Mr. Speaker, today I have the pleasure of addressing the House on the subject of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act. This has already been pointed out, but I would like to remind the House that, while the English title speaks of copyright, in French, we refer to “le droit d'auteur”, the author's right.
That difference is quite interesting, because we are seeking to find a balance between the author's rights and the user's right to make copies. In a well-constructed law, it should be possible to find a balance between these things that appear contradictory at first.
As the official opposition critic on industry, I would like to highlight some facts regarding the contribution of arts and culture to the Canadian economy.
It is said that arts and culture contribute $85 billion a year to our economy and support 1.1 million jobs. If we look deeper, we find that the average salary for an artist in Canada is only $12,900 a year. So, when we talk about this bill to amend the Copyright Act, we want to be certain that the new legislation includes remuneration for the creators and artists who work in this industry. After all, they are the ones who create the content that consumers, users and educators make use of later.
People who work, who are in an industry and produce a device or any kind of commodity, expect to be compensated for their work, for the product they produce. That is the problem with Bill C-11. Creators will lose income that their content should generate. As well, those who produce things expect the product to be protected somehow, not used in a way in which they did not intend it to be used.
It seems that those who produce artistic creations, such as music or photos, would no longer be compensated. Consider the book industry. I recently spoke to people from the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois. The Quebec book industry is worth $800 million per year, yet writers earn an average annual income of just $10,000. Despite relatively low earnings, the existing legal framework enables many people interested in writing—and making music—to earn royalties for their work.
I believe that, in our society, people should be compensated fairly for their work.
That is what is interesting about arts and culture, because it is a very important sector in Canada. Indeed, Canadian artists do not have access to a huge market, as do our neighbours to the south, for instance.
We therefore need to ensure that our artists are properly supported so that they can continue to tell our stories and share Canada's culture with the rest of the world, since that culture is rather unique and very interesting.
These artists are always passionate and often have very unique ways of expressing what it means to live here in Canada, of singing about Canada and of talking about Canada's different regions. Incidentally, I am from Quebec and of Acadian heritage. It is thanks to artists from Quebec, whom I know well, and Acadian artists, for instance, but also artists from other areas of Canada, that we are able to express what it means to be Canadian, to be a Quebecker, Albertan or Ontarian, to name a few.
These artists are, or at least should be, a great source of pride. As such, we must recognize that in the bill to amend the Copyright Act. We must ensure that we have legislation that reflects the needs of Canadians and does not give in to foreign demands that do not necessarily correspond to Canadian values. We have to make it easier for culture to grow here and ensure that it can be protected.
Like the government, we recognize that the Copyright Act has to be modernized; there is no denying it. Earlier, my colleague, the digital issues critic, said as much, as we all have. Technology is changing faster than the law can. It is changing very quickly. There are more and more means of communication and copying. We have to deal with this rapidly changing technology. We know that.
We would expect a bill that modernizes legislation to support fair compensation for the creators of content and accessibility to this content for users, and also to strike a balance between these interests. Bill C-11 does not seem to strike that balance. It even adds locks, barriers, things that do not necessarily help achieve that balance. According to a number of witnesses, these things could potentially create barriers to innovation.
I would like to remind the government that we must try to strike a balance. The NDP believes that the Copyright Act can strike a balance between creators' right to fair compensation for their work and consumers' right to reasonable access to content.
I hope that we will strike that balance one day. However, at this time, Bill C-11 does not seem to do that. Therefore, I am sorry to say that I will be voting against it.