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FW: Copyright in archives makes the news

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  • Judith Rempel
    You all will have some interest in seeing this discussion regarding copyright legislation changing. In Kinship, Judith Rempel, Webster rempel@jrsolutions.net
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2003
      You all will have some interest in seeing this discussion regarding
      copyright legislation changing.

      In Kinship,
      Judith Rempel, Webster

      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-arcan-l@...
      [mailto:owner-arcan-l@...]On Behalf Of Jean Dryden
      Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 8:10 PM
      To: Archives Listserv
      Subject: Copyright in archives makes the news


      >Subject: FW: Ottawa champions copyright (National post, May 12, 2003
      >Ottawa champions copyright -- or some of it
      >Amendment to benefit small band of authors with unpublished works
      >Ian Jack
      >Financial Post
      >Monday, May 12, 2003
      >OTTAWA - Score yet another victory for Anne of Green Gables, that plucky
      >redhead from Prince Edward Island whose ability to salvage the best from a
      >bad situation appears to reach even beyond the grave.
      >The heirs of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne tales, faced the
      >prospect of losing control of her potentially valuable unpublished diaries
      >and letters because their copyright was about to expire.
      >But the federal government has just introduced an amendment to the
      >Act to extend their exclusive rights until 2018, giving the heirs another
      >years to try to find a publisher.
      >The amendment was buried in a bill introduced in Parliament last week to
      >combine the National Library and Archives. It applies to a rather narrow
      >range of people -- Canadian authors who died between 1930 and 1950 with
      >unpublished work of commercial interest. Ms. Montgomery died in 1942.
      >One copyright expert calls the proposed change the "L.M. Montgomery
      >Copyright Amendment Act", and indeed Ms. Montgomery is the only author
      >by name in an Industry Canada paper explaining the reason for the proposed
      >But a lawyer for the heirs, Marian Hebb, said others may benefit, too,
      >including Stephen Leacock, Emily Carr, Grey Owl and Sir Charles G.D.
      >as well-known authors who died during the period and may have unpublished
      >and exploitable works.
      >The issue parallels a recent U.S. case, the so-called Mickey Mouse law
      >championed by the late Sonny Bono, entertainer and politician.
      >It extended U.S. copyright protection to 70 years from 50 years, and one of
      >the prime movers was Disney Corp., which was about to lose the exclusive
      >rights to the world's most famous rodent.
      >In Canada, the standard term of protection for published material is 50
      >years after the death of the author. Copyright gives its owner the right to
      >approve of any use of the material in return for payment.
      >Canadian law also gave perpetual copyright over unpublished material. That
      >changed with 1997 amendments to the law, which replaced the perpetual
      >guarantee with a series of transitional measures, the upshot of which was
      >that Ms. Montgomery's heirs would lose their rights on Jan. 1, 2004.
      >Michael Geist, a copyright expert and law professor at the University of
      >Ottawa, said the proposed change appears to put the rights of the few ahead
      >of the general public. Copyright should be a balance between encouraging
      >people to be creative by giving them a guarantee of exclusivity, and making
      >sure the public can benefit by limiting that guarantee, he said.
      >"In this case the extension doesn't create anything new at all. No new work
      >will be created," he said. The amendment means there will be no
      >public access until 2018.
      >"It's just a straightforward transfer of wealth [from the public to the
      >heirs]," he said.
      >An Industry Canada official, who did not want to be quoted, defended the
      >"It was felt that the way the transitional provisions would be implemented
      >would not give certain estates the opportunity to at least try to exploit
      >some of the works, to get some publisher interested," the official said.
      >Ms. Hebb said the amendment is supported by more people than just Ms.
      >Montgomery's heirs, pointing out she represented the Writers Guild of
      >Canada, which also supports the amendment, during a government review of
      >And she said 50 years after death just isn't enough time in some cases,
      >since some of those named in the material are still living and could be
      >by it.
      >"A lot of it hasn't been able to be published because it mentions living
      >people," she said. "The transition period was arbitrary and didn't really
      >give the heirs an opportunity to get these works published."
      >If the government moves extraordinarily quickly the amendment could pass
      >this spring. Otherwise it will be debated in the autumn.

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