TPP's Copyright Term Extension Isn't Made for Artists—It's Made By and For Big Content Companies

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TPP's Copyright Term Extension Isn't Made for Artists—It's Made By and For Big Content Companies

"Extending copyright does not help artists, creatives and those people who rely on creating, rather than exploiting, copyrightable work for a living," writes Hunter (Photo: EFF)

I am writing to express my serious concern that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement's intellectual property chapter may extend Canada's current length of copyright.

I'm a filmmaker, cinematographer and camera assistant by trade. Copyright is the foundation of how I earn a living. However I see the policy of copyright maximalism that is espoused by dominant players in both Hollywood and Canada as being detrimental to the health of our industry.

Copyright law should uphold a carefully crafted balance of public and private rights that encourages creation, while providing incentives for innovation and access for education, libraries, and other socially beneficial purposes. Excessive copyright term lengths undermine this objective. The foundations of culture is our ability to share, re-tell and rework stories.

Copyright maximalism is the belief that:

  1. All of one's work is original.
  2. Copyright is an innate right similar to human rights, which should be protected and expanded at any opportunity.

This is ironic as we in the film industry utilize references, be they visual, audio or written word, to communicate ideas and intent before we are "on the day" and actually have to execute the plan. Culture is the sum of the modulation of different mediums to convey human expression. Copyright maximalists do not acknowledge this contradiction, as it serves their interests.

In Canada, as in most countries of the world, the term lasts the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years after their death, or 70 years from the date of publication. The TPP however, threatens to override this and extend our terms by at least another 20 years, even for works that have already entered the public domain.

Extending copyright does not help artists, creatives and those people who rely on *creating*, rather than exploiting, copyrightable work for a living. Like fashion, much of the work that puts food on my table in fact encourages sharing and copying, as it is work meant to be disseminated as far and wide as possible.

Those who do stand to gain from an copyright extension are those who profit from the importation of foreign works for distribution in Canada or those who posses the rights to already profitable properties.

Do not for a moment believe that it will help emerging filmmakers like myself, or my colleagues, become successful. There are much greater hurdles to just creating a work for someone like myself to be concerned than whether an extra 20 years after my death my descendants will help them.

Do not trot out the Canadian old boys club of "artists" to promote what benefits the people they sold their rights to.

Our country has long resisted previous efforts by to lengthen its terms beyond what is required by existing international law, namely, the Berne Convention; most recently during the comprehensive consultations that led to the passage of the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012.

That's why I urge you to stand up for Canadians' right to fair and balanced innovation policy, and speak out against this unwarranted copyright term extension in the TPP. It is not in the interests of film technicians, producers or the general public.

Thank you for your attention.

Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter is a Canadian filmmaker.

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