The Death of Life +50 in Canada

3 min read
Metal Door Lock For Security
Metal Door Lock For Security by Jennifer Bourn is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

A large and healthy public domain of works enriches the social, intellectual, and cultural lives of Canadians. Works entering the public domain gain new life as many of them have not been commercially available for decades. Upon entering the public domain they are again available to be enjoyed and can be repurposed, translated, adapted and used in a variety of new projects.


A disappointing change to the terms of copyright will be coming into effect in Canada in a few days. On December 30th, 2022 the term of copyright on most works in Canada will be extended from 50 to 70 years after the death of the creator (Bob Tarantino summarizes the details of what types of works will be impacted).

The reason for this change is to bring Canadian copyright laws in line with US and Mexican copyright terms as per the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMAC) which was hoisted upon us by Donald Trump during his presidency.

For those of us who believe in a vibrant, healthy public domain, we are now entering a very dark period where no works in Canada will enter the public domain until January 1, 2043.

Going back and retroactively extending copyright then serves no purpose. Creators need no incentive for works already created. The only thing it does is steal from the public.

Mike Masnick

Life+50 was ridiculously long to begin with. Life+70 is just obscene and imposes an even longer barrier before culturally significant works can be freely enjoyed and used by the public.

Our culture is being held hostage and controlled by corporations through these types of inane copyright terms. Even artists, who are the supposed benefactors of copyright, don’t approve of lengthy terms like Life +70 recognizing that it is actually the intermediaries (publishers, record companies, etc) and not the artists who financially benefit.

At what point does a piece of creative work become part of our collective cultural identity; to become something that helps define us and who we are, as so many works by people like Glenn Gould (whose works would have entered the PD in 2032 but now won’t until 2052), Farley Mowat (2064 now 2084), Marshall MacLuhan (was 2030, now 2070), A.Y. Jackson (whose Group of Seven works were set to enter the public domain in 2024 but will now not enter until 2044), and countless other Canadian creators of the past have done? Why do we cede so much control of our culture to intermediaries (often corporations) for such obscene lengths of time before they are finally released into the public domain for everyone to enjoy and benefit from?

I am not saying that artists should not be compensated for their work. Far from it. I want writers, filmmakers, photographers, artists, and others involved in the creation and dissemination of creative works to be fairly and equitably compensated for their work. But excessive copyright terms like Life +70 only serve to line the pockets of corporations long after the actual artists that created the original work are gone, and along the way serves to impoverish all Canadians by imposing needless barriers to accessing our own culture.

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