When the Copyright Modernization Act (CMA) was passed in 2012, it included an amendment that mandated that the Copyright Act be reviewed every five years. Recognizing both the length of time that it took to modernize Canada’s copyright laws (the CMA was the fourth attempt to amend the Act since 2005), as well as the speed at which technology evolves in the digital age, the mandatory five-year review was intended to ensure that Canada’s copyright regime remains responsive to a changing environment.
The Copyright Act review was mandated by Parliament to begin five years after the day the CMA took effect on November 7, 2012.
“Five years after the day on which this section comes into force and at the end of each subsequent period of five years, a committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament is to be designated or established for the purpose of reviewing this Act.”
Creators have been eagerly awaiting the Act review, with the hope of addressing the copyright policies that affect their livelihood. More than 3,500 creators have signed the Focus On Creators joint letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, which urges her to put creators at the heart of future policy, specifically including the five-year mandated review of the Copyright Act in 2017. As well, a new initiative called I Value Canadian Stories looks to the Copyright Act review as an opportunity to restore fair compensation to creators and publishers for the use of their works by the education sector. Seeking the enhanced protection of creators’ intellectual property, the Canadian Music Publishers Association called for a full review of the Copyright Act in an op-ed published in the Hill Times, and Music Canada has called for a “full and meaningful review” of the Copyright Act to help restore a functioning marketplace and curtail cross-subsidies paid by creators to major media corporations.
The government has repeatedly referred to the review of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to protect creators’ rights. When Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly revealed her vision for Canada’s creative industries in the digital age with her Creative Canada speech in September, she announced that the government would “soon launch a parliamentary review of the Copyright Act,” which she would ensure “defends the interests of creators.”
Minister Joly also referred to the review of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to help Canadian creators earn a living from their work during an online townhall hosted by HuffPost Canada in June. Responding to a question posed by Focus On Creators, Joly replied: “I know the issue of fairness to creators is really important, and that is why actually I raised it with the important digital platforms. … It’s something that I have, certainly, at heart, and in the context of the revision of the Copyright Act – there is going to be a Parliamentary revision of the Copyright Act – I’ll have that in mind as well.”
At the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on November 2nd, Minister Joly pointed to the revision of the Copyright Act as an opportunity to address the concerns of the Francophone community and the Quebec cultural sector.
It is clear that both creators and the government see the statutory five-year review of the Copyright Act as a key opportunity to address the policies that affect the livelihood of Canadian creators. It is now time to begin that review process; not only because it is mandated by legislation, but because there is an urgent need to address the policies that affect creators’ livelihoods. For Canadian creators, a full and meaningful review of the Copyright Act cannot come soon enough, and is now officially overdue.