House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fisheries.

Topics

The House resumed from October 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read a second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from Longueuil for sharing his time with me.

I rise to speak to Bill C-11. It is a complex and quite honestly dumbfounding piece of legislation. It attempts to strike a balance between the interests of consumers and stakeholders.

The need that the bill is meant to address has been lost in the haste of having legislation in place by an arbitrary date. However, it must not only answer immediate concerns but also future concerns of stakeholders. In its haste, the government is missing a golden opportunity to provide support for Canada's creators and in fact is abdicating its responsibility to them.

In this era of ever-evolving, growing and fluid digital integration of communications and entertainment, it is even more important that the bill strike a balance between the needs of Canadian consumers and their ability to access and enjoy artistic content and the undeniable rights of the creators of that content. It is imperative that a sound legal framework be established to protect the rights of creators and other stakeholders.

The works of artists can inspire, comfort, educate and on occasion help us express that which we are unable to express on our own. In addition, those works fuel the heart of a massive economic engine that drives $85 billion into the Canadian economy and provides 1.1 million jobs, yet those works still are grossly undervalued. The bill underlines that fact by putting business, consumer and user rights ahead of the rights of the creators of those works.

The nature of copyright is better expressed in the French language, “droits d'auteur”, meaning author's rights, the right of the author, the creator. That right gives artists the ability to determine how their works will be used. Sadly, this is conspicuously absent from this document, or at least is addressed minimally.

As an artist, and an advocate of the bill since its previous incarnation as Bill C-32 through to its present state, I have discussed the issue at length. When meeting with individuals and members of organizations in my constituency office as well as here in Ottawa I hear the same concern expressed. Although they agree that new copyright legislation is needed, they all ask why money is being taken out of the pockets of artists and why their needs are not being addressed.

Indeed we have entered new territory and, as with anything new, there is always adaptation required. For the first time in history the types of physical controls that copyright holders held in the past are gone. Entertainment and academic works are accessed more easily and therefore are less protected.

What protection mechanisms do artists have? There are a few cursory exemptions from prosecution or civil action for consumers and their advocates. In exchange a rather dizzy and confusing series of vague obligations are offered, one of which includes shredding their class notes. The artists and cultural communities are offered lip service with regard to the principle of equitable compensation for their creative works. They are also offered an inconsistent and frankly scary approach toward the protection of those works as well as compensation for them.

In its present form, Bill C-11 is an unequivocal failure. It outright fails to satisfy the two most important benchmarks we as parliamentarians use for evaluation. It fails to establish clear, universally understood rules for consumers. It also fails to ensure equitable enforceable compensation rules for those people who dedicate their lives to the creative enterprise.

Many of my colleagues have remarked on the many practical problems of this law, some of which we in the official opposition are committed to remedy through good faith dialogue at committee stage. I hope my colleagues across the way will work with us on this approach with purpose and in the spirit of openness.

After a long career in the arts, I came to Parliament as a voice for those artists and a voice for the constituents in my riding who are artists. From my perspective, this law's greatest weakness is its complete failure to extend or acknowledge the vital and current compensation framework upon which so many artists, writers, musicians and creators depend for their livelihood.

During the 2008 federal election, the Prime Minister made his feelings with regard to artists clear. We took exception to that, particularly in my home province of Quebec. The bill does little to show any change of heart regarding the Prime Minister's view. The images provoked by his words are misleading and undermine the artistic community, which contributes far more to this country than it receives.

Typically, today's Canadian artists continue to focus on their creative works more than where their next meal will come from. The typical artists in this country have a median income of under $13,000, yet the government sees fit to take $30 million a year out of their pockets.

That party's characteristic cynicism, for which it grows ever more famous, shows the value the members of the government have for artists.

I look at the discussion regarding digital access as a reminder of the Wild West days when our forefathers came to this country and were given pieces of sticks and told to go out and stake their claims. For some reason, many people feel that the Internet offers that same opportunity. However, like our forefathers who staked their claims, there are people who own the rights to works of art found on this worldwide entity called the Internet.

The Internet is a tool. It is a medium through which we can access all sorts of information. However, if we walk down Sparks Street and the HMV doors are open, that does not give us the right to walk into HMV, put a CD in our pocket and leave. We must provide compensation, which is what the bill fails to do.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech, which was very interesting. What struck me was the amount of $30 million that creators can collect from the existing fund. That is a very small amount of money compared to everything that is at stake and compared to the total cultural economic activity.

Could my colleague talk to us more about the fact that what our creators and artists are calling for represents a drop of water in the economic ocean of all the potential spinoffs?

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, the $30 million is money that is collected from users for accessing the works of artists. However, in this digital age, it is virtually impossible to lock down everything.

Many years ago, a method for compensating artists was developed. Money was put into a fund from which artists drew. As the bill stands now, that money would no longer be available. The private copy levy placed on cassettes, CDs and CD-Rs, which is a nominal fee of 27¢ per disc, is where that money came from. With the advent of other forms of digital media, CDs are virtually becoming obsolete and this money has been in decline since approximately 2006.

That is what the bill must provide compensation for. It expropriates that money without providing any form of compensation.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to debate Bill C-11, the copyright modernization bill. It is very appropriate that we are debating this bill today. It has a very useful function.

This week I had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with a variety of artists in my office, led by members of the Canadian Private Copying Collective, which is a group that works on these very issues. The livelihood of its members depends on the outcome of these issues. Artists across this country can only receive revenue for and in support of their works in certain areas. Although they have certain tools at their disposal, they do not identify the bill as being a significant addition to their tool chest and in many ways do not see it as a solution.

Artists liked the idea of the MP3 tax, but the Conservatives did not, so they held it up as a red herring and it was never put in place. That is unfortunate as the MP3 format is now the main means of copying music in this country. If we look at the shifting pattern of copying activity which the CPCC provided in its fact sheet, that is the direction in which the industry and people are going. Unfortunately, the legislation is not working very well.

I admit that I have never copied anything from the Internet or any music at all. I always buy music in a medium that comes in a plastic container with the artist's picture on the front and a description of his or her work. I find that to be an acceptable way to obtain music. I have not varied much from that. It might be that I am a bit of a Luddite or perhaps I am a polite person as well.

I believe that musicians provide a relief to society. Those young people in our society who engage in music are often not as troubled as those who are not because they have an outlet for their emotions.

A young artist speaking to me in my office expressed the fact that he did not want digital locks on everything. Rather, he wanted society to recognize and respect him. He wished for an ordered society that would understand the rationale of the music industry just as drivers driving down a highway understand its rationale. As we are in a collective relationship as we head down that road we must work together to make that a part of our societal function.

Primarily, there is a need for education. However, the government uses draconian punishments that are hard to enforce and difficult for musicians to exercise. They would have to take their fans to court and fine them. As unfortunate as it is that someone would illegally copy a young musician's music, he or she could still be a fan. The thought of musicians taking people to court because they copied and listened to their music would not work in our society. That is not a remedy we want.

To create a society that respects musicians and their creativity we need to provide some education on that. The thought of detecting recordable sounds and copying them as evidence to be put in front of a court is ridiculous.

We have seen that. We have been in this modern age for quite a while. As a rule is set up, they will take it out.

We should not kid ourselves into thinking that, when we put in copyright legislation which puts the onus on the courts and the legal system to enforce these rules, it will work very well. We need to put more effort into our society, into education and into raising the standards of our society so that people understand that supporting artists is a good thing to do. We have done this in very innovative ways in the past.

Canadian artists make up 25% of radio broadcasting in Canada. That has been a mainstay of the Canadian music scene since I was a child, and that was quite a while ago. That is why musicians probably gather in $50 million a year from SOCAN. The songwriters, the people who create the music, have that opportunity, which is a good thing. It works and it is in place.

The private copying of collective work was being done as well when most of the recordings were done on CDs. When we suggested that taxing the MP3 would help this situation without going to court and without the musicians having the burden of holding on to the rights or the burden put on the courts, we thought that would have been a more acceptable pathway toward what we are trying to accomplish.

Digital locks will not work for radio broadcasts. Right off the bat, this would be another way these things would be broken down and where songs can be recorded, even though they might be under digital locks in one fashion but not in another. They would be available to the public without the digital lock. Are we really creating anything of value here? Will this solution work?

I have trouble many times in the House with Conservative legislation. The government's legislation, in so many ways, appears to be kind of useless. It does not work for what we want to accomplish. I would ask Conservative legislators to look at the legislation. Is this really what they want to accomplish? Will this really work? What are their goals in putting this forward to us today? Are they going to protect musicians or are they going to put an unnecessary burden on musicians and on the court system trying to interpret and to intervene in these copying issues?

I stand with musicians in Canada. They play an enormous and good part in our society. I have supported them throughout my life in my role in municipal government. I have always promoted music festivals. I am always promoting the opportunity for people to expand their musical abilities. It is something that the House wants as well.

What is more important is to understand that the law is not what we want to create in Canada. What we want to create in Canada is the atmosphere of trust, confidence and respect among young people, among those who would perhaps take something for free rather than pay for it, because they do not understand that they are damaging people with that act.

We need to put our efforts in other directions. This bill does not suffice. It would not create the kind of Canada that we are after. As such, I would love to see more work done on the bill. I know this issue is important and I trust that parliamentarians will come to grips with it.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the bill seeks to modernize the Copyright Act, something that has been before Parliament for a number of years. One of the things we have been grappling with is the ability to protect the people who create. In my area of the country, some of the most important creators are those who create video games. One thing that truly impacts that sector of the economy are the pirates who try to break the locks and copy the games. They have the ability to put the creators out of business.

I wonder if the hon. member would agree with me that this bill strikes the appropriate balance in helping to protect very vulnerable industries and the creators so they know the valuable works they are creating will be protected and they will actually see the benefit of all of their hard work.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have not had the opportunity to speak to video game producers. My emphasis is on musicians.

If the hon. member thinks that is of particular importance, could he explain to me how the bill would protect video game producers? It may well be that this particular part of the bill would help that industry. I would like to understand that better as well, of course. We are here to debate the bill, to understand how we can make the bill better and how these issues can be dealt with in our society.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, to follow up on the hon. member's question, would he comment on the concept of digital locks? Digital locks, being digital, are very easy to break. The minute a lock is put on, someone is working to break it.

Would the member comment on the possibility of finding ways to balance out compensation for everybody, including video game producers, musicians and audiovisual workers, and whether exploring a way of compensating for the potential loss might be a better way of approaching this issue?

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, that is part of what comes from the Canadian private copying collective. The tax on CDs worked fine while CDs were the main instrument of copying. In some ways, it was a very non-intrusive effort and a good effort toward ensuring that there was some compensation for artists because we do not have a society that respects the rights of artists to hold their works without being copied. We needed to find some way around that and we did it without going to the courts. We did it through a tax system.

I still think that underlying this is a huge need to raise the level of respect in our society for artists and creative people. That would do more for the issue and society than penalties, fines and imprisonment through the court system.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber. I believe that the members on the other side are all very proud Canadians. I often hear them talk about our country's cultural influence and how dynamic our society is. I wonder what message they are sending to the people responsible for this influence when these members are doing absolutely nothing to protect creators and are instead taking care of those who make money from their work.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I see this as being another issue where we would create confrontation rather than solutions, which is what I see through this Copyright Act.

The confrontation, on the one hand, would come in the form of people finding technological solutions so they would not be covered under this particular law. That is the problem. We do not want people running around trying to find ways to copy so they do not fit under the law.

What we want is to have people respect and understand that our society is ordered on certain ways. That takes more time and effort but it is still the direction in which we need to go. Therefore, amending this law without having any idea of how we are moving our society is wrong. It will not work.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-11 and I am going to address most of my comments to the issue that we were finishing with my colleague from Western Arctic around the flaws in the bill regarding compensation for the creative people in this country.

It is appropriate that we set the bill in historical context. There is absolutely no question, and it has support from every member in the House, that we need to bring copyright and laws on copyright into the 21st century. We are clearly not there now as a country. In fact, it is fair to say that in the developed world we are near the bottom of the list in terms of modernizing our legislation and our rules regarding copyright.

There is no issue around supporting the bill at second reading. The basic underlying philosophy of the bill, which is what we are supporting, is that we do have to modernize. However, we want to be quite clear, as the official opposition, that there are significant amendments that are required to make the bill palatable to ourselves as a political party, but more importantly, palatable to the Canadian public as a whole and in particular to the creative classes if I can designate them that way.

The other point I would like to make at the outset is that historically there have been various times when societies have made major leaps forward in the creative fields. Probably the most recent one from my perspective in terms of major leaps was the Renaissance period in the 1500 early 1600s. If we study other parts of the world there have been similar types of advances. There is a huge leap forward.

If we look at those periods of time and ask, why did it happen, did somehow magically people become more creative? The reality and the answer is no, that is not what happened. What happened is that society as a whole, both governments of the day and the wealthy members of society, came forward in a more extensive way than we see during other periods of time and supported their artists and creative classes.

We saw a major leap forward in Italy in particular during the Renaissance, certainly in England during the Shakespearian period in particular. When we ask how did that happen, it was a period of time when the wealthy and the governments or ruling classes of the day were much more prepared to ensure that those people within their society who had those creative juices were given the opportunity to expand their skills, talents and creativity.

When we are looking at a bill like this one, I believe we have to take that into account. Perhaps the greatest concern we have with the bill is that it will not enhance the financial viability of our creative people, but have just the opposite impact. There is a balance at all times between the owners of new technology, new developments in the arts, that has to be clearly balanced off against the actual creators of that new technology or new developments in the arts. It is our position that the bill is way too heavily weighted on the owner of content side than it is on the producers, developers and creative artists on their side.

I want to quote some numbers as to the current situation in Canada. The most recent figures we have, and this comes from the Canada cultural and arts industries, from ACTRA, the union that has great impact in that industry, indicate that the arts and culture industries contribute $85 billion a year. To put that in context of the total economy, it is 7.4% of all revenue generated in Canada. It is a huge part of the market. It supports approximately 1.1 million jobs, which is about 6% of Canada's labour force.

It is quite clear that some of those numbers, and we argue some significant part of those numbers, both in terms of the revenue generated and the jobs created, would be jeopardized by the legislation.

It is quite clear that there are other steps that could be taken, in terms of investment in this industry. I always have a hard time thinking of artists, sculptors, and writers as being part of an industry but, in fact, they see themselves that way. They certainly are, as these numbers show, a significant part of our economy, and they have historically been, in a number of societies.

It is true today when we see some of the advances that we are making, not just on the technology side but in any number of areas. For me it is one of the areas of art that I follow most closely in terms of the arts. Writers in Canada have demonstrated to not only create great writings for the domestic market but to have gone on to the international stage.

I was in Ireland recently. I remember talking to a member of its parliament who commented about how much, and I say this from an Irish background, the Irish of course have been producing for the world great writers for a long period of time, Canada now fits into that. In fact, the parliamentarian was claiming in part that it was because of the genes that came from the Irish ancestry that had settled in Canada.

However, we have dominated, in many respects, at the international level for a good number of years, going back certainly into the 1960s, when our writers moved on to the international stage, created a market for their writings and enhanced literature in the world as a result of the work they did here in Canada, and then took it internationally.

However, think of all the other writers who did not get that chance because we did not create enough opportunities for them. I am going to quote another figure here from the 2009-10 fiscal period. The median earning of an artist in Canada that year was $12,900. I do not even think that takes them to the minimum wage, the legal minimum wage in most provinces in this country. We have to do better in that regard.

Again, coming back to the bill. Because of this shift in balance favouring the content owners, we are at some risk that the $12,900 figure in subsequent years is going to go down. The estimate is that millions of dollars are going to be taken out of the hands and control of the creative classes and shifted over to the content owners.

If that is in fact the result, we know we have to move significant amendments. We have had pressure internationally from both multinational corporations and some governments to use the U.S. model in this regard. In terms of protecting both our sovereignty of not wanting that kind of interference when we legislate but also in terms of protecting those artists we absolutely must have amendments to the bill in this regard.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, at the very least we can say that, unlike the third party, this party is actually prepared to read the bill and work with us to get it to committee and hear what even more Canadians have to say. We spent a lot of time in the previous Parliament on this bill and heard from a number of witnesses. I spent a lot of time over the summer doing the exact same thing.

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of disagreement among members of the NDP over a number of different issues within their party but there always seems to be unanimity on one issue; that is, when there is talk about increasing taxes on Canadians. It seems to me that this speaker and also the speaker before, the member for Western Arctic, continuously talk about bringing back taxes on Canadians, whether it is an iPad tax or any other form of tax.

I wonder if the member could just clarify for me if the overriding dilemma or problem that the members opposite have with this bill is that it does not tax Canadians enough. Is that the problem they are having? Are they truly going to continue to advocate for a tax on iPads? Where will it go? Will we be taxing people who make PVR recordings of their favourite TV shows? I just wonder how far along the tax road we are going to go with this.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, that shows a significant lack of understanding of what we are talking about on this side of the room and, more importantly, because this cannot be driven just by political parties but by the creative classes.

They are saying very clearly to us that they want to be paid. We are not talking about taxation here. They want to be paid for their services. The content owners are saying they have development costs and they want to be compensated for that, not only fairly but extremely generously.

All we are saying is the creative groupings, those content owners, go nowhere unless this work is done and it is only going to be done, and done well, if they are properly compensated. We are talking about people being paid for the work they do and being paid at least reasonably well, let me say “fairly”, nowhere near as generously as we hear from the content owners and the demands they have.

This not about taxation at all. It is about a fee that is being imposed. As a lawyer, I expected my fees were going to be paid for the work that I did. If I am creating a piece of art or a new piece of technology I would expect to be paid accordingly, fairly, in direct compensation for what I have done and for what it has contributed to my society. The whole question has a basic fallacy at its base. This is not about taxation. This is about fair compensation in the marketplace.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take advantage of my colleague's legal expertise to try to clarify a few things.

If I invented a new technology, my rights would be protected by patents that would bring in the money I need to continue creating. As an artist, my rights are protected, in principle, by copyright. However, if I am a content owner, there does not seem to be any protection for me. If I am not mistaken, this bill will take money from artists' copyright and transfer it. I would like my colleague to clear that up and to tell me if I am understanding correctly.