This jumps off our discussions from last week. According to this post by Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the foremost Canadian experts in this area, it looks as though Canada may be considering extending its copyright terms as part of its negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPP):
“If new reports out of Japan are correct, however, Canada may have caved to U.S. pressure to extend copyright term. The U.S. extended its term to life plus 70 years in 1998 in response to demands from the Disney Corporation (Mickey was headed to the public domain) and has since pressured other countries to match. NHK reports that a deal on copyright term has been reached within the TPP with countries agreeing to a life plus 70 term. Alongside Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam (the TPP countries that adhere to the Berne standard), it appears that Canada has dropped its opposition to the change.”
Geist flags some interesting research by the EFF that suggests that on the whole, copyright term extensions cost consumers millions in extra royalties. My hunch is that these additional profits largely accrue to large multinational media conglomerates, since the author is, by definition, dead during those additional twenty years. This is, to my mind, textbook rent-seeking. What is rent-seeking, you may ask? I’m partial to the Economist’s definition: “cutting yourself a bigger slice of the cake without making the cake bigger.” Or, to mangle the metaphor, getting cake sent to you for an additional 20 years because of work done by a dead person at least 50 years ago.