Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here as I have been delving into this issue since 2004 when I was first elected and became a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Back then, we had to deal with what was from 1997 the major last reforms to copyright and then we went into a new bill in 2005, which was Bill C-60. In 2008, we received Bill C-61 from the government but that was put aside because the Conservatives wanted to change the bill to become more technologically neutral. Those were the words by the industry minister earlier today.
This signifies the first time that we have had a fulsome debate in the House for quite some time because those prior bills never had a fair hearing within the House. We had a few debates here and there but not a fulsome debate like we are having today. I congratulate my colleagues, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the critic from the Bloc Québécois and the critic from the NDP, for their speeches. They all, in their own way, put out well researched speeches with some incredibly valid points.
Once again I will reiterate that our party will vote at second reading to put this to a committee so we can give it a fair hearing. When I first looked at this bill, and despite the problems that I personally have with it, I wondered if it needed to be fundamentally changed before we reached second reading. I knew that if we voted yes at second reading, we would be accepting, by and large, the principles in the bill and, therefore, major amendments to change the direction of the bill in certain ways could not be done as they would be overruled by the Speaker.
At that point during the discussion, we decided to go ahead because we needed balanced copyright legislation. It is long overdue, no doubt about it, and everyone should perhaps grab just a little bit of blame in all of that as this discussion has gone on. We signed WIPO treaties in 1996, one dealing with the Internet and the other one dealing with phonograms. Since then, however, we have yet to ratify, pending, of course, the right amount of legislation or balanced copyright legislation. In this instance, Bill C-32, which is in front of us now, was really borne out of the ashes of other bills that have died on the order paper.
Going back to copyright and the issue therein, how do artists receive the right amount of remuneration for the work they have done? I will go back to the origins of copyright. The first time Canada had copyright legislation was in 1868. We felt the need, even back then, for artists to protect what they create but that it would be balanced with the right of users to have access to this material which was very important going back to the beginning and the genesis of the printing presses.
In 1868 and years thereafter, it started in Great Britain, moved its way to Canada and through the United States where it felt the same urge, need and desire to protect artists' rights and, at the same time, mass distribution for this material so it could be accessed by the public. However, by protecting some of this material we did not want to protect it to the point where we kept it under wraps from the general public and people could not get access to it.
The year 1875 was another time when Canada went full ahead and made changes to copyright legislation so that it would be more in line with other countries. Even at the very beginning of copyright legislation there was always the compulsion to bring it in line with what is international standards as artists' work really knows no boundaries. That was at a time when we were printing books for mass distribution. We did not have anything like the radio or record players but now, in the digital age with the Internet, the global village has become that much smaller.
In the very beginning, if memory serves me correctly, I believe the origins of copyright internationally was that British books were being distributed throughout the British Empire and there needed to be certain protections for that as it was distributed to countries like Australia, India or Canada, throughout the British Commonwealth.
The first time Canada saw a glimpse of modern copyright legislation, or at least something that was considered for quite some time to be the cornerstone of copyright legislation, came in 1924. Around that time it was comprehensive enough that it covered many aspects of what was out there in the public realm. Again I go back to books, certain recordings, photographs and that sort of thing, obviously at the very early stages.
As my colleague from the NDP pointed out earlier, the arguments that we are putting forth here today started in the latter part of the 19th century. He used the example of the rolling piano where music was played on an automatic piano, which we have seen in the movies, and whether that would destroy a piano player's career. Obviously, it did not. After that, would recorded music destroy the concert or would people stop going to concerts because they now had an album that featured the artist's recordings? That was not the case as, of course, concerts have increased dramatically from the time of their inception.
From 1924, we went on to make some substantial amendments to the legislation, obviously with the changing times, in 1985 as well as in 1997. Both governments, Progressive Conservative and Liberal, have made substantial changes throughout the years. There seems to be a camaraderie or general understanding to reach out to other parties within this House to ensure we have the right legislation.
However, so many stakeholders are involved in this that there needs to be a comprehensive look at how we deal with copyright and, in order to do that, it needs to receive a mature debate. Today we are debating the bill at second reading and it seems that we are now laying the building blocks for what is about to be a fulsome debate on where copyright is going in this digital age.
I also want to talk briefly about the other bills.
Bill C-60, which was introduced in 2005, received quite a bit of stakeholder response and a lot of it dealing with the fact that we are getting into the digital age. A lot of this was spurred on by the fact that all of a sudden we were sitting in front of a wide array of music selection that we did not need to pay for. It was free. This was the origin of Nabster and LimeWire. With those devices, all of a sudden the consumer had the ultimate choice. Not only was it available in many arrays and all types of genres, it was actually free. That was a fundamental misstep, a fundamental breaking of the contract that we as government have with artists, which is to say that we will help them protect their work.
Nabster has gone by the wayside, or at least the free version has, and other equivalent facsimiles of how that type of music is distributed, meaning peer-to-peer sharing. They have disappeared but there are business models out there. I personally purchase music at 99¢ a song, and I am fine with that. I do not have a very large collection but I do have a collection that is big enough that I gleefully pay for it.
One of the issues that came from peer-to-peer sharing and one of the issues that has not been discussed yet is the information out there about what is illegal. This is something that has been dear to my heart as an issue. As my colleague pointed out earlier, in the United States right now this is incredibly litigious. The lawyers are running overtime when it comes to areas of copyright. A lot of the rules that are put down in America right now are really laid down by court judgments throughout the court system. To a certain degree that has happened here as well, but not to that extent.
In America there were several illustrations where children downloading music in their basements were being sued by major companies in multi-million dollar lawsuits. Obviously they cannot be involved in multi-million dollar lawsuits because there is no way they can get the money. Instead, the companies felt compelled to make a statement and made their statement by taking the most vulnerable in society to court. I will not come down too hard on companies for doing that as they had a legitimate concern about people stealing their product. However, at the same time, they did it with a great deal of haste and aggression that I would not agree with. I think that we, as government, should address that issue.
However, the result of that was the introduction of Bill C-60 in 2005, which, as I stated previously, created a lot of input and for all good reasons. The government changed in 2006 and we found ourselves going back in 2008 with Bill C-61. Bill C-61 went off in different directions from Bill C-60 in many cases but some of the fundamental aspects remained intact.
However, the problem was that in many cases people felt that it had been rushed through too quickly or that it had never received the right debate within the House. Many of the stakeholders thought Bill C-61, because it was illustrative, was maybe too illustrative because it set out certain examples and put people in corners. Basically it was too smothering, as someone told me. Bill C-61 found itself it to be too much for everybody to handle. At this point it went back to the drawing board. As we have heard this morning, I think “technologically neutral” was the response that came back.
Bill C-32 is the latest version of this and hopefully with the agreement of members of this House it will actually make a fulsome attempt to put this into law, and that way the next time we deal with this will be as something that comes way down the pipeline.
One of the issues that keeps being raised is peer-to-peer sharing. I have always made the comment that the problem with having legislation that is too stringent and too detailed in nature is that it becomes oppressive to the point where it just does not adapt. I have said it before and I will say it again. It seems that whenever there is a technical measure by which people are not allowed to get to a certain piece of art, roadblocks are put up around it. Governments do it through regulation to keep people out for access reasons.
However, once that it is put in, I have a 16-year-old son who could get around it within 48 hours. I am not exaggerating because I have seen it happen. I would not want to say that it was my son because I would get him in trouble since this is a public forum, but I have seen it happen. Teenagers do not like to be told that they cannot access certain material for whatever reason.
In the old days, when we were told that we could not access certain material for whatever reason, we would get upset if we could not access certain art or music because it broke Canadian laws or regulations on content. Nowadays, when roadblocks are put up to deny teenagers access, they laugh. It is a big joke. In essence, they find that it is not a big deal because they will find it and get to it in 48 hours. They have done it before and they will do it again.
The concept is that they are breaking the law. Artists have protection around their material that they need to make a living. If a particular parent is sitting at home and is not familiar with the new ways for children to attain music, movies or any type of entertainment nowadays, a parent would be horrified. Parents would be horrified if someone were to call them at home and say that he or she had just caught their child shoplifting at HMV and that the child had tried to walk out of the building with a CD in his or her pocket.
Some kids can download about 20 to 25 CDs from their computer in the run of five minutes. That is okay. Some kids tell their dads that they just downloaded the new movie that is out in the theatres onto CD. A lot of parents just do not pay any attention and just say “Okay, that is great. Let us go watch it.” It is illegal.
I hope part of the debate elevates copyright infringement and how the protections in place for artists are there for a reason, which is to protect the artists' work. It is stealing. We can call it that. In the end, artists are unable to make a living if their material is not protected.
On the other hand, one of the provisions in the bill talks about digital locks. We have all talked about this. We have all heard about this. Is it too stringent in this particular bill? It needs to be discussed. Is it a situation where digital locks cannot be touched? I am not so sure.
I said earlier that I have a concern about the fact that one particular company may have a digital lock in place over certain material. If someone downloads a piece of music or a movie, that piece of music or that movie can only be listened to or viewed by that company's equipment. I have concerns about that because the individual probably purchased the movie legally but is locked in a corner as to how he or she can use it. That deserves to be revisited.
I refuse to believe that the digital lock issue is cut and dried. Educators have said that the digital lock provisions would be too harsh on them now that they have an educational exemption. We have one group weighed off against the other. That involves a full debate. That has to be talked about because many people have a point. I met yesterday with the Canadian Federation of Students who brought that issue up.
On the other hand, some artists are happily ensconced and making a good living by the fact that digital locks allow their material to be protected. Software companies are a case in point.
Canada has a fantastic software industry for games, the intellectual property of video games, Xbox, PlayStation. We have a great industry here and it certainly deserves protection. We need to look at this material with open minds and consider debating it.
Unfortunately the debate earlier was going in different directions regarding the levy that was imposed upon CDs, DVDs or DVDRs and the way artists are able to achieve money to protect their livelihoods. They came up with a solution in the late nineties but it is not within this bill. The government does not agree with it but it deserves to be discussed. I hope the government will be open to revisiting that issue once again when we get this legislation in committee.
There are other issues as well in these changing times. I mentioned the downloading, or making a copy, of music or movies. This is copyright.
This debate started back in 2005. It is not that long ago, if we think about it. We started out with P2P, or peer-to-peer sharing. Nowadays we have live streaming, where no copy is involved. An individual just logs on and live streams what he or she wants. YouTube is a classic example. This technology is going at a blistering speed in the digital age and now we have to keep up.
I was happy to hear the minister talk about a five-year review, and I congratulate him on that. That goes a long way toward looking at legislation once again. Personally, I feel that is the way we should be going.
Bill C-32 contains a number of other measures such as those regarding mashups and the creation of a new exemption for user-generated content, which broadly written, could create an opening for abuse. That is true. We have to consider that.
Statutory damage is another issue we have to look at.
Fair dealing in general has to be looked at, fair dealing for access for consumers, fair dealing for parody, satire, but fair dealing for education. We have had a lot of input on that. Some people are very concerned about it, artists in particular.
Some artistry groups have said that an open-minded, fair dealing provision puts in the hands of the courts what should be determined by Parliament. That is something we have to consider. Again, it becomes incredibly litigious. Fair dealing has that possibility so we have to consider that. We have to draft legislation to make sure that does not happen, in my humble opinion. Artist groups are saying that the full impact of an open-ended fair dealing provision may be difficult to predict but the fact that there will be unintended consequences is wholly predictable.
The intent of the education provisions put forward by people from the University of Ottawa and by the Canadian Federation of Students is not to destroy the livelihoods of people who write textbooks. So again we have the interests of one weighed off against the interests of the other. We have to come down the middle in what I consider to be fair copyright legislation.