So what does the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement mean for Canadian music?

After 13 months of negotiations, we have a replacement for NAFTA–which, if we’re honest, isn’t all that much different from the original agreement.

Sure, it was a new name–the USMCA (gotta have America first, right?)–but that’s just cosmetic. There are a couple of changes under the hood, most notably with the auto, dairy, pharmaceutical. and financial service industries, but they’re not terribly impactful. Yes, people will be affected, but it could have been a whole lot worse for Canada.

The good news is that cultural issues were taken off the table–at least as far as Canadians are concerned. Foreign ownership rules for things like media companies, Canadian content rules, and other protectionist measures remain in place. Good.

(Well, there is one thing affecting broadcasting. Someone managed to slip in the business about watching US commercials on Canadian feeds of the Super Bowl. That’s gone. No more American commercials during the game.)

Artists in Canada will be happy that the terms of copyright have been synchronized with the US so that protection extends to a minimum of life plus 70 years instead of the current Canadian term of life plus 50 years. Others will be annoyed at this since it means another 20 years before artistic works move into the public domain.

However, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) isn’t very happy because the new agreement extends some protections under the Digital Copyright Millenium Act (DMCA) into Canada and Mexico. Internet services will now have some of the same protections from liability for copyright infringement by users.

There are, however, “legal incentives for Internet Service Providers to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials, or, in the alternative, to take action to deter the unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials.”

This has greatly annoyed the RIAA because “the proposal enshrines regulatory twenty-year-old ‘safe harbour’ provisions that do not comport with today’s digital reality,These provisions enrich platforms that abuse outdated liability protections at the expense of American creators and the US music community, which provides real jobs and is one of our nation’s biggest cultural assets.”

The RIAA has never liked the DMCA, so their reaction isn’t surprising. But for Canadians, it provides some much-needed clarity when it comes to what users can and cannot do with posting copyrighted material online. It also makes it more clear what ISP can do when confronted by those situations.

Bottom line? Stand down. Nothing to see here. At least for the moment.

A full breakdown of what the USMCA means can be found here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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