House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for her contribution as well to the question currently before the Chair.

The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

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3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster has five minutes left to conclude his remarks.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I would need to take a lot more time to paint the portrait of what the Conservatives have done in this particularly bad bill.

When I was speaking a few days ago, I was particularly incensed and appalled by the lack of knowledge of a number of Conservative members. Even though they were here to speak to Bill C-11, they obviously had not read the bill. The New Democrats on this side of the House always do our homework. We read the bill. We heard repeated comments that the retroactive book burning provisions of Bill C-11 were not in the bill. Many Conservatives have risen in the House and said unabashedly that there were no book burning provisions in the bill. What we were referring to were the retroactive electronic books that would be destroyed by this particular legislation.

It is important that Canadians understand what is in the bad bills that the Conservatives bring in front of the House. I will read directly from page 23 of Bill C-11, clause 30.01. It reads:

(5)...the student shall destroy the reproduction within 30 days after the day on which the students who are enrolled in the course to which the lesson relates have received their final course evaluations.

It could not be clearer than that. It says it in black on white right in the text of Bill C-11. As a result of the government's incredible irresponsibility in drafting this legislation, students across this country who get electronic books will need to destroy their course material. I will read it one more time, “A student shall destroy the reproduction within 30 days”. If not, they contravene the bill. They break the law.

I know the Conservative Party pled guilty to law-breaking just a few days ago. What the government is saying to students in this country, and educational institutions as well, who get their material and go through the course, is that the moment they receive their final course evaluations they must destroy all of the information they accumulated through the course of the lesson.

Having gone to university a number of years ago, I have kept much of my course material. My management and accounting courses still serve me when I do a variety of things in the House. A lot of the things that I learned in university continue to be useful today. The Conservatives are now saying that they will retroactively force students to burn their textbooks, destroy all that information, and they are doing it because lobbyists said that should be put in the bill.

The member for Timmins—James Bay, who is our digital critic, has talked about some of the other aspects of the bill and how they would make criminals out of ordinary Canadians. The government seems obsessed with trying to make everyone a criminal. However, the government has also put anti-circumvention rights on digital locks within the bill. This means that the simple action of copying information for personal use would make those individuals criminals. We are talking about very draconian penalties of up to $1 million that are contained within the bill.

We have spoken out against the digital lock provisions. We have spoken out against the retroactive book burning that the Conservatives now want to force on every student in the country who gets electronic textbooks. We have spoken out about that because Bill C-11 is simply bad legislation.

We are standing up for the rights of students to keep their course material. We are standing up for the rights of Canadians to copy material for personal use. We have said that we need to modernize the Copyright Act but not in this right-wing, ideological, lobbyist-based crusade that the Conservative government has brought about with some of the provisions in the bill.

We have offered to bring forward constructive amendments to change the retroactive book burning provisions and to change the incredible aspects around the digital locks and the criminalization of Canadians. However, the Conservative government, in its incredible arrogance, has said no, that it will not listen to Canadians on this. It will not even listen to Canadians in committee. It will simply try to ram the bill through.

Well, we are speaking out against this legislation and we are speaking out against the bad provisions that the Conservatives have put in it.

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3:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is good to hear that the hon. member is changing what he said last time. The last time he stood in the House, he talked about students having to burn their course notes; he has somewhat modified that statement, because he knows it is not true. The other thing he mentioned was making consumers into criminals for circumventing digital locks. He says he has read the bill, so I will ask him about two sections.

First, where in the bill does it say that individuals who circumvent digital locks will be made criminals? What part of the bill criminalizes them?

Second, could he point out any part in the bill that talks about students having to burn their personal course notes? I am talking about students who have created notes and done their work. Can he point out the specific clauses of the bill that criminalize individuals for breaking digital locks and point out any place in the bill that says students have to burn their personal notes?

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is doing it again. He is doing it yet again. The poor quality of interventions from Conservatives in the House of Commons is incredible.

He did this a few days ago in debate. He tried to confuse course textbooks with handwritten course notes. Of course, everyone asked what he was talking about, and he was unable to explain it. He still continues to deny that course textbooks are in the bill.

I just read proposed subsection 30.01(5) twice. I read it twice, yet he still stands and says he has not read it anywhere. He has not read the bill and he has not bothered to look at the bill. I am not going to read proposed subsection 30.01(5) for a third time. I am simply not going to do it yet again, because the member should be doing his work and reading the bill on his own. Then he would realize that this is bad legislation and that he should be voting against it.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech and I too am appalled with this bill.

As an educator and a textbook author, the reason I write textbooks is not to make money but to provide students with information and material that they can take with them not only during the course but afterward. They can refer to it for future courses and, as the member alluded to, later in life when they have graduated. I wonder if my colleague would elaborate on that aspect a bit further.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member for Burnaby—Douglas for his questions and the interventions he makes in the House of Commons. He comes from a proud history of NDP representation in Burnaby—Douglas: former members Svend Robinson and Bill Siksay. He has filled very large shoes. He is filling them in a very compelling way, and very eloquently. We are happy to have him in the House of Commons.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Tommy Douglas.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

The member points out Tommy Douglas, but that was not the riding of Burnaby—Douglas. That was the riding of Burnaby as a whole, which is now half mine and half his. I thank the member for Ottawa—Orléans for his point on that.

Proposed subsection 30.01(5) is absolutely deplorable. Within 30 days of their course evaluation, any students listening to us today would have to burn the course textbooks they received electronically. As the member for Burnaby—Douglas just pointed out, textbooks are essential for the long-term education of our students. Even today, students who graduate continue to use their course textbooks. It is absolutely absurd for the Conservatives to say they should be ripped up and burned and that students who did not do so would be breaking the law.

It is becoming evident in this debate that no Conservatives have actually read the bill. What they have done is read the PMO's talking points. They have not read the actual legislation. I implore them, before it is too late, before the vote, to read the bill and find out what it actually contains.

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November 22nd, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the previous speaker could give me a copy of that bill. I can read it to them another time.

Everyone agrees that Canada needs copyright reform. Everyone agrees that this reform should be fair to all parties, creators and consumers. Striking this balance is not an easy task. Given this general consensus, I am disappointed that the Conservatives' copyright bill has very little to do with the interests of Canadians and everything to do with appeasing U.S. studios and other large content owners. When will Canadians have copyright legislation that works for us?

The Conservatives ignored expert opinions raised in the committee and the findings of their own copyright consultations in 2009. Artists, educators, consumers and students all weighed in during the committee hearings, providing the Conservative Party with balanced information and weighted insight. Unfortunately, this information has been summarily ignored. As a result, the bill in front of us is a misguided piece of legislation and may end up doing more harm than good.

The copyright modernization act essentially gives with one hand while it takes with another. Conservatives continue to not deal with the issue of extending the private copying levy, as the NDP and many experts propose. The private copying levy has worked efficiently in the past for cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs. While this bill contains a few concessions for consumers, they are unfortunately undermined by the government's refusal to compromise on the single most controversial copyright issue in this country, which is digital lock provisions.

Digital locks supersede other rights guaranteed in the charter. They are a blunt instrument that does not distinguish between personal use and copying with intent to sell. In the case of long-distance education, for example, people in a remote, isolated community would have to burn their school notes after 30 days. This is hardly an improvement or an appropriate use of copyright law. Just in case our Conservative friends across the way do not know that section, I will remind them again that it is proposed subsection 30.01(5), and I will read it again if they choose to ask me their questions.

If we begin from the premise that a successful act would balance the right of creators to be compensated fairly for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to content, then we can only conclude that Bill C-11 must undergo revision before this act can serve Canadians.

Here is what the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic said on the digital lock provisions. It stated, in part:

Unfortunately, the bill also succumbs to U.S. pressure and makes fair dealing--including the new exceptions for the many ordinary activities of Canadians--illegal whenever there is a "digital lock" on a work. A digital lock will trump all other rights, forbidding all fair dealing and keeping a work locked up even after its copyright term expires. Overall, these digital lock provisions are some of the most restrictive in the world. To achieve a fair balance between users and copyright owners, the government needs to fix the digital lock provisions before this bill passes into law.

The Writers Guild of Canada said:

The only option that [the bill] offers creators is digital locks, which freezes current revenue streams for creators, and creates an illogical loophole in the copyright Bill by taking away the very rights the Bill grants to consumers in its other sections.

The government has said it is giving rights holders the tools they need in order to develop products, market them and get paid for them, and that this is about protecting creators from piracy, but digital locks are neither forward-looking nor in consumers' or creators' best interests. Digital locks, at the best, will simply freeze current revenue streams for creators.

On the one hand, the bill will deprive some citizens of access to works they have already paid for and have every right to use. It will be illegal to remove a lock, even if done so for a lawful purpose. If someone locks himself or herself out of the house, we do not drag them off to jail for trying to enter his or her locked property; why should digital property be any different?

On the other hand, the rights and interests of creators are not being supported either. It should simply be enough to quote SODRAC, the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada, which states that:

...the bill tabled in the House of Commons will significantly affect creators' revenues.

By that I believe SODRAC talking about at least $30 million.

It continues:

Moreover, the desired balance between the interests of creators and those of consumers and users is, in our opinion, completely absent. Thus, it is imperative that [the bill] be revised before it is ultimately adopted into law.

We believe this copyright modernization act should not make criminals of everyday Canadians who break digital locks for personal non-commercial use.

We support amendments that actually benefit Canadian content creators, as these artists need the revenue streams. We do need a copyright modernization act, but we need one that is balanced and genuinely concerned with Canadian artists and Canadian consumers. Right now, the bill will leave all sides unhappy. It is one that has fallen short of its responsibility.

As I have a few more minutes, I will once again read the section that my friends are talking about. My colleague read it twice, but maybe after three or four times they may finally get it.

This is proposed subsection 30.01(5) at page 23 of the bill. It is speaking to reproducing lessons. These are students who are using notes.

It states:

It is not an infringement of copyright for a student who has received a lesson by means of communication by telecommunication under paragraph (3)(a) to reproduce the lesson in order to be able to listen to or view it at a more convenient time. However, the student shall destroy the reproduction within 30 days after the day on which the students who are enrolled in the course to which the lesson relates have received their final course evaluations.

I know how students work. Sometimes an assignment can be given for a term. When students have a document in front of them, it is not always possible to deal with all elements of that document within 30 days. Some documents, although they have been received completely legally, take a lot more time to go through.

The bill was introduced on September 29. We are near the end of November. If some members of the Conservative team over there have taken more than a month and a half to read the bill, how could they expect students to take a document that they have a right to study and destroy it within 30 days? That does not make sense.

Certainly, this component makes criminals out of ordinary Canadians. The people who would suffer most would really be the students and the artists who are not getting the fair compensation they should. We all know that these artists help to create an identity for Canada. A lot of artists live in poverty; they need more funds, and this bill does not serve them.

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the hon. member's presentation on the bill.

We all know that the government had serious consultations across the country on this bill over the last couple of years. This is the same bill that was Bill C-32 in the last Parliament. I happened to have been the chair of the special legislative committee that looked at the bill and heard from well over 100 witnesses from 75 different groups.

We heard time and time again that Canada was seen as an outlaw. Canada had become a haven, an enabler, for pirates to steal intellectual property. Investments have not been made in our country in terms of businesses that want to have protection for intellectual property.

Would the hon. member support getting this bill to committee, so that once again we could hear those facts and stop Canada from being a haven for outlaws and pirates that steal intellectual property, so that investments in the Canadian economy can be made?

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do know that Canada needs a new copyright act. No one would deny that. It needs a balanced act that would benefit artists and ensure that the people who are using the materials legally are not punished.

I was at one of the consultations in Toronto when the former minister of industry, now the President of the Treasury Board, was there. It was at the Royal York Hotel. However, the Canadian Federation of Students tried to come in to express their point of view and for some reason they were not allowed to do so. It was quite unfortunate because one of the fatal flaws of the bill is that it punishes students.

If some fundamental amendments could be made to this bill that deal with the digital lock issues and compensation for artists, then it could be a balanced bill.

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is to follow on the point of my hon. colleague from Leeds—Grenville who said yes in the House to send the bill to committee to make fundamental changes.

I had discovered several years ago, and it is one of the major issues that I bring up from time to time, that we cannot make fundamental changes once we have said yes in principle to the bill. At second reading, if the majority votes for it, we have accepted the principles and the scope of the bill. Therefore, the fundamental changes that one had wished to put into the bill would not be accepted by the Speaker. It does not matter if everybody in the House agrees with the fundamental changes. The Speaker has the ultimate responsibility to see if it goes beyond the scope and principles of the bill.

To the point made by the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina that there is no grey area on some kind of recourse for a purchased material that could be transferred to another device, that can be trumped by the fact that we have what is called a digital lock. The bill would give us one of the harshest provisions for digital locks in the world.

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3:45 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree that a bill cannot be fundamentally amended that way. The Speaker would say that it would not be in order. In the past the NDP has sometimes tried to get a bill through without a vote at second reading and send it to committee without recommendations so that it could be fundamentally amended. I think Canadians want us to work together that way so that some of these amendments could be accepted at committee. However, I do not think that is how the Conservative government wants to work in this term unfortunately.