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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 22 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 Modernization Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The member for Richmond—Arthabaska has five minutes remaining for questions and comments.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am interested in the views of my colleague from the Bloc Québécois that were laid out for us when Bill C-11 was being debated the last time in the House of Commons.

I understand from his remarks that he disagrees profoundly with the federal government in its treatment of the copyright legislation. He believes that Bill C-11 is riddled with flaws from one end to the other. In fact, there is very little merit in the bill whatsoever. It would require a great deal more analysis and study before we could safely say that it would be ready to be implemented as such a critically important piece of regulatory legislation to govern and guide something as important as copyright in this country.

I would like my colleague, in the few moments he has left, to expand and summarize for Canadians the legitimate reservations he has about this legislation.

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10:15 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. Indeed, that is what my recent speech was about. That is also what the Bloc Québécois has noticed, along with creators in Quebec, in particular.

Almost a year ago, on November 30, 2010, 100 or so artists came here to the House of Commons. The member for Winnipeg Centre perhaps met a few of them. They told us that Bill C-32 at the time—now Bill C-11, which is a carbon copy of that bill—made it possible for some people to take works belonging to creators and artists without their being compensated for their work. No one here in this House would want to work for free.

Furthermore, when artists are not compensated for their work, they do not have the motivation or ability to continue to create more works. It is not only artists who are penalized, but also consumers, because they will lose the artists they love if those artists are not compensated for their work.

The current bill allows just that. The bill does not acknowledge that there are new technologies that allow people to copy music without compensating the artists. At the time, when we had blank cassettes and CDs, the artists received a levy. That is not done with iPods and MP3 players. That is a huge flaw in this bill.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, specifically in northern regions like mine, we are concerned about the concept of digital locks and how that would reflect on distance education. I have three post-secondary institutions in my riding. I would like to hear the member's comments on digital locks inhibiting distance learning and the education process.

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10:15 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, that will definitely be the case. I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. We recently met with university students who spoke to us about this issue. Not only will the bill harm creators and artists, but it will help large corporations use digital locks. That will keep people at home from transferring music—or electronic versions of other things like books, etc.—that they purchased legally on the Internet or elsewhere. These things would no longer be transferable because of the infamous digital locks.

What this bill does not do is fairly compensate creators. The bill also harms the education system by solely favouring large corporations. In responding to questions, the minister often lists a group of companies that support Bill C-11. And we see that as a serious problem. We cannot accept this bill as is. More and more people are seeing that it is full of flaws.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on the Copyright Act.

First, I will congratulate my good friend and colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, who has been working on copyright legislation for, I think, the last three Parliaments, and trying to find a way to find a balance.

It truly is a balance between those of us who are consumers and those who are creators. I must admit that I am only a consumer of materials not a creator. I can neither write songs nor do I write poetry. The members who have been in the House when I sing “O Canada” probably recognize that I do not sing that well either, at least not well enough that someone would pay for it.

However, there are many folks across our great land who are indeed creators. They write, make movies, create music and do it wonderfully well and want to engage in it as a career. They want it to be their life's work and deserve to be remunerated by that life's work. I think all hon. members would agree that they deserve that. The difficulty with the act is that it does not address those Canadian creators in a significant way that would help compensate them for all of the hard work that they do, because, indeed, it is hard work.

I do have the good fortune of having a younger brother who is a creator. He writes music and does it very well. He deserves to be compensated if that work is put on the market and sold or copyrighted. He deserves some sense of remuneration for that.

We saw in the past, levies on cassettes. I betray my age when I talk about cassettes because they are what one might consider to be the dinosaurs of the technology age, let alone eight-tracks and reel-to-reel. That would really betray our age for those of us who had a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

We have been copyrighting other folks' work for a long time. That is how we give remuneration back to those individuals who create it. It is important because we want them to continue to do the things they have done in the past, which is create new works to entertain us, because that is really what they do when we buy that material, whether it be music, a book, a movie or whatever form it happens to be. The reason we want to consume it is for personal enjoyment. If those creators are not remunerated, we will not be the beneficiaries of that entertainment because it will stop. We will lose that creative class.

That reminds me of professor Richard Florida, who is an American but who has been in Toronto for a number of years now. He wrote a report about seven years ago about the creative class and what it meant to the economy and how we could have creative class clusters. He actually used my old hometown of Glasgow as being one of the new European creative class enterprises. He talked about literally hundreds of billions of dollars of economic spinoff from the creative class. When I thought about it, it dawned on me that it was more. In Glasgow, it was the opera house. We had all these wonderful performers from around the world who sang tremendously well. Looking at the stage, one would think maybe there were 40 performers. That is probably a high number. We might wonder what the economic spinoff of that would be until we think about set design, which carpenters needed to do; lighting, which electricians needed to do; costume design required designers and the folks who make the costumes; and it goes on and on. Therefore, when we look at that creative class and the opportunities for economic development from that, it is one of the key things the government continues to talk about.

There is no question that this world has a fragile economy. Members understand that on that side, as this side does as well. One would think that we would not want to impinge upon a piece of society that can generate economic activity for us.

Denying creators an opportunity to make a living is clearly what will happen. I heard that in the previous Parliament when I had artists coming to me and talking to me about the previous bill, which was very much like this one. They talked about how the bill did not address the needs of Canadian creators.

Our legislation should be written for us, Canadian consumers and the creators of that particular piece of work, whatever it happens to be. However, it would seem that there are pieces in this legislation that are being driven by large movie producers in the United States. That does not benefit Canadian creators. That is not helping our folks who are actually engaged in this work.

Why do I say that? Well, it really hinges on one piece of the legislation, and that is what is called a “digital lock”. For some of us, digital locks seem like an odd thing. We understand the idea of a padlock. I think those of us in the 40th Parliament understood padlocks well. There was one on the front door here when the government prorogued on numerous occasions. I remember the Parliament being prorogued and the padlock being on that door more than once.

If we are equating the digital lock to prorogation in this House, where we padlocked the people's House, that is not a good thing. If we are equating digital locks to what we have seen in Parliament with time allocation and closure, that is not a good thing.

The creators are telling us that the digital lock is not for their protection and is not for ensuring they can go forward in creating new works and making a living at it.

Are we asking the creators to get a second or third job instead of simply doing the work that is in their very soul? When they create works, when they write songs or poetry or novels, it comes from deep within them. Are we going to send them off to work three shifts some place and tell them to write the book at some other time or in their spare time at night, because we will not be helping them to protect their work and get remunerated?

If we are headed down that road, I do not know why we do not just take patents off medicines. We could say that it is for the general public good and we should all get them without having to give compensation to the folks who actually have the patent. That is what we are saying about creators, that they are not allowed to patent their music. Creators ought to be able to keep it copyrighted and find a way to make a living at it because that is really what they are trying to do.

The digital locks are insidious. Young folks today, as many of us know, are extremely adept at using the digital world. Some would argue that they are better at it than us. When I say us, I mean folks who look more like me, who are somewhat mature and who do not necessarily know how the digital world works. I will freely admit that I could not transfer music from the computer to an iPod or from an iPod to an MP3. I could not do that in four months of Sundays. I do not have the faintest idea of how to do that.

I am sure I could probably learn but it is not something that I necessarily want to do. My goodness, if I were to sit down with my young nephew, who I think is about nine now, he would certainly know. It is amazing how young folks know how to do work in this digital world in such a fashion that it betrays the actual age that they are.

Ultimately, we need copyright legislation that balances us as consumers and those who are creators. We on this side of the House want to help the government with amendments to make that happen. Our copyright legislation, as it stands today, is archaic and it needs to be changed. We. on this side of the House. are willing to help the government. Many times the Prime Minister has said that if we have good ideas we should put them on the table. What we are saying to the government is that we have some brilliant ideas and all it needs to do is listen to those ideas and then put them in the legislation. We would then have a copyright act that acts on behalf of creators and consumers, and that would help Canadians across the board from coast to coast to coast.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague clearly explained the challenges facing creators, yet I see no reaction from the other side of the House. It defies all logic.

Are there not major economic interests behind this? For example, in the negotiations between Canada and the United States, if we offer enormous concessions to the Americans regarding copyright and distribution of cultural products in general, we might get some crumbs in return. I see no other logic behind this bill, because there is nothing in it to protect creators. This bill only protects businesses that deal in cultural products, particularly large American and multinational corporations.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. This is about an economic interest that comes from abroad. It does not necessarily come from inside this country because if it did, we would reward creators. If we want to drive this economy and actually put some oomph into it, so to speak, we would make sure our creators were rewarded so that they could continue to do what they do and generate economic activity. There is a reason why movie studios in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia are competing north-south as well as east-west. It is because of the large number of dollars. Why would we want to give it away?

My hon. colleague's comments reminded me of the softwood lumber deal. We made a deal with the U.S. on softwood lumber and we have been paying ever since. We thought we got a deal and we got less than crumbs. We seem to get fined all the time. We always seem to be the ones at the bottom.

If we are not going to fight for our own creators, who will? If we are not going to stand up for the creative class in this country, who write for us, perform for us, produce the things we love to see, hear and read, who will? It certainly will not be the Americans. They will be happy to sell their stuff to us. They will not be so happy about us selling to them. The group of Canadian performers and writers will diminish when they end up having to work in other fields because they cannot make a living doing the very things they are passionate about.

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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, the member spoke about his brother being a creator and making a living. I would like to know how much of a living he makes. He must be making millions and billions of dollars. That is the impression of most Canadians. Every time we see entertainers, all we talk about is how many millions and billions of dollars they make, but we do not talk about the 90% of creators who actually do not make any money. Perhaps he could speak about that.

At the same time what we have to remember is the consumers' interest in all of this. What is the balance? How do we balance between making sure creators continue to create and consumers continue to have products available to them?

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, my brother is a graphic designer by profession. The member is absolutely right. He is part of the 90% who cannot make a living creating music, even though he has written hundreds of songs and sent them to production houses to try to get them recorded or recorded them himself.

On the other issue, the member is absolutely correct. There is a balance in protecting consumers. In questioning earlier, the member for Sudbury raised the extended education piece. When I went to university, if I had five days to read a particular article that I had photocopied, I would not get through it. Other things would get in the way. That is what happens.

Clearly there are boundaries and we need to find a way to balance the two. Consumers deserve to have material available to them without feeling under threat that they are breaking a law and that someone is going to knock on their doors to arrest them because they have broken a lock inadvertently. The lock should not have existed. Locks seem to be the answer for everything. Digital locks are the answer, according to this legislation. They are not.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-11 and the good and bad things that would come from this. I am going to focus on the problem with digital locks.

There are some good things that would come from this bill. It does clarify certain things, like using a CD and putting the contents of it on one's iPod. Already owning something and putting it on a different device that is owned by the same person is no longer a grey area. There is also the YouTube clause which means that Canadians can put creative things together for private use.

A lot of what people do with media has been a grey area since 1997 when the Copyright Act was last amended, as it is for private use. As a result, it would be good to update this to international treaty standards. This would soften the blow to consumers. However, the big problem is digital locks. This issue trumps consumer rights and it does not allow people to back up any kind of media, including CDs, DVDs, e-books, et cetera, that people already own.

The problem with this is that all these new lovely things that we would take out of the grey area, making it okay for people to use these things privately, would be trumped by the digital locks. That is the major problem.That seems kind of silly.

Digital locks basically create a blanket ban. A digital lock is a piece of software designed to prevent ordinary consumers from utilizing a piece of technology in any way they see fit. Such locks, for instance, are often used to prevent people from making copies of songs and videos but they are also used to prevent consumers from installing software on their cellphones and even fixing their own cars. Similar digital locks are used on movie and software CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray disks. This is taken from the National Post of October 27.

A company that owns the rights is to be distinguished from the creator of the art, the movie or the song. The artists or creators are not the ones putting on digital locks. It is just too expensive for them to do so. It is the companies that own the copyright, and in many cases the artist produces the work for the company. The companies impose these digital locks in order to prevent stealing.

The problem is that a lot of people are not stealing on purpose. They are simply backing up CDs or DVDs on their computers, perhaps so that their children cannot destroy them, or because they want to keep them or they want to use them on different devices. This is frustrating for the consumer. I am of the generation of people who know how to break digital locks, although I do not personally know how to break digital locks. Most of the time, when there is no digital lock we are able to back material up or copy material for personal use. Thanks to this bill, we would not be able to when there is a digital lock.

This initiative is controlled by companies. It is quite clear that we are not balancing consumer and creator rights here. We are giving a default button or a veto button to the big companies that own the rights.

Again, this does not favour the consumers or creators.

Just because people break a digital lock, it does not mean that they are violating copyright laws. If they have legally purchased a DVD on a computer or something from iTunes, it needs to be decrypted in order to be freely available for their use. It just seems silly to prevent people from using, for their own personal purpose, things that now have this lock on them.

Michael Geist stated in the Toronto Star, on October 2, that the digital lock provisions undermine any attempt to strike a balance because they create this loophole. Companies are now basically in charge of whether people can use things freely which they would otherwise be allowed to do. Most people are not breaking digital locks simply to sell millions of copies but are doing it to back material up and use it on other devices.

The digital lock rules go far beyond what is expected by international standards. I do not see why we are doing this, unless the government is simply trying to play into the hands of big companies. There has been a lot of consultation on this issue. It has been shown to be a problem, but no one in the government seems to care. It can be frustrating to see this happen, as we are trying to make good amendments or bring forward solutions and we are consulting the public. The Conservatives are not listening. This legislation does not have to be a partisan issue. We should instead care about the consumers and the creators, because we know that consuming and creating drive the economy. We have thriving artistic communities in Canada and in Quebec and we should be making the balance there, not with the companies.

It is good that the fines have been brought down, but the digital lock takes away consumers' rights. This is silly. I do not understand why the government has not changed the legislation to make it better as the NDP has been arguing.

This bill creates powerful new anti-circumvention rights for content owners. Once again, it is important to distinguish between content owners, companies against copyright and content creators. This prevents access to copyrighted works. These new provisions are supported by fines of over $1 million and five-year prison terms. This will result in a situation where digital locks will practically trump all other rights, including fair dealing for students and journalists. This presents a real threat, because consumers will not be authorized to use content for which they have already paid.

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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, we are talking about balancing personal use and consumer rights with the artists' rights. When an artist enters into a contract with a company the artist receives royalties and payments. It is similar to an athlete who has a contract with a corporation. The company in some respects pays the artist's wages and purchases the artist's product or provides that contract.

We should not focus just on the selling of the product; there is the utilization of it as well. When I purchase a product, I would like to be free to transfer the music or book that I purchased to other devices. What we are trying to provide, and what the companies need, is protection so that when people download things, it is not that they are going to sell them, but that they are not going to disseminate broadly a huge collection of music or books to all their friends.

How do we go about preventing that dissemination of information not in terms of sales, but in terms of disseminating it to the purchaser's friends?