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Canada Becomes The Final Nation To Ratify The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Bringing U.S. Copyright Laws To Its Neighbors

Ottawa (Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
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OTTAWA, Ontario (CelebrityAccess) — On Wednesday, the Government of Canada became the third and final nation to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) a so-called Free Trade agreement that will expand copyright throughout the region.

The trade agreement, dubbed NAFTA 2.0, follows two years of negotiations by the Trump Administration and seeks to address perceived shortfalls controversial North American Free Trade Agreement which came into force in 1994.

While the bulk of the treaty addresses tariff issues on automotive, steel and aluminum, and agricultural products, the USMCA also includes substantial changes to copyright rules in both Mexico and Canada.

USMCA requires its signatories to provide “full national treatment” for copyrights and related rights, bringing Mexico and Canada into parity with the U.S.

That means that the copyright terms in Canada and Mexico will extend to a minimum copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years, and for those works with a copyright term that is not based on the life of a person, a minimum of 75 years after first authorized publication.

The pact will also require signatories implement strong standards against circumvention of technological means to protect IP and copyrighted material, such as digital rights management, used to protect digital copies of books, movies, and music.

The treaty also carves out copyright safe harbors to provide protection for IP in accordance with existing U.S. law, providing a common framework for companies to operate, provided they aren’t directly benefiting from infringement.

The changes to copyright are virtually identical to measures proposed in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty which the U.S. signed, but which was ultimately not ratified.

While both measures were billed as ‘free trade’ treaties, it is unclear how laissez-faire capitalism is fostered by extended copyrights and enhanced tariffs.

Despite that, the treaty’s advocates in the recording industry cheered its passage.

We welcome this critical change to Canadian law. American music includes some of the most popular recordings ever made – it is one of the most valuable assets that the U.S. provides to the world. Unfortunately, many territories continue to discriminate against American artists and labels, leaving them unpaid when their music is used in other countries. By ratifying the USMCA this week, the Government of Canada will ensure equal treatment for American music creators that will finally provide them millions of dollars in royalties every year when their recordings are used in Canada,” said SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe.

“I want to thank the U.S. Trade Representative and his team for securing this important piece of the USMCA, and also the Government of Canada and USTR for ensuring that this important principle was fully implemented as intended in the interest of American music creators. Canadian and U.S. leadership on this issue sets an important example that should become the standard for trade agreements with other countries where American music creators are denied equal treatment under the law,” Huppe added.

However, not everyone is in agreement with the benefits of the trade deal. In 2018, Canadian songwriter and recording artist Bryan Adams wrote a lengthy critique of the agreement, noting that the copyright provisions largely seemed to benefit intermediaries such as major labels.

Creators deal with one or few intermediaries; they sign up creators all the time.  Creators striking a first deal sign anything that is presented to them; an intermediary rarely needs to sign up this creator.  So, creators often transfer too many rights, for too long, sometimes ‘in all media, throughout the universe and in perpetuity.’”

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