What the Copyright Modernization Act Means for Copyright Owners, Artists and Creators

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The Copyright Modernization Act provides copyright industries with a clear framework in which to invest in creative content, reach new markets, engage in new business models and combat infringement in a digital environment. Copyright owners are also often artists and creators. The Copyright Modernization Act promotes creativity, innovation and culture by introducing new rights and protections for artists and creators. It will help these people protect their work and ensure they are fairly compensated for their efforts. Key provisions include the following:

Implement the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties: The Bill will implement the rights and protections set out in the WIPO Internet treaties, an international consensus on the standard of copyright protection needed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the Internet and other digital technologies.

Protection for digital locks: The Bill prohibits, except under limited circumstances, the hacking of digital locks used by copyright owners to prevent unauthorized use of their work. The manufacture, sale and distribution of devices that are primarily designed to hack digital locks, as well as the offering of services to do so, are prohibited and subject to civil remedies and criminal penalties.

Target the "enablers" of online infringement: The Bill gives copyright owners the tools to pursue those who wilfully and knowingly enable copyright infringement online, such as operators of websites that facilitate illegal file-sharing.

Align photographers with other creators: The Bill grants photographers the same authorship rights as other creators. Currently, photographers are not considered authors of commissioned works.

User-generated content: The Bill permits the use of legitimately acquired material in user-generated content created for non-commercial purposes. This applies only to creations that do not affect the market for the original material. Examples could include making a home video of your friends and family dancing to a popular song and posting it online, or creating a "mash-up" of video clips.

The WIPO Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty, collectively known as the WIPO Internet treaties, establish new rights and protections for authors, performers and producers. Canada signed the treaties in 1997. The proposed Bill will implement the associated rights and protections to pave the way for a future decision on ratification. All copyright owners will now have a "making available right", which is an exclusive right to control the release of copyrighted material on the Internet. This will further clarify that the unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material over peer-to-peer networks constitutes an infringement of copyright.

Creators will also be given "distribution rights" to enable them to control the first sale of every copy of their work, which could be used, for example, to prevent the distribution of their work in advance of an official release date. Performers will be given "moral rights" to give them control over the integrity of their work and its association. The term of protection for their performances will be 50 years from the time of publication.

The WIPO Internet treaties also call for the introduction of legal protections for digital locks, which are often used by copyright owners to support online and digital business models. An example of a digital lock is a website that limits access to content to those who purchase subscriptions. Protecting digital locks gives copyright industries the certainty they need to roll out new products and services, such as online subscription services, software and video games, if they choose to use this technology. Not only will this promote investment and growth in Canada's digital economy, it will also encourage the introduction of innovative online services that offer access to content. Such services are increasingly available in other countries.

Infringement on the Internet takes revenues away from creators and reduces the incentive to create. The Bill introduces a new civil liability to target those who wilfully and knowingly enable online infringement. This measure sends a clear message that Canada does not welcome any sites that enable infringement.

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