Most histories of international copyright focus on the more powerful members of the Berne Union – copyright exporters such as Britain, France, and Germany. I conclude that this focus has effectively deleted some of the most important conflicts and issues in international copyright history. This work, by focusing on Canada, shows a very different history of the Berne Convention. It shows a history of crisis in international copyright history that goes back much further than other international copyright histories claim.
This chapter outlines a period of relative distance between Canada and the Berne Union. Between the 1940s and 1960s the wheels of Canadian copyright reform had grown rusty. Canada’s 1924 Copyright Act had now been in place for over forty years, and its last revision had taken place in 1938. During this period of legislative inactivity, a policy shift occurred. Canada did not ratify the 1948 revision of the Berne Convention and moved, instead, to join a new international copyright treaty: the American-inspired Universal Copyright Convention.
Chapter 3 outlines the conditions of Canadian copyright prior to the establishment of the Berne Convention in 1886. In the nineteenth century copyright in Canada was governed both by Canadian legislation and British Imperial copyright. This chapter shows that in nineteenth-century Canada, alongside the vision of copyright put forth by dominant copyright powers, a counter-hegemonic view of copyright was developing in Canada. However, Canadian politicians were reluctant to confront the difficult political and constitutional issues involved in achieving legislative independence over copyright. The chapter discusses the difficulties posed by the limited legislative and institutional capacity of the Canadian government to confront these issues.
This discussion is set against a backdrop that describes Canada’s relationships with Britain and the United States during this time period and the main Canadian interest groups involved in nineteenth-century Canadian copyright.