I happened upon this nifty little article about the ins and outs of copyright law in Canada. According to the article, as well as the website of the Copyright Board of Canada, music file sharing is completely legal for our good friends to the North. About five years ago, they deemed the situation of rampant illegal file sharing unenforceable, and decided to do two things: legalize file sharing for personal use, and attach a levy to recordable media (along the order of $0.60 per CD, in 1998 prices.)
I’m certianly no Copyright lawyer, but as has come up on one mailing list I’m on, the total term of copyright for sound recording in Canada is 50 years from the date of first manufacture of the master. Period. I found this on the Canadian Department of Justice website:
23. (1) Subject to this Act, the rights conferred by sections 15, 18 and 21 terminate fifty years after the end of the calendar year in which
(a) in the case of a performer’s performance,
(i) its first fixation in a sound recording, or
(ii) its performance, if it is not fixed in a sound recording, occurred;
(b) in the case of a sound recording, the first fixation occurred; or
(c) in the case of a communication signal, it was broadcast.
But that’s not all. Check out section 18, Rights of Sound Recording Makers:
18. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the maker of a sound recording has a copyright in the sound recording, consisting of the sole right to do the following in relation to the sound recording or any substantial part thereof:
(a) to publish it for the first time,
(b) to reproduce it in any material form, and
(c) to rent it out,
and to authorize any such acts.
Conditions for copyright
(2) Subsection (1) applies only if
(a) the maker of the sound recording was a Canadian citizen or permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or a citizen or permanent resident of a Berne Convention country, a Rome Convention country or a country that is a WTO Member, or, if a corporation, had its headquarters in one of the foregoing countries,
(i) at the date of the first fixation, or
(ii) if that first fixation was extended over a considerable period, during any substantial part of that period; or
(b) the first publication of the sound recording in such a quantity as to satisfy the reasonable demands of the public occurred in any country referred to in paragraph (a).
I am, of course, taking this out of context, so please read the entire document for the whole picture. If all of the legalese is getting to you (as it does to me), there’s a human readable interpretation available from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
If I’m interpreting this properly, then all recordings of music, whether made in Canada or in any country that is a WTO member, become public domain (in Canada) fifty years after they are created. Does that mean that any music produced prior to 1953 is freely redistributable in Canada? And in any case, the copying of music (whether pre-Elvis or not) for “personal use” appears to be considered fair use by the Canadian Copyright Board.
How does the Internet fit into this? Is it legal for me (a citizen and resident of the United States) to download public domain music from Canada? And if so, where can I get a good deal on cheap Canadian co/lo space to start hosting the premier source for Canadian (and other WTO participant) public domain music?
This issue is vitally important to projects like Project Gramophone, who endeavour to preserve old 78RPM and wax drum recordings that are threatened by the never ceasing march of time, entropy, and imperialistic copyright law. I believe it to be the case right now that recordings published prior to 1926 are considered to be public domain in the U.S., but there is still an uncomfortable aura of grey area about it. I think it would be a shame to see these historically important recordings lost to the ages for a cause as ridiculous as corporate “intellectual property”.
Would a legal (by Canadian standards) music file server, hosted in Canada, “break the seal” of overzealous United States copyright law?