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January 11, 2005
Canada's (Copy)fight for a National Digital Library
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist proposes that Canada should be the first country in the world to "Googlize" its libraries and public documents -- and explains how the copyright reforms Canada is considering would stand in the way. The two hurdles: 1.) a new licensing scheme that would force Canadians to pay for online content that is otherwise publicly available and 2.) an extension of the term of copyright by (surprise!) 20 years.
Extending the copyright term would deal a serious blow to a national digital library because it would instantly remove thousands of works from the public domain. Although the U.S. and European Union have extended their copyright terms by an additional 20 years, the vast majority of the world's population lives in countries that have not.
Those countries have recognized that an extension is unsupportable from a policy perspective. It will not foster further creative activity, it is not required under international intellectual property law, and it effectively constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the public to the heirs of a select group of copyright holders.
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