Mr. Speaker, I am very proud today to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party at this stage of Bill C-11 and as we are dealing with the amendments. There is probably not an issue I have spoken to more than the issue of copyright.
Since 2004, when Jack Layton was the new leader, we have been identifying the need to modernize Canada's Copyright Act. For the New Democratic Party, it is a fundamental pillar, creating a modern 21st century digital economy. We understand how having good copyright is essential for the creation of artists, for ensuring that we have a good and solid Canadian industry for arts and creation but also for innovation and that we can use this to leverage ourselves internationally.
I listened to the Minister of Canadian Heritage when he talked about the openness of the government. I think the reality will show it is a bit different. The government's first bill, Bill C-61, was literally a dog's breakfast. It died the day the government brought it forward because it was such a mishmash and it was so poorly thought out.
The government then brought out the following bill that ended becoming Bill C-11. There were elements about the bill that were much improved over the previous legislation and, for us, we came at this issue to improve the bill. We had heard from many groups that felt that the bill was still fundamentally flawed and could not be supported. However, our position was that we would rather have copyright than go back to square one, that we needed to find a mechanism to update the copyright regime to provide security for Canadian industry, for Canadian artists and for Canadian consumers.
We set out to work with the government but there were a number of serious flaws with the bill that needed to be amended. My hon. colleague for the Conservatives said that this was not an ideological issue. I agree with him. I think this is about making good public policy. The amendments that we brought forward were addressing the serious shortcomings in the bill.
When we talk about copyright, the term has been defined by English common law that “copyright” is the right to make a copy. Under French law it is “droit d'auteur”, the right of the author. These are fundamental principles. The right of the author. The right of the author to remuneration. The right of whoever is making the copy to remuneration. That is the fundamental principle of copyright.
Now it is not an exclusive right. It is not a property right. It is not something that a person just owns, because it is also a public right. Parliaments going back hundreds of years decided that there was a balance between the right of the person who creates the work and the right of citizens to participate in that work. Sometimes the participation in that work is how they take those ideas and change them. This is how art and culture is created. It is a balancing act.
However, what we cannot do at any point is to take a right that existed and erase that right to favour someone else. We cannot say, “You were able to receive remuneration for this part of your right as an author but we don't think that's really a good idea any more”. That is an undermining of the principle of copyright.
How does this all play out n terms of the digital realm that we are in?
There are elements of the bill that we supported. We supported bringing Canada into compliance with WIPO countries. We supported the moral rights of artists. For many years our artist communities have been asking for the moral right to have a say over their work.
Even with the government's mash-up provisions, which garnered some attention, we liked the idea of not criminalizing people for creating all these new elements in the Internet realm, things that we would not even have been able to imagine 15 years ago in copyright law. However, we said that there needed to be a moral right element as well to ensure that what was being created in the new format was not impacting the commercial value in the old.
There are about five clear areas where the government has absolutely failed to listen and failed to move forward.
One is, as my hon. colleague from Davenport talked about, the deliberate decision to create a loophole on the mechanical royalties so that a certain industry does not end up having to pay copyright. We cannot create a loophole so that people do not pay what they are obligated to pay. However, we heard again and again from the Conservative members on committee that they were creating this loophole because they did not think that artists should get paid. That is not what legislation should be used for. We either strike legislation that gives the artist the right to be paid but we do not create a loophole. We heard from the radio industry again and again saying that it was unfair to create this loophole because now it would need to exercise this loophole. It wanted it gone altogether.
That is $20 million erased right off the table for artists. We remain deeply opposed to that.
In terms of the technological protection measures, our colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands pointed to a whole series of very narrow technical exceptions that her party is bringing forth.
Our overall principle is simple. We support the ability of new industries to use technological protection measures to protect their right to create a market. However, and this is under the WIPO treaty, those technological protection measures do not usurp the legal rights that already exist under legislation. We cannot have two tiers of rights. We cannot have a set of rights in the paper, analog world and a lower set of rights in the digital world. However, the government says again and again, if people do not like it, they should not buy the product, as though it would allow a corporate interest to define the rights that are defined by Parliament.
Rights for exemptions under the breaking of a technological protection measure would be for study, for satire, for research, for innovation. These are very clear, straightforward things, for a purpose that a person has a legal right to access.
This brings me to the third issue, that of people with perceptual disabilities, students who are up against some of the most onerous difficulties in getting an education. Under this bill, they would only be allowed to impair the technology protection measure “if they do not unduly damage it”, as though the government thinks a technological protection measure is some kind of lock, which is okay for an individual to pick and go in, but the individual cannot leave that lock open. We are talking about a complicated piece of software, a code. For a student who is hard of hearing or blind, this provision should have been very simple. Students with perceptual disabilities are not breaking the law to make the print bigger on their Kindle so that they can participate in class.
That is an issue of fundamental fairness. We would not, by allowing that, destroy the market for books or film. Yet students with perceptual disabilities are unfairly implicated to defend this black and white world view the Conservatives have. They talk about copyright being a balancing act. It is a balancing act, but to have a balancing act, we have to understand that there are some nuances, some play.
The other area which deeply concerned us is the impact on education. We will not get into the issues of what is under fair dealing and how that should be remunerated, because that is something that is continually fought in the courts and at the Copyright Board. In the transfer of information that people are using, we have an opportunity in a country as big as Canada to transmit library data, for example, but under the bill, we would be allowed to have the library information for five days and then it somehow would have to disappear in the air. Maybe we would have to burn it, or a technological protection measure would have to be placed on it.
I do not know who thought up that provision. Obviously they have nothing to do with education. For example, I want to get the memoirs of old Mrs. O'Grady who lived in Red Deer and wrote about what it was like to homestead in 1900. The memoirs are in a little library in Alberta and I am studying in Nova Scotia. Now, the library makes a photocopy and ships it to me and I have it for a month to study. That seems fair. However, if the library made a PDF and sent it to me, I would have it for five days and I would have to magically make it go away. That does not make sense. Who does any research within five days?
For legal research or medical research, the fact is that we have great universities and small high schools. Information is being transferred back and forth. Then we have this provision that would give us five days' use. It just does not make sense.
We have shown a willingness. All our amendments were reasonable. The government refused to deal with them. At the end of the day we will not support the bill because it is an unfair attack on the rights of artists and it unfairly impinges on the ability of education and the development of new business models.
We remain willing to work with the government, but it will have to show a little more of what it calls openness when we are talking about moving forward the digital strategy.