In January, the Canadian government announced a major revision to their copyright law. An additional 20 years have been added to the period required for a work to enter the public domain, increasing it from 50 to 70 years. Consequently, new creative works won’t enter the Canadian public domain until 2043.
Canada is now up to par with other countries that extended their copyright terms many years ago, in particular the United States and the European Union.
However, the new law doesn’t apply retroactively, meaning that works whose creators passed away before 1972 remain publicly accessible. So, during the next 20 years, it’s expected that many works will become public domain in Canada but will still be subject to copyright in other parts of the world.
Many creative professionals support this change, but others argue that it slows down the public’s access to valuable cultural resources.
What Does Public Domain Mean?
Any creative work not protected by a trademark, patent, or copyright falls under the public domain. These works either do not qualify for copyright protection or their copyright has expired.
If a work is in the public domain, essentially, it belongs to the public, and not to an individual creator. This means that anyone can copy, perform, and use the work freely without a license, regardless of whether it is for profit or not.
The following works are considered public domain:
- Short phrases, slogans, and titles
- Facts and theories
- Works with expired copyright
- US Government Works
Why Do Works Go Into The Public Domain?
Public domain plays an important role in facilitating knowledge access, particularly for artists, innovators, educational institutions, and researchers. It allows anyone from a historian to a teacher to a songwriter to use certain sources, such as scholarly or historical materials without restriction.
The public domain is an important component of a country’s intellectual and cultural identity. Providing a great deal of inspiration, it promotes creativity and is often a starting point in the artistic process for many.
If a work is not in the public domain, it requires going through a tedious process of looking for the owner, asking them for permission, and then paying the licensing fees to use their work. There are times when the owners or original authors cannot be located. These works, also known as orphan works, cannot be used since their owner cannot be located. The public domain eliminates the need for creators to navigate and go through these long, complicated searches and procedures.
When a work is in the public domain, these institutions are able to accomplish a number of goals.
In the case of a book that is in the public domain, publishers can print low-cost editions to make them available for more readers. Libraries can digitize and preserve important documents, records, and collections for their catalogs. Teachers can reproduce and share literary works in their classes at their discretion. As for the arts and music, the same applies. For the most part, there’s no need for artists and musicians to obtain a license to use artwork and songs that are in the public domain.
Unfortunately, the amount of material in the public domain is decreasing as a result of longer rights protections such as this one. In turn, there’s an increasingly smaller pool of material for creators to draw inspiration from and to serve as foundations for their work, ultimately leading to fewer contributions to society and culture.
If You Need a Consulting Regarding Public Domain Law, Sanchelima & Associates Can Help
Sanchelima & Associates, P.A. is one of the leading intellectual property law firms in South Florida. With over 40 years of experience, we have represented the IP interests of a wide array of businesses in the US and abroad, including Fortune 500 companies. Whether you need a consultation or prosecution of a patent, trademark, or copyright, we can protect your business’s interests.
Contact us to book your consultation!