I’ve called myself a writer since I first grabbed a crayon with pudgy fingers at the age of four. Today I make my living as a writer, and while I’ve yet to publish a literary masterpiece, I’m pleased that if I do, Canada’s newest international trade deal will provide longer and stronger copyright protections for my work. And in the meantime, my online publications today may also get a little more protection.

The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been heralded as a 21st century agreement. One way the agreement lends itself to the modern age is through its proposed intellectual property (IP) provisions.

USMCA objective: Protecting your IP within free trade

A new chapter on digital trade, and updates throughout the agreement, are designed to balance the needs of creators, distributors and consumers. The stated objective, in Chapter 20, on intellectual property is as follows:

“The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.”

On the distribution side, internet service providers are offered a “safe harbor” that will provide protection from copyright infringement outside of their control.

USMCA copyright builds on world-wide regulations

The USMCA, once ratified, will build upon World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) copyright and related rights. The trade deal also extends copyright ownership provisions. Here are two ways the USMCA’s proposed IP provisions could affect your brand or the written works, video games or music you create:

  • The USMCA will require a general term of copyright protection of “life plus 70 years” for written works, and 75 years for performances and sound recordings. This exceeds Canada’s current copyright legislation, which outlines a term of life plus 50 years for written works, and 70 years for the latter.
  • The USMCA outlines civil and criminal remedies for circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs) or rights management information (RMI). More commonly referred to as digital locks or digital watermarks, these are used by creators (e.g., writers) to protect their digital works from being copied, printed or altered online. Canada already has legislation in place under the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act, in line with measures introduced by the WIPO two decades ago.

This is just a small part of the digital trade measures outlined in the updated trade deal. Once the USMCA is ratified by the three countries, Canada will have 2.5 years to update any legislation that’s not in compliance.

Protecting your intellectual property is both a means of risk management and a way to boost your competitive advantage. If you want to know more about how to protect your IP when selling and publishing online, read through EDC’s latest guide on the subject.