Canada’s Copyright Act, last updated in 2012 through the Copyright Modernization Act, is currently under review. In early 2018, Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology adopted a work plan under which it is conducting a statutorily mandated review. Under this plan, the Committee invited written briefs from stakeholders. Today, Authors Alliance submitted a brief urging the retention of reversionary rights in Canada’s Copyright Act and recommending amendments to the provision that will enhance the utility of reversionary rights.
Under section 14(1) of Canada’s Copyright Act, any grant of interest in a copyrighted work made by an author (except for a grant made in a will) after June 4, 1921 automatically reverts to an author’s estate twenty-five years after an author’s death. Similar to the justifications for the termination of transfer provisions in U.S. law, the reversion mechanism is intended to address “a situation where a work, following the author’s death, had become more valuable over time,” giving the author’s heirs “the opportunity to re-negotiate the royalty terms to reflect the increased value of the work.”
But reversionary rights also give creators the ability to give new life to works that have outlived their commercial lives but are nonetheless historically and culturally valuable. For creators who want their works to be widely shared and enjoyed, reversions are a powerful option for getting their works back out in front of audiences.
Because of the tremendous benefits of reversionary rights for authors and the public, Authors Alliance’s brief recommends retaining a reversionary right provision in the Copyright Act of Canada. To further maximize the benefits of the current provision, our brief also recommends several changes to Section 14(1):
- Amending Section 14(1) to allow authors to terminate transfers of copyright a set number of years after the transfer of those rights;
- Requiring triggering conditions and/or recordation of ownership information if rights are reverted exclusively to the author, while allowing reversion of non-exclusive rights to the author remain automatic; and
- Amending Section 14(1) to make it clear that reversionary rights do not apply to non-exclusive licenses.
Read more about our recommendations by viewing the document below or clicking here to download the brief. For more about termination of transfer under U.S. law, visit the Authors Alliance/Creative Commons Termination of Transfer Tool at rightsback.org and the Authors Alliance termination of transfer resource page.20181210_AuAll_CA_Review_Termination
 A.A. Keyes, Copyright in Canada Proposals for a Revision of the Law 76 (Apr. 1977).