Mr. Speaker, I would like to give some more context to Bill C-48, for those who are following and who want to understand the issue.
This bill that we are debating at third reading would establish supplementary regulatory powers so that new distribution systems, specifically the Internet, could retransmit programs if they respect the conditions and provisions of the Copyright Act.
The bill would also allow distribution systems that are already in place, such as satellite and cable companies, to continue to retransmit radio or television programs by paying royalties set by the Copyright Board and by respecting the conditions set out in the Copyright Act.
Are retransmitters subject to the Copyright Act? This was the question the committee worked very hard on.
First, allow me to say that the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of this bill, knows as Bill C-48. We heard from a number of witnesses in committee who were very concerned about the current legal vacuum, which leaves the door wide open to various different uses of works, authors and artists, without royalties being paid to those who own the rights.
This situation, as it exists today, creates opportunities to abuse the work of artists. In Quebec and in other provinces, there have been protracted battles to protect the works of artists.
Previously, rights were purchased through negotiations between the parties. This situation was in effect until the arrival of iCrave TV, in December 1999, which began broadcasting programs on the Internet. This company gave Internet users direct access to nine Canadian television signals and eight American television signals.
These signals were captured in the Toronto area, converted to an Internet compatible format, then put on the Internet, where they were made available outside of Canada, including in the US.
This situation called into question the various agreements signed by Canada, including the Berne convention and NAFTA. It did not take long for opponents to speak up.
Alleging violation of copyright, numerous groups representing a variety of stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner and Universal Studios sued iCrave TV, or threatened to do so.
In February 2000, a U.S. court granted an interim injunction against iCrave TV, prohibiting it from sending signals to the United States. Unfortunately, no Canadian court has had an opportunity to rule on the matter because, in late February, the company gave in to legal pressure and ceased its activities. In return, all charges against it were dropped. It even withdrew its application to the Canadian Copyright Board for a interim retransmission tariff.
Next, a Montreal company, Jump TV, tried to launch a similar service but, unlike its predecessor, it obtained all the necessary legal approvals.
Why did it give up on its plans? Since its applications could not be approved as is, it hoped to pay the same obligatory licence fees as pay-per-view TV, i.e. pay them after broadcasting only, pay a lower percentage for copyright, not be subject to Canadian content, and not contribute to the Canadian Television Fund.
It was in this context that the company dropped its plans as presented in late 2001. It withdrew its application to the copyright board because it had understood that its business plan would not pass muster and that it could therefore not meet all the conditions required of other broadcasting copyright holders.
Apparently, these two cases woke the government up to the fact that it was becoming necessary to provide a framework for this kind of activity.
The basic purpose of the bill is to prevent a potential Internet retransmitter from being able to broadcast programs outside Canada or, if it is broadcasting within Canada, to make it subject to the same rules as broadcasters or cable companies.
We must remember that a large share of the revenues generated by the producers of broadcasts comes from the resale of broadcasting rights abroad. The threat of the Internet is therefore real and could have a considerable negative impact, not just on authors, but also on partners of the distribution network.
In Canada, the CRTC excluded the Internet highway from its jurisdiction in 1999, so that only the Copyright Board can set royalties.
If the law were not amended, authors or their representatives would have to engage in legal battles to get back their share of royalties. The only ones who would get rich on this would be the lawyers and the law firms, not the authors.
If the regime that applied had been compulsory licensing, what would the consequences have been for stakeholders? Bill C-48 set out a compulsory licensing system for retransmitters.
That said, section 31 did not include any definition. Instead, the conditions set out in the regulations would have been what established certain mechanisms for this compulsory licensing, which I could explain as follows: the communication was to consist in retransmission of a local or distant signal, which allowed Canadian broadcasters to charge a worthwhile rate for commercial rights to their programs, one that was beneficial for both themselves and the authors.
There was also the fact that retransmission had to be legal under the Broadcasting Act, for if it were excluded from the provisions adopted by the CRTC, how could they be asked to participate in the broadcasting system, if none of the regulations applied?
The signal was to be retransmitted simultaneously and in its entirety. If it is not, transmitters could, for example, end up with a broadcast sponsored by Yoplait yoghurt, that is suddenly replaced by messages from Danone.
In the case of retransmission of a distant signal—