House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was artists.

Topics

Sitting Resumed
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have been informed that the technical difficulties seem to have been worked out. I will go back to the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh so he can finish his remarks.

Sitting Resumed
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, just as we ran into the technical problem, I was pointing out that a second aspect of the seeking of a finding of breach of privilege by the President of the Treasury Board was more a question of debate. Information that, as he perceives it, breaches privilege was given in the media outside this chamber and outside of committee. Mr. Speaker, if that is what his criticism is, I would suggest it is beyond the scope of your role as the Speaker of this House and that he would be better to take it up directly with media sources.

If in fact there is a breach of privilege, we could see that it could be established without in any way finding that the source of that breach of privilege was the member for Timmins—James Bay, given the dispute we have over the facts.

I want to go back to the initial comments I made. If there is a breach of privilege here, we could see that finding, but we are not at all suggesting or admitting that the member for Timmins—James Bay is the source of it. There may have been a breach here because the statements made by the President of the Treasury Board in committee clearly had been altered. He sees that, and we see it on this side of the House.

I believe it behooves your office, Mr. Speaker, to investigate that matter. We are not opposed at all to that finding. However, we are saying very clearly that we are adamantly opposed to a determination that the cause or source of the breach of privilege is the member for Timmins—James Bay. There may be a general determination that his privileges have been breached, because the records have been altered. We should get to the bottom of that, if for no other reason than to make sure it never happens again.

Sitting Resumed
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his comments on this matter. Orders of the day.

The House resumed 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.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay has seven minutes to conclude his remarks.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise yet again today on Bill C-11, an act to amend the copyright act.

As someone who has spent many years involved in the artistic and publishing business, I understand the vital importance of copyright for artists. There is an enormous amount of effort for an artist to create a work. As well, there is a great intellectual effort.

Copyright is a public construct. I love the way it comes down to us in French law, le droit d'auteur, the right of the author. This is a principle that has been fought over for hundreds of years.

As has been defined in parliamentary tradition, when an artist creates a work, it is not a piece of property. This is sometimes misunderstood by some creators. It is not a piece of property, something one can put a fence around, because we do not want to create fences around ideas; when we create a piece of artistic work, we want to open it up to the public. We want the public to be able to access that work. The problem occurs when artists are unable to receive rightful recompense for their work.

In 18th century England there were the so-called book wars. People would make copies of works, and then the book owners would keep out new competition.

We need to have a balance, and this has always been the issue with copyright. There is a need to ensure that a work can be put into the public realm and become part of our consciousness, our literature, our identity, so that new authors or new artists can build on that work and create more. We do not want to lock that content down so that it is inaccessible. However, in order for the creative process to continue, the artist must be paid.

Let us see how that relates to Bill C-11.

Unfortunately, in Bill C-11 we see a number of areas in which content is being locked down. It is being locked down as a so-called market solution. We hear the government say that we should let the market decide what copyright is or what rights the author and consumer have. That is not good enough. That is not forward-looking copyright. That is not copyright that would bring us into the 21st century.

We need to establish the principle that Parliament, not the marketplace, decides what the balance is. The marketplace has its role, but a corporate entity in the United States, such as Sony Music or another massive entertainment industry, does not have the right to trump the rights that have been established under Canadian parliamentary tradition.

Let us examine what those rights are.

Under the bill there would be the right to do parody and satire, which is a fundamental of art. All artists have done parody and satire of other artists. Today's great artist was yesterday's thief. Parody and satire are important. The documentary film community wants to be able to access work so that they can comment on it and create new works, but if a digital lock is put on it, those rights disappear.

With one hand we are offering rights to the Canadian public, meaning the right to make backup copies and the right to do parody and satire, but with the other hand we are taking those rights away if a digital lock is imposed, because a digital lock supersedes all other rights. That is not consistent with what many of our trading partners have decided.

There is a possibility to have a balance on digital locks, so let us examine their role.

A digital lock in a modern age is an electronic code to keep a product from being unfairly taken, and a corporate entity has a right to put a lock on their product. For example, in the gaming industry, codes were being broken on video games. People were taking the games without paying. The New Democratic Party has always supported the right of an entity that has invested in its creative work to put a digital lock on it.

However, in most of our WIPO-compliant countries, there is a right for exceptions. For example, someone may have to break a digital lock if that person is partially blind and needs to access a work to read it in larger print. That person is not the same as a criminal. In fact, it is a perfectly okay thing to do.

Another example is that because of digital locks, television networks will no longer be allowed to excerpt footage of films. They will only be able to show a screen. That does not do anyone any good.

There are legitimate reasons to be able to break a lock in order to access something someone has a right to. However, we do not support breaking digital locks just so product can be taken without paying.

On the issue of education, there are a number of areas where we have grave concerns. We support the idea of updating copyright into the 21st century, but we have concerns on the issue of fair dealing for education.

Fair dealing has been defined by right under the Supreme Court CCH decision, which established the six principles of what constitutes fair dealing. Fair dealing should not be seen as an open season to make it fair to take a textbook and just make endless copies to avoid buying more textbooks. That is not considered fair. The Supreme Court established the six principles of fair dealing so that we could have some clarity. We do not have that clarity in this bill, and it is important that we ensure clarity on education.

We also do not even define what education is. I can imagine many private businesses saying they are doing company training and saying it is education. That is not necessarily the same thing as education through an educational institution.

One of our great concerns in terms of education is the digital book-burning provision. If someone is learning through a distance education college, and many of my communities take education by long distance, students will be forced to destroy their class notes 30 days after the end of the semester, and teachers will be ordered to destroy their entire class notes. That would create a two-tier system of education, one in the classroom and one by distance. That makes no sense, and it would undermine the incredible ability of distance education.

To conclude, we are opposed to this bill because we do not see the government willing to work with us on the key amendments needed to make this bill into proper and positive copyright legislation for the 21st century.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as many people know--and if they do not, it bears being reiterated here in the House--most Canadian artists' wages are below the poverty line, below $13,000 a year. It is incumbent on us as policy-makers to fashion policy that is going to support innovation and allow for the building of a greater middle class of Canadian artists. This sector is a major economic driver in our economy, but the copyright bill as it stands right now would take $20 million a year out of the pockets of artists because of the changes in the broadcast mechanical provisions. Would my hon. colleague care to comment on the effects of this kind of policy for our Canadian artists?

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I have shared many royalty payments together over the years. He will know, as I do, that the greatest theft from musicians everywhere has never been necessarily piracy, but the line in the recording contract that was called “recoupable”. It enabled the recording industry to recoup every possible dime that it might have ever spent off their royalty payments.

Therefore, the issue of mechanical royalties for a musician is essential. The radio mechanical royalty is in many ways some of the only real revenue an artist sees, but the government has decided that $20 million in mechanical royalty revenue to Canadian artists is something artists do not need and is giving it to the big broadcasters. The broadcasters will not have to pay a royalty right that they have had to pay for years. That money is being directly robbed from artists.

In no other system that I know of has it been decided that people who had a right to earn a living no longer have that right. The Conservatives call that “balanced”; we call it wrong.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I have worked quite a bit on this issue over the past few years. We have been through many of these battles and through three versions now, I think, of this particular bill.

I want to ask him about the situation with the education exemption. We are slowly finding that we rushed ahead with the provisions of TPMs and digital locks and have now locked down material that under normal circumstances should be accessible.

Because of the way these TPMs operate, sharing among one's own devices, ironically, will be eliminated by the provision for TPMs. It does not seem to me, and I am sure it does not seem to him, that this is technologically neutral. It does not add up to it. At present one has a right to transfer material from one device to another, but because of digital locks, that right will be eliminated. That ability had been given to us by the private sector, not by legislation.

I wonder if the member could comment on that aspect.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, because this is not a technologically neutral bill.

As my hon. colleague said, the bill says that the TPM defines the right. This is going to have an extreme effect on education and libraries. Right now, if people want to get a master's thesis from the University of York and read it in Alberta, they contact the university which mails them a copy. They can read it for a while and then send it back. It is pretty easy to make a photocopy. It would not do any real damage. It happens.

The bill would force all libraries to put digital lock codes on the transmission of materials, so that after, I think it is, five days of study it magically goes poof and disappears. The ability of libraries to impose that kind of technology on the products they have, that are meant to be shared and understood, is excessive. I do not think it is even possible for them to be able to do.

It is going to have a negative impact. It is actually not serving anybody's purposes by having this arbitrary use of TPMs.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I would like to stress how important this issue is to all creators, and particularly those in my riding, whether they be in Sutton, Magog, Bromont, Cowansville, Knowlton, or elsewhere. Moreover, I salute all those creators who are very active across all forms of art, which improves people's quality of life, whether it be through the medium of cinema, theatre, improvisation, television, writing, painting, and so on. Artists are entitled to be fairly compensated for their work. This bill will deprive artists of millions of dollars in revenue and erode their market. The long and complex list of exceptions does not adequately recognize the rights of creators.

In fact, these exceptions create new ways for consumers to access protected content without concurrently creating new avenues through which to compensate creators for the fair use of their work. Bill C-11 does not adequately protect the ability of people to post content submitted or produced by users themselves, even if it were easy to collectively authorize this. Moreover, Bill C–11 creates an artificial distinction between copying for private use and reproducing for private use in Part 8, section 80 of the Copyright Act, and section 29, paragraph 22)(1)(e) of the copyright modernization bill.

There are also direct implications for consumers. The rigid provisions assign unprecedented powers to rights holders, which trump all other rights. If passed, Bill C–11 could mean that an individual would no longer have access to the content for which he has paid, and which he has every right to use. For example, if someone is enrolled in long distance education courses, it is draconian and unacceptable to ask him to destroy his course notes within 30 days of the course concluding, as proposed under this bill.

For all these reasons, it is felt that powerful, new anti-circumvention rights must be created for content owners, as opposed to content creators and content developers. In addition to preventing access to copyrighted works, these new provisions are strengthened by fines of over $1 million and sentences of five years detention. A further provision prohibits access to protected information by way of a digital lock, such as a digital watermark.

This would lead to a situation whereby digital locks would take precedence over virtually all other rights, including the fair dealing rights of students and journalists. This is problematic for several reasons. In particular, there is a very tangible danger of consumers, in some circumstances, not being authorized to use content for which they have paid. Moreover, the digital locks trump all other rights guaranteed by the Charter, including change of format in the case of a visual disability.

Secondly, the new provisions would require, where a digital lock has been used, that copies made for educational purposes be automatically erased after five days and that course notes be destroyed within 30 days of the course concluding. That would lead to serious problems for students enrolled in long distance education courses. It is not an appropriate use of the copyright rules.

Thirdly, it would create new limited exceptions to the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act, including the exceptions for educators, and exceptions for parody and satire. The exceptions do not adequately recognize the rights of creators. In fact, the exceptions facilitate consumers' access to copyright protected content without the provision of new methods for creators to be compensated for their work.

With this bill, the Conservatives have intentionally avoided dealing with the question of the possibility of extending the exception for private copying, a measure that has been proposed by the NDP and also by a number of experts.

The private copying exception has been very effective in the past for cassettes, CDs and DVDs. The government has tried to put a populist face on its opposition to extending the exception.

The NDP believes it is high time to modernize copyright rules, but there are too many major problems with this bill. In some cases, it even creates problems were there were none before.

We are going to try to amend the bill so that it better reflects the interests of Quebec and the Canadian public. The NDP believes that copyright rules in Canada could balance the right of creators to receive fair remuneration for their work and the right of consumers to have access to content at reasonable prices. We are also going to study any potential amendment that could be made to the bill to create a fair system of royalties for artists. As it stands at present, the bill eliminates several million dollars in income for our artists.

For all these reasons, it seems that the efforts Canadians have put into reform of the Copyright Act in recent years have had very little to do with the creation of a system that strikes a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of the public. Those efforts have instead been attempts to meet the demands of the big owners of American content, the film industry, record companies, video game developers and others. When will Canadians finally have legislation that meets their needs?

In the NDP, we believe that Canadian copyright legislation can achieve a balance between creators’ right to receive fair compensation for their work and consumers’ right to have reasonable access to content. We are going to assess all of the amendments that might be made to the bill to create a system of fair royalties for artists. As it stands at present, the bill eliminates income worth several million dollars.

As a result, the copyright modernization bill gives with one hand and takes back with the other. Although the bill contains some concessions to benefit consumers, they are undermined by the government’s refusal to adopt a compromise position on the most controversial issue: copyright in Canada.

We are also proposing that the clauses that criminalize the elimination of digital locks for personal, non-commercial purposes be removed from the copyright modernization bill. We support reducing the penalties for people convicted of violating the Copyright Act, since that would prevent excessive prosecution of the public, a problem that often exists in the United States.

The Conservatives have ignored the opinion of the experts who were heard by the committee and the conclusions of their own copyright consultations in 2009. As a result, they have introduced a bill that could cause more harm than good.

The NDP believes it is high time for a modernization that will eliminate these blatant problems and we are going to work to amend the bill so that it better reflects the interests of Canadians.

In conclusion, a number of groups have stated their ideas and supported what we are calling for through their statements, such as the cultural industries and the Writers Guild of Canada. The Guild says that the only option Bill C-11 offers creators is the addition of a digital lock, the effect of which would be to block existing sources of income for creators and create a loophole in the bill by taking away from consumers the same rights as are guaranteed to them in other clauses of the bill.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, in listening to my colleague, a question comes to mind.

We, on this side, read a lot or we have all read a lot. In a book there is often a bibliography of 20 pages and on every second or third page, we find a reference or a quote from an author.

Under this legislation, we would find at the end of the book a page indicating that every note and every reference was destroyed at the end of 30 days. It is utterly ridiculous.

I believe it is a good bill, but trying to make it a smart bill is like running a mule in the Kentucky Derby.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my dear colleague for his comments.

As I have already said, I agree that this bill does not help creators. This lock will help neither creators nor consumers. For all the reasons I have just listed, we will work on amending this inadequate Bill C-11 because it is very important for Canadians. Canadians have spent $1.4 billion on attending live artistic performances, or more than twice as much as on attending sporting events, spending $0.65 billion on those.

Copyright Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is quite simple and concerns copyright.

A copyright payment is a royalty. It is a salary. It provides a living. My question is very simple: what do we call copyright legislation that essentially prevents creators from receiving an income? That is a key question. We keep talking about copyright, but this bill is essentially about denying copyright. It denies creators the possibility of making a living from their creations.

How can we hope to encourage creation when the creators are denied income?

Copyright Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

Income is a right. Artists have the right to be fairly compensated for their work and effort. If they receive fair compensation, they will be encouraged to create. It is a cycle. This bill will deprive artists of millions of dollars in income, as I have already said, will erode their market.

The long, complex list of exceptions, which does not recognize the rights of creators, must be removed. These exceptions create new means for consumers to access protected content without also creating new ways to compensate creators for the use of their work.