The Canadian Government announced today that it is making amendments to the Copyright Act to enable Canada to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty and to extend the term of copyright protection for performers and makers of sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The announcement was made as part of the Government’s Budget and is expected to be enacted as part of a budget implementation bill to be tabled in Parliament within the next few days.
The Budget described the Government’s intentions in relation to the Marrakesh Treaty as follows:
The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.
The ability to access printed information is essential to prepare for and participate in Canada’s economy, society and job market. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1 million Canadians live with blindness or partial sight. The Government will propose amendments to the Copyright Act to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled (the Marrakesh Treaty). Aligning Canada’s copyright limitations and exceptions with the international standard established by the Marrakesh Treaty would enable Canada to accede to this international agreement. Once the treaty is in force, as a member country, Canadians would benefit from greater access to adapted materials.
The WIPO Marrakesh Treaty is a landmark instrument that requires Contracting Parties to create exceptions or limitations in their laws to enable authorized entities such as not for profit entities to produce and make copies of accessible format copies of works available to the blind and visually impaired. A good summary of the treaty is available on WIPO’s website. Canada’s Copyright Act already contains many of the provisions necessary to ratify the treaty. Many of the needed amendments were made in 2012 as part of the Copyright Modernization Act. (See, ss. 32 and 32.01). Further amendments are needed for Canada’s Act to be compliant with the treaty.
The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013 in Marrakesh. Its entry into force requires the deposit of 20 instruments of ratification or accession by eligible parties. More than 75 contracting parties have signed the treaty including the United States, Australia, China, and the European Union. Canada has not signed the treaty. So far, only 8 countries have ratified or acceded to the treaty.
The announced amendments to the Copyright Act are the most significant amendments to the Act since the 2012 amendments made in the Copyright Modernization Act. Given that the amendments are likely to be made as part of a budget implementation bill, they will probably be passed by the House of Commons and the Senate and become law before the summer break.
* Bill C-65, the Support for Canadians with Print Disabilities Act, was given first reading on June 8, 2015. However, the Bill which was intended to enable Canada to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty was not enacted.