After Getting Copyright Term Extension, Copyright Lobby Demands More

In a move that further proves that lobbyists will never be satisfied, the copyright lobby is demanding more after getting an unnecessary copyright term extension.

America has a copyright term of life plus 70 years. That alone has contributed to observers pointing out that America is suffering a copyright crisis. Artists are having to take out insurance policies for fear their original work would be interpreted by an unknown artists as infringement because it might have the same “feel”. As such, creativity is now screeching to a virtual standstill as artists find themselves reluctant to release new music. The warnings are quite stark about this situation: this is what happens when you expand the definition of copyright and recklessly increase the length to such extreme lengths.

Of course, international corporate lobbyists have a different idea in mind. As they have long since abandoned the idea of fostering a healthy creative sector in favour of monopolistic control and litigation, they don’t see a problem in lengthening copyright terms. So, they simply convinced the Trump administration to inject copyright term extensions into NAFTA 2.0. They also demanded mass Internet censorship and several other unworkable policy theories, but fortunately for everyone involved, most of those ideas simply failed to materialize in the final agreement. Unfortunately, copyright term extension stayed.

As a result, there was a sense of unease on the leadup towards the ratification. Some wonder if that disastrous copyright term extension was making it into the legislation. No case was made to support such an endeavour and no verifiable evidence was put on record that suggests that such a move is necessary. On the contrary, the Berne Convention is quite clear that life plus 50 years is the international standard and norm for the length of copyright. Some studies even suggest that lengthening copyright terms is actually detrimental to the overall economy.

Then, earlier month, the observers worst fears were realized. The tabled NAFTA 2.0 implementation bill reveals the unnecessary copyright term extension. The addition represents a disaster to the Canadian creativity sector because it deprives the public domain of additional works for another 20 years for no real reason other than “the trade agreement made me do it”. So, with the threat of creativity being on hold for an additional 20 years, some might wonder if this will be enough to satisfy the foreign lobbyists for now.

Unfortunately, as we’ve known for some time, whenever foreign lobbyists get something they wanted, that just gives them a reason to double down and demand more. Already, they demanded Canada adopt the failed three strikes law and mass Internet censorship which is proving to be a failed policy in Australia, but both policies failed to materialize on the legislative front. So, in the mean time the lobbyists are demanding that life plus 70 years extend to all works. From the Music Publishers Canada press release:

Music Publishers Canada (MPC) is urging Parliamentarians to implement the extension of copyright term an extra 20 years to all works under Bill C-4, the CUSMA ratification bill, to ensure innovation, export potential and growth for small businesses.

“There is a pressing need to implement copyright term extension immediately, completely, and with no conditions,” MPC board member Jennifer Mitchell, president of Casablanca Media Publishing and Red Brick Songs, told the House of Commons Industry and Trade committees during their studies of C-4 this week.

“This will allow songwriters to succeed and small businesses to thrive. And it’s easy to do. These provisions already apply to some works under C-4. I, on behalf of Music Publishers Canada and the songwriters and composers that I work with, urge committee members to amend Bill C-4 to align Canada with its global trading partners by including all musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic works.”

Now, bear in mind, there is no independent analysis to suggest that it will lead to better creativity or an increase in small business activity. The press release also fails to cite any sources for any of these claims either. What’s particularly curious is the fact that the term extension in the bill itself applies to musical works. So, it makes one seriously question why they are demanding this copyright term extension to be applies to “all works”. For example, what about the case of orphaned works? In that case, the creator cannot be established, so it would be impossible to determine when the term should end.

So, obviously, the issue about copyright is much more complex then what is being let on here. Additionally, the press release incorrectly refers to the ratification bill as the “CUSMA ratification bill”. The Trump administration calls the “trade” agreement the USMCA. Major Canadian outlets also refer to it as “NAFTA 2.0”. So, it’s unclear why this lobbying organization is referring to it as the “CUSMA” agreement.

What this does show is that lobbyists in this sector are never satisfied. We’ve seen over the years how they constantly demand more. Even if they get what they want, they demand more. This behaviour goes back decades and this is just the latest iteration of it. So, it’s easy to see how little credibility such demands have in this case. The unfortunate part is that lawmakers have a tendency of treating these demands more seriously then they really ought to be treated. So, it’ll be interesting to see if lawmakers are persuaded by the big corporations to go beyond what the USMCA demands or if they will stick to their guns and say, “You got what you wanted through a fluke in the negotiation process, be happy you managed to get that with little effort on your part.”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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