Thank you, Madam Chair.
My name is Mark Schaan and I am the director general of the marketplace framework policy branch, at the Department of Industry. It is a pleasure to be here today to give you an overview of an important element of Canada's intellectual property framework: the Copyright Act. Ms. Théberge and I have prepared a brief joint presentation.
The Copyright Act is one of our four main intellectual property acts. The main purpose of the Copyright Act is to encourage innovation and creativity for the benefit of all of society. It does this by creating a bundle of rights and establishing exceptions and limitations to these rights.
The Copyright Act provides an incentive for creators to create by ensuring that they will be able to tap into opportunities for their creations in the marketplace. This in turn gives the public access to new creative works.
Intellectual property laws, especially copyright, are considered foundational marketplace framework laws. They provide the rules of the game for businesses and consumers. The Copyright Act is a legislative instrument of general application. Like any law of general application, it must be amended with caution, given the importance of predictability and stability for all market players. The act reflects a complex balancing of various interests and public policy objectives and is increasingly key in facilitating global commerce.
I will now go through the main elements of the Copyright Act.
Copyright protects four broad categories of original works: literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic. This includes books and magazines, audiovisual productions, music, paintings, photographs, architectural drawings, and software.
A fundamental principle of copyright is that copyright only protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. For example, an idea for a story would not be subject to copyright protection, but the expression of the idea in the form of a written story would be.
Copyright arises automatically upon creation of an original work that has been fixed in a material form. This approach was adopted internationally so that artists would not have to register their work around the world to benefit from the fruits of their creative effort.
Overall, the act gives creators the right to control or be paid for the use and dissemination of their works, but these rights have a limited term of protection. The general term of copyright protection in Canada is the author's life plus 50 years. Different term limits apply in certain cases, such as for sound recordings, which are protected for 70 years from the date of publication. Once copyright expires, the works enter the public domain and can be used without payment or consent.
In general, the act grants the copyright holder the exclusive right to reproduce, represent or communicate the work to the public. Doing any one of these things without the copyright holder's consent constitutes infringement.
In certain specific cases, the act also grants rights that are not exclusive, such as the right to remuneration for recording artists and music labels when their sound recordings are played on the radio.
Copyrights are not absolute and are bounded by limitations and a number of exceptions outlined in the act. For example, there's a variety of exceptions for consumers, including for format shifting, recording programs for later viewing, backup copies, and non-commercial user-generated content. There are also a number of exceptions for innovation, notably to enable activities related to reverse engineering for software interoperability, security testing, and encryption research.
Along with the economic rights that I have described, the Copyright Act also confers moral rights. Moral rights protect the integrity of works and the author's right to be associated with them or not. Unlike economic rights, moral rights cannot be assigned, but they can be waived.
The review you are taking part in is the first under the current section 92 of the Copyright Act. This provision was enacted by Parliament in 2012 as part of the last round of comprehensive reform of the act. It calls for a committee of Parliament to review the act every five years.
This provision was enacted to ensure that technology does not outpace the act and to provide a transparent forum for the interested parties to present their concerns regarding the act.
Regarding new technologies, it is important to note that there is already some degree of adaptability built into the copyright framework.
First, the courts have interpreted the act in accordance with the principle of technological neutrality, which allows copyright to evolve jurisprudentially in the absence of changes to the act. Second, copyright can be divided, licensed, or assigned by contracts. This allows parties to define and agree on various terms, conditions, and uses, thereby providing a good measure of flexibility with respect to copyright as new platforms, media, and consumer habits arise.
Canada has a modern and robust copyright framework, generally allowing for a functional marketplace. Yet, given the complexity of copyright policy and how it affects diverse economic actors, often with opposing interests, it is one of the most debated pieces of legislation and there is no shortage of reform proposals to amend it in one way or another. This is why it is important to hear a diversity of viewpoints to ensure our Copyright Act functions as optimally as it can and delivers benefits for all Canadians.
Copyright legislation is a federal responsibility under our Constitution. In recognition that it is both a marketplace framework law and a cultural policy tool, copyright policy responsibility is shared between the ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Canadian Heritage. Each department has a dedicated team responsible for advising the government on copyright policy. The two departments work together to develop policy options for government's consideration.
There are other organizations that play key roles in the overall legislative framework for copyright. The Copyright Board of Canada is an arms-length quasi-judicial tribunal. It establishes royalty tariffs for the use of certain collectively managed copyrighted works, acts as a neutral arbitrator of individual licences upon request of parties, and issues licences for works for which the copyright owner cannot be known or found, which are also known as “orphan works”.
There is also the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, which is responsible for registering copyrights, assignments of copyright, and licences. While it is not necessary to register a copyright to obtain legal protection, doing so provides some benefits to the owner in the event of a dispute. It also provides notice to others who may wish to use the work or avoid infringing it.
Canadian courts are another important actor in the legislative framework. They resolve disputes by determining whether infringement has occurred and awarding just remedies to copyright owners when infringement has occurred. Courts can also issue injunctions to prevent or stop infringement. Court decisions play a role in determining how the provisions of the act are interpreted and applied. Canada's Supreme Court has been particularly active on copyright over the past 15 years, releasing numerous important decisions since 2002.
By nature, copyright law is territorial, but it is also governed by an international multilateral system of treaties and agreements that establish minimum standards of protection. This way, authors and creators from one country can easily obtain copyright protection in other countries. This system supports Canadian creators and encourages creative works from other countries to be offered in the Canadian marketplace, providing greater choice for Canadian consumers.
The relevant international agreements that Canada is party to include the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and numerous copyrights treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, such as the Berne and Rome conventions and the Internet treaties. One of the minimum standards of these agreements is to provide a general term of copyright protection of at least the lifetime of the author plus 50 years.
The last major WIPO copyright treaty that Canada joined was in 2016 when Canada implemented the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. In fact, Canada was the first G-7 country to implement the treaty, and the essential 20th country to join the treaty, the total needed to bring it into force internationally.
Copyright is also frequently part of multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations, including the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. These agreements may commit signing countries to minimum copyright standards. Some of these may go beyond multilateral standards. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was the last agreement with copyright provisions that Canada implemented.
The recently signed comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership also contains copyright provisions.