Budget announcements often contain news for the IP community,
and yesterday's budget announcement was no different. In the
announcement, the government proposed to amend the Copyright
Act to extend protection for sound recordings and performances
by 20 years.
Currently, copyright protects a music performance for 50 years
from the year it is first recorded (or performed, if not recorded),
plus up to 50 more years if and when that recording is published,
to a maximum 99 years. (Practically, today first recording is
usually not significantly delayed so the term is typically closer
to 50 years, than 99 years). The sound recording itself is
protected for 50 years from the year it is first recorded, and, if
published during that initial term, the copyright extends for 50
years from the first publication. By comparison, copyright
protection for musical and other works is typically 50 years plus
the life of the author. As a result, the person that writes a piece
of music generally receives a significantly longer term of
protection than the performer of that music and the copyright owner
of the related recording.
Yesterday's budget announcement indicates the government may
be extending copyright protection for performers, record labels and
other owners of sound recordings by 20 years, helping to balance
the term of protection with copyright works.
Interestingly, there was no mention in the budget announcement
of whether protection for non-dramatic cinematographic works would
also be extended. Cinematographic works (e.g. films) without
dramatic character are currently protected for 50 years
from first publication (or making, if not published).
Theoretically then, if the changes are made as they are proposed,
someone who performs in a non-dramatic movie (e.g., the narrator in
a documentary) could receive a longer term of protection for their
performance than would the owner of the copyright in the movie.
Any change to the term of protection for copyright in
performances would also affect the term of moral rights protection
in such performances, which runs for the same length as
Stay tuned to see if the changes are proposed and implemented in
the Act — past history demonstrates the road from budget
announcement to bill to law can be long and winding.
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A recent Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench decision allowed a court-appointed receiver to sell and transfer intellectual property rights free and clear of encumbrances, finding that a license to use improvements of an invention was a contractual interest and not a property interest.
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