate any adjustment that would avert a financial disaster in our lives.”

Fellow Canadian artists loudly applauded the Government’s move.

“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 Jim Cuddy.  “The copyright of a creative work should not expire in the lifetime of an author.”

Music Canada estimates significant average annual investment by music companies of over 28% of revenues in developing talent, the next generation of performing artists will benefit from this copyright amendment now and well into the future.

“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 Kardinal Offishall.

 Countries which have a sound recording copyright longer than 50 years

  • United States (95)
  • Mexico (75)
  • United Kingdom (70)
  • France (70)
  • Germany (70)
  • South Korea (70)
  • Australia (70)
  • Argentina (70)
  • Austria (70)
  • Netherlands (70)
  • Spain (70)
  • Italy (70)
  • Norway (70)
  • Slovenia (70)
  • Sweden (70)
  • Slovakia (70)
  • Romania (70)
  • Portugal (70)
  • Poland (70)
  • Lithuania (70)
  • Latvia (70)
  • Ireland (70)
  • Bahamas (70/100)
  • Saint Vincent (75)
  • Samoa (75)
  • Bahrain (70)
  • Brazil (70)
  • Burkina Faso (70)
  • Chile (70)
  • Costa Rica (70)
  • Cote d’Ivoire (99)
  • Micronesia (75/100)
  • Morocco (70)
  • Nicaragua (70)
  • Oman (95/120)
  • Palau (75/100)
  • Colombia (80/50)
  • Panama (70)
  • Paraguay (70)
  • Dominican Republic (70)
  • Ecuador (70)
  • El Salvador (70)
  • Ghana (70)
  • Grenadine (75)
  • Guatemala (75)
  • Honduras (75)
  • Hungary (70)
  • Greece (70)
  • Finland (70)
  • Estonia (70)
  • Denmark(70)
  • Czech Republic (70)
  • Cyprus (70)
  • Croatia (70)
  • Bulgaria (70)
  • Belgium (70)
  • Peru (70)
  • Singapore (70)
  • Turkey (70)
  • Iceland (70)
  • Liechtenstein (70)
  • Malta (70)
  • Luxembourg (70)
  • India (60)
  • Venezuela (60)
  • Bangladesh (60

 Music Business Worldwide

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  • Guest

    You’ve made one fundamental error in your article – Canadian artists lose their copyright a half-century after their death, not after a half-century. What good does a dead artist have for copyright?

    Wait, no, it’s 50 years total? What the heck? I have never heard of this.

    • Matt L

      The Canadian Copyright Act creates multiple sets of rights when it comes to sound recordings. Having a “right” in a sound recording usually boils down to “you get paid when it gets played”:

      The author of a song (or possibly multiple people, if one person wrote the lyrics and someone else wrote the music) has a copyright interest in the song itself (the lyrics or the music). They have the exclusive right to copy the song or perform it in public (subject to various exceptions in the Copyright Act). This includes all versions of the song, regardless of whether it’s them performing it or someone else. It’s not tied to a specific recording or a specific performance. This set of rights last for the life of the author + 50 years.

      Performers and sound recording “makers” (usually the record label who funded the studio time) have rights which only relate to the specific recording that they were involved in. These rights last for 50 years after the publication of that recording.

      This budget bill only deals with the second set of rights, and will extend them for 20 years. Sometimes the same person is both: an artist who writes and performs their own songs is both an author AND a performer (and if they fund their own studio time, possibly a sound recording “maker” as well). So they would have multiple sets of rights in each recording.

      But when Graham Henderson talks about songs falling into the public domain, he’s talking a load of crap. The performance and “maker” rights might expire after 50 years, but those songs still have decades to go before the author’s rights in them expire.

  • John Simpson

    An artist’s copyright in the musical work itself lasts their lifetime plus 50 years. That isn’t changing. What’s changing is the term of copyright in a particular recording of the work that belongs to the “maker” of the recording (record label). That is changing from 50 years from the making of the recording to 70 years. It will benefit artists to the extent that the record companies pay artists royalties from the record companies’ sound recording copyright.

  • Rob

    It should be cut down to its original duration of 14 years with a single renewal, not extended. This is asinine.