House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

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The House resumed from February 8 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 motion that this question be now put.

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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak at second reading of the much awaited, much anticipated and much needed Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.

Since this Parliament convened last autumn, the House has had a wide-ranging debate on this bill. In fact, the debate began even before this Parliament convened. Hon. members are aware that the provisions to modernize the Copyright Act and bring it in line with the demands of the digital age were introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-32. That bill died on the order paper, unfortunately, but not before it had gone through second reading and had been discussed thoroughly at committee.

Now we are in a new Parliament and some of the old discussion has been renewed. We have scrutinized many of the provisions of the bill. We look forward to referring it to committee.

From listening to the debates, I have concluded that everyone on both sides of the House agrees on several important points. The first is that we definitely need to modernize Canada's copyright laws. This is long overdue.

Compared to our trading partners, Canada is late in updating our copyright laws for the digital age. Members on both sides of the House have referred to Canada's obligations as a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization. We are among over 80 countries that have signed the 1996 WIPO treaties, but we have not yet implemented them. As a result, Canada's copyright law has simply not kept pace. This bill would bring Canada in line with our G8 partners and most of the major economies of the OECD.

That brings me to a second point made from both sides of the House during this debate. It is often amazing how much commonality we can find if we look for it among members on all sides. The second point is that we would not update our copyright laws simply because we want to keep abreast of our trading partners. We would also do it to send a clear message to artists and creators that we value their creativity and innovation. We want them to live here, to work here, to invest here, to create here. We want their contributions to help make our Canada a great place to work, live and raise a family.

Another theme we have heard during this debate is the importance of finding the right balance when modernizing the Copyright Act for the digital age. Anyone who is aware of this subject knows that copyright law has to balance a great many interests. On the one hand, consumers have a definite interest in being able to use different platforms and media to enjoy the products they have purchased. They want to be able to use art and music to enhance their own creative efforts, for example, by adding soundtracks to their home videos. Also, educators and researchers want to use material available online in order to promote learning and to advance knowledge, noble goals.

These interests must, on the other hand, be balanced with those of creators and artists who depend upon the financial rewards of their innovation. Creators have to be rewarded. They have a right to be rewarded for their ideas and efforts.

We must also encourage and reward those working in related creative industries. Ideas do not just simply spring into life and get distributed across the country on their own. In related creative industries from music and film to publishing and video gaming, all those people who invest heavily in creative products need to be compensated for their risks. Such stakeholders have a right to be rewarded for their investment. They have a right to protect themselves from those who want to take what they have helped create but not pay for it. In fact, if they cannot protect themselves in this fashion, they will lose motivation.

There is the challenge: to achieve a balance between the ability of Canadians to access and enjoy new technologies and the rights of Canadian creators who contribute so much to our culture and economy.

On the one hand, the bill would equip businesses with the legal framework to protect their intellectual property. Companies could use digital locks as part of their business model and they would enjoy the protection of the law. However, at the same time the bill would legitimize the everyday activities of Canadians. It would make important exceptions for teachers and students to use new technologies to impart knowledge. The bill would encourage innovation and education by encouraging the use of leading-edge platforms and technologies by teachers and students across the country.

The bill would also provide fairness and balance in the penalties available to enforce the law. The current legislation does not discriminate between violations for commercial purposes and violations for personal use. The bill before us would create two categories of infringement to which statutory damages could apply: commercial and non-commercial.

Under the new bill, Canadians who are found in violation of the law for non-commercial purposes could be fined an amount ranging anywhere from only $100 up to $5,000.

On the other hand, the bill would give the courts sharp teeth when dealing with the infringement of copyright for commercial purposes. The courts then could impose fines up to $20,000 per infringement.

It is important that this message gets out across the country.

The bill before us seeks a careful balance between the interests of creators of copyrighted material and its consumers. Achieving this balance is not easy. Previous Parliaments have tried to find the right balance, but bills have died on the order paper instead.

We hope that this time will be different and we can move ahead with a bill that would be good for both creators and consumers. The bill benefits from the careful planning that went into Bill C-32. Hon. members will recall that before tabling that bill, the government consulted widely with individual Canadians, interest groups and associations. As a result, Bill C-11 before us benefits from the input and the advice of many different points of view.

Now, some hon. members may debate that the balance tips too far to one side. Others may debate that it should go in the other direction. The bill may not be perfect; however, it is very good. We must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good by preventing the bill from passing. I believe it has found the proper balance. I am looking forward to the bill proceeding to committee.

As I always do when I rise in this House, I urge hon. members to set aside their differences and to join me in meeting the common interests and aspirations of all Canadians. Let us get together and support the bill.

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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that we are about to wrap up debate on Bill C-11. This is the 15th time the government has limited the time allowed for debate. I find that worrisome with respect to the work the committee is getting ready to do on Bill C-11.

How can they talk about commonality? The member opposite says that he wants to protect artists, but 14,000 people—that is a lot of people—signed a petition. They took the time to go to a website to express their concern about Quebec culture and Canadian culture.

How does he reconcile those two things? He says he is protecting artists, but 14,000 people are worried. That is a lot of people.

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February 10th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

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

I wish to remind him that, whether he or any individual likes it or not, our duty as members of Parliament is to represent 34 million Canadians. It is absolutely essential that we listen to the voices of every Canadian. However, at the end of the day it is our responsibility to ensure that the laws we pass are effective and work well for Canadians across the board and not only for any one particular group or interest.

I want to mention a few specific instances where it would be possible under this bill to break into digital locks, which I know concerns some of the people my colleague mentions. Those instances include law enforcement, national security activities, reverse engineering for software compatibility, security testing of systems, encryption research, personal information protection, temporary recordings made by broadcast undertakings, access for persons with perceptual disabilities and unlocking wireless devices. These are all examples that perhaps people in the public at large are not aware of but they are very important for this bill.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in regard to copyright and copyright reform, my colleague talks about achieving the perfect balance in this particular situation, or at least the best balance that can be achieved. In many cases, the balance he is looking for does not exist because we have the two extremes on either side. By way of illustration, people are allowed to download a piece of music. They can share it within whatever method they use to listen to music, whether iPod or MP3 and then onto a CD, for example. However at the same time, digitally locked material is not allowed to be tampered with. So even though they have the right to share it, they cannot. Which, in essence, gives the ultimate power over the laws of copyright to the private sector, and large corporations in that particular case. How do we address that? Does the member think that is the perfect balance that he talks about?

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that this is a proper balance has to do with the laws of commerce. It is entirely appropriate for people who have put labour into a product to decide what price they want to be paid for the product. We do not confiscate labour in this country. Labourers are free to charge what they wish for their product, in accordance with market conditions.

So if a creator creates a product, that creator is entitled to say if the buyers want to share it with 10 people they will be charged $10 or and if they want to share it with 50 people they will be charged $50. If we prevent creators from having that freedom to charge as they wish, then all products would need to be charged at the highest possible rate. Prices for creative products would go up across the country. This way, we could allow creators to charge less for lesser use, more for greater use.

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10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place for the second reading of Bill C-11, , the copyright modernization act, which would harmonize copyright law with current international standards and update marketplace framework laws to address new and emerging technological environments.

We need a common sense, balanced approach to copyright, one that is technologically neutral so that, as innovation continues to evolve, the Copyright Act would no longer be constrained by the way in which we respond to today's technological choices. The measure we introduce today in the bill must remain relevant to the technologies not only of today but the technologies of tomorrow.

The Copyright Act was changed in 1988 and then again in 1997. Many of the technologies we enjoy today were not invented by then and many of the students who I used to teach, who enjoy these devices today, were not even born the last time the Copyright Act was changed. The current act does not respond to the opportunities and challenges provided by Web 2.0 and social media. It does not answer the needs of the multi-billion dollar industries of today that were in their infancy the last time Parliament amended the Copyright Act. For these reasons, we need to modernize Canada's copyright laws and bring them in line with the demands of the digital age.

The Internet presents specific challenges to intellectual property. Each country approaches copyright and the Internet in a different way. As other countries have proceeded with copyright reform to bring their laws into line with the World Intellectual Property Organization's Internet treaties, we can see how important the rights and protections provided by these treaties can be.

In addressing copyright and the Internet, Canada has sought a real balance between the legitimate interests of the consumer and the creator while protecting the interests of the search engines and the Internet service providers. Bill C-11 would implement a notice and notice regime, which is a Canadian approach, supported by Canadian stakeholders, including the Internet service providers.

Under this bill, when an Internet service provider has received a notice from a copyright owner that a subscriber has been infringing upon copyright, the ISP would be required to forward a notice to that subscriber. Additionally, the ISP would be required to retain a record of this notification, including the identity of the alleged infringer. This record could be used if court proceedings were to follow at some time in the future.

I suggest that this made in Canada approach to copyright protection would be much more effective than the notice and take-down approach that has been put in place in the United States of America. Notice and notice is a Canadian innovation in intellectual property law. So, too, is the introduction of a new civil liability explicitly targeting those who wilfully and knowingly enable online piracy. Internet service providers and search engines would be treated as true intermediaries under these provisions. However, together with measures to protect copyright holders from piracy in the digital marketplace, this bill would also provide measures that would enable businesses to work with copyrighted materials in the pursuit of innovation.

Under the current law, an innovative company can run afoul of the copyright laws if it makes copies of another product in order to pursue encryption research, reverse engineering or testing for compatibility or security. The bill would remove these restrictions, enabling innovative companies to appropriately use copyright material to develop new products and services.

I believe that we have achieved a balance in this bill that would enable Canada to move ahead in the digital economy. It would foster innovation among companies and protect the search engines and the ISPs that have become such valuable players in the digital society. The bill would enable us to take our place among nations that have modernized their copyright laws. It would create an environment in which creators can create and consumers can enjoy the fruits of those creations for generations to come.

Canada is late in acting upon its goal to bring copyright practices in line with the digital age. A decade and a half has passed since we were at the table to help craft WIPO's Internet treaties. In the meantime, our trading partners have moved ahead with their own intellectual property regimes. However, although we may be late in modernizing our laws, students who were born the last time Parliament reformed the Internet practices and copyright are now in high school. It has been a long time since we have done this. The bill before us represents an innovative made in Canada approach to enforcing copyright on the Internet and would provide the flexibility that innovative companies require to continue the research and development of new products.

The time has come to put these measures into action. We were delayed in implementing these provisions when the previous Bill C-32 died on the order paper in the last Parliament. The months that have passed since have underscored not only the importance of copyright protection but the importance of getting the regime right.

I believe Canada has found the right balance, a balance that will serve as a model for others. We need to move quickly to pass this bill so that creators and consumers can both benefit, and for the clarity and protection that this bill would provide. I urge hon. members to join me in supporting it as we send it to committee.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I am not happy about the time allocation, which severely limits our debates and enables the government to ignore its obligations to the House. I would like to talk about the interests that this bill really protects: the interests of the powerful.

Yesterday, the Minister of Industry said that the Investment Canada Act should not be strengthened in a way that would hurt investors. The government is applying the same logic to Bill C-11. We are all being sacrificed to special interests, and we have no idea of the consequences of that.

I would like to ask the member how much this will cost taxpayers. If such powerful locks are instituted, the content owners who hold the rights and privileges associated with those locks will be able to do whatever they want price-wise and laugh all the way to the bank. What restrictions will be in place with respect to content distribution? How much will these access restrictions cost students and legitimate users who can currently use content for different purposes, including learning?

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, in return, I would ask the member across the way what the cost would be of not upgrading our copyright legislation after 15 years of not upgrading it.

When we talk to university teachers, public school teachers and student groups, they are in support of this legislation.

I will quote Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, who said:

This bill reflects a fair balance between the interests of creators and users of copyright works and is a positive step forward for university communities across Canada.

The Council of Ministers of Education, all the ministers of education of every province in Canada, say that they:

...recognize that this federal copyright legislation will have significant implications for how the Internet is used by students and educators across Canada.

This support is echoed by a thousand other organizations and associations that have come forward in support of copyright reform.

Fifteen years is a long time to wait for something when the Internet has provided such changes to our system of industry in this country.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member did not understand the question, since he did not answer it at all, when actually, the question was about listening. Given the time allocation imposed on today's debate and the many others that have also been imposed, can anyone blame me for questioning the Conservatives' desire to engage in dialogue and really work with the other parties to improve the bills they introduce?

My question is rather simple. Can the member opposite give some examples of the concerns expressed by Canadians or the opposition party? This would show us that he really listened to those concerns and took them into consideration. He talked about the right balance, but clearly, many people do not agree. Did he really listen to their concerns? What are they and how did he deal with them?

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will not stand here in the House of Commons and summarize the concerns of the opposition. I will talk about the concerns of the Canadian people, the people who actually need to use the Internet, the people who actually need to download information to do their jobs and the people who actually need to download information to pass a course in school.

The current regime we have regarding Internet protocols and copyright legislation is antiquated. Sections of the current bill that refer to education talk about flip charts and overhead projectors. This is so antiquated that it does not apply at all to modern education.

That is why the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is in support of this bill. It states that “the government has demonstrated a commitment to...Canada’s education community”. It goes on to state that students across Canada are greatly encouraged. It goes on to state that “the federal government has a clear understanding of how this bill will impact Canada's students, educators and researchers”.

On time allocation, this is the same bill that was debated for many hours in the last Parliament and all sides of the House at that time voted to send it to committee. Since we supported it and sent it to committee the last time, why would anyone want to delay sending it to committee again? We have waited 15 years and that is long enough.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill C-11. This is not the first time I have had to debate the issue of copyright.

Back in the 1990s, which dates me somewhat, because some people would say I am a veteran as I have been here for awhile, we dealt with copyright law. I think it was Bill C-32 at the time, although I would need to verify that. We were confronted then with the same things that Bill C-11 confronts us with now, which is the necessity for balance between the rights of consumers, of artists and of the creators of the material that is consumed, to put it crassly. Unfortunately, it seems to us that we are not striking that balance right now.

There is no denying that there are some good things in the bill and that there is strong support for it in certain quarters. However, the reality is that it is the same bill that was before the House in the previous Parliament. A number of people who came before committee at that time indicated a desire for changes. We thought there was substantive progress in terms of where we could effect some change to strike a better balance within the bill and yet we are now confronted with the same bill without any changes whatsoever.

Perhaps the most popular provision of the bill is the one that would allow Canadians to transfer the material they bought from one platform to another. In layman's terms, it means that when people by a CD they can transfer it onto their iPod or computer as a backup and not be faced with criminal charges. That is appropriate because I would suspect that in this day and age that is what most people do. People transfer their music to their computer so that they can transfer it to their iPod and manipulate it to have playlists and whatnot. Personally, I think it is quite appropriate that Canadians who are paying for copyrighted material should be able to use it on their own platform, but not for the purposes of transferring it to friends, selling it or whatever. The bill recognizes that, as it should, and, therefore, we would be tempted to support the bill on that basis alone.

However, out comes the digital lock. The way it came about is, to say the least, very troubling. We now have good evidence that this is as a result of pressure from our neighbours to the south. We even had evidence that two government ministers had asked the United States' authorities to put Canada on the list of piracy to put greater pressure on parliamentarians to adopt the bill back then and to justify the existence of the digital lock. That adds a major sticking point and one that causes great imbalance. If we give anyone the right to prevent owners of copyrighted material to use it for their personal pleasure and benefit, we give that right away to large corporations because they put a digital lock on works that have been purchased and paid for legitimately. It skews the bill entirely and destroys whatever balance might be there. On that basis alone, it causes a great deal of difficulty.

There are other difficulties. We might be going a little too far with the exceptions on education. We have heard a number of artistic groups say that they were concerned and worried about that.

We thought that the amendments that were introduced might perhaps be woven into the Bill C-11 edition of the bill but that seems not to be the case. Therefore, we have another imbalance that has been created here that we had hoped would have been addressed but has not been.

I will tell the House a bit about what happened back in the nineties with that bill and why I would be opposed to it now.

I was on the government side. We had the bill before us. We had over 50 witnesses come forward. It was obvious that this chasm, which we are seeing again, was prevalent then between the distributors and the creators of copyrighted material. We were rapidly going into a logjam. I became very sympathetic to the plight of the artistic creators, those who were creating this material, because, without them, the entire industry would not exist. We need to protect the rights of the artists in our country.

To break the logjam that seemed to be coming, I introduced from the government side, imagine that, four amendments to my government's legislation. It did not sit well with everyone, and I recognize that, but the four amendments were actually carried at committee and became part of the bill.

One of the amendments was to change the definition which ever so slightly tilted the legislation at that point in favour of the creators. It was to define what a reasonable effort to find the owner of the copyright would be. In the first definition, it was that one went to one or two stores to find the owner of the copyright. That would be very easy to do, but not really fruitful in terms of a real search of who owned the copyright.

I introduced the motion that a reasonable effort to identify and find the owner of the copyright would be to refer to a collective. A collective, of course, is the creation of artists and artistic communities to defend their rights, to defend their copyright. By the way, I know it has been said and I will repeat it, copyright is not the right to copy. Unfortunately, too many people see it that way.

To defend the rights of the copyright, the right of the owner, the creator, we said that a reasonable effort would be to go to the collectives that represent that group of artists. That definition was accepted. It is in the law now and it is what protects.

I am saying this as an example that at the time we had a committee that could and would change the government's legislation, even amendments coming from the government side. I do not think we will see much of that in this Parliament, unfortunately. If I thought we could see some of the government members willing to put amendments forward, say, to get rid of the digital locks, then I might be tempted to support sending the bill to committee so that we could see the constructive work of committees at play, but we are not likely to see that.

My experience, unfortunately, in this Parliament is that the government's majority shuts down anything coming from the opposition side. We have seen it with Bill C-10, so much so that now with Bill C-10, the Senate has had to correct the lack of appropriate dealing with bills in this House.

I have seen it in my own committee where every constructive suggestion coming from either the NDP or the Liberals is automatically shut down. Not seeing any willingness on the government side to be constructive in terms of real work at committee stage, I am reluctant to support sending the bill to committee, because there is this digital lock and there are other provisions.

The bill eliminates ephemeral rights, an important source of income for artists. Given this government's obstinacy, we have no choice but to challenge it.

I will give another example which is a little bit off topic, but I think you will see the relevance, Mr. Speaker.

In the Liberal minority government, we introduced a notion that we would refer bills to committee before second reading so that committees had a chance to work at the bill constructively. The government always had the ability to stop anything that came forward that was way out of line by just not going any further with the legislation.

Two-thirds of our legislation was referred to committee before second reading. It gave the opposition side of the House, at the time the Reform Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, a chance to really exercise their craft as legislators positively and constructively. It worked, and by and large, it worked well. Parliamentarians did their job properly. The committee engaged in real work. The witnesses knew they could come to committee and offer constructive suggestions, positive amendments, and that they would be considered.

The Conservative government never does that, not even when it was in a minority situation. Therefore, given all of that, we cannot help but vote against the bill.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the hon. member on his speech. In light of the major change that took place in the last election, I would like to ask him if he believes that Quebeckers have had the opportunity to have their say regarding this bill.

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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, whether Quebec has had a chance to have its say is a good question. All Canadians have the right to express themselves in this country. Fortunately, the Conservatives have not managed to take that right away from us.

To express oneself is one thing, but to have an impact is another. Unfortunately, in this Parliament, the views of the parliamentarians, the public, the media and the world do not seem to have any impact on this government.

We are reduced to having to assert our opinion right out of the gate because, clearly, nothing constructive seems to come out of the work of the committees.

We have to speak out at second reading and say that we are against the bill in principle. We used to be able to say that we were not comfortable with the principle, but were hopeful that something constructive could be done in committee. That is no longer the case, so we vote against.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments about Bill C-11, the attempt on the government's part to update our copyright legislation. I know my colleague has been in this place many years and was part of the government for 13 years. The Liberals had a majority government but really made no significant changes to update our copyright legislation. Maybe, as part of that government, he could explain some of the challenges and why no significant changes were made to the copyright legislation and why it is still stuck in the latter part of the 20th century.