You all will have some interest in seeing this discussion regarding
copyright legislation changing.
Judith Rempel, Webster
]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Amendment to benefit small band of authors with unpublished works
>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prospect of losing control of her potentially valuable unpublished diaries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unpublished work of commercial interest.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as well-known authors who died during the period and may have unpublished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Canadian law also gave perpetual copyright over unpublished material.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
>"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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