Mr. Speaker, I move that the 1st report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented on March 17, be concurred in.
I will discuss the issues related to the motion. Today, the Bloc Québécois is moving adoption of the report.
I will begin by reading the motion passed by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
That the Committee recommends that the government amend Part VIII of the Copyright Act so that the definition of “audio recording medium” extends to devices with internal memory, so that the levy on copying music will apply to digital music recorders as well, thereby entitling music creators to some compensation for the copies made of their work.
There can be no doubt that people must be paid for their work. All workers have the right to earn wages, even my colleagues and me. Artists and craftspeople have the right to be paid for what they do and create. Consumers have the right to load the CDs they have legally purchased onto their iPods without feeling like they are breaking the law every time, without feeling like criminals.
The motion I presented to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which was adopted, sought to update existing legislation. Since the 1990s, there has been an exception in the Copyright Act to do with private copying.
The exception allows consumers to copy material for their personal use. In return, they are asked to pay a tiny fee when purchasing the blank medium they use to make copies. Everyone here has paid this fee, and I am sure that I have too. It is 24¢ for audio cassettes, although very few people buy those nowadays. For CDs, the fee is 29¢.
The problem is that CD sales have declined dramatically, but consumption of music has not. There is a problem. Video cassettes are not included in the Copyright Act's private copying exception and never have been. Some might think that is too bad, but it took a long time to update this 1997 legislation.
Two years ago, the Conservative government introduced Bill C-61. The bill proposed adding video cassettes to the list. Unfortunately, the process took so long that nobody was even using them anymore, or at least, very few people were back then, and even fewer still use them now. The technology has become obsolete.
To avoid having the same thing happen with MP3 players and iPods, the Bloc Québécois is proposing, by means of the motion I had adopted by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, that we act swiftly to keep up with advances in technology and add iPods and MP3 players.
Unlike what the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages claims, this has nothing to do with BlackBerrys, laptops or iPhones. The minister is using scare tactics. We are talking about MP3 players, and the most well-known brand is the iPod.
This is not complicated. We are not trying to wage a new war. We do not want to change a principle. The principle is already there; it exists in the legislation. We are not trying to create a new one. We simply want to modernize the Copyright Act and add this temporary solution while we wait for a new Copyright Act. Since technology is developing quickly, we are worried that a new technology could already be invented and in use before we have a new Copyright Act and that it will be too late. As I mentioned earlier, we must act quickly.
I would like to give a bit of history. I remind members that in its 2003-04 decision on the private copying tariff, the Copyright Board of Canada approved the application by the Canadian Private Copying Collective, the CPCC, to have levies collected on flash memory cards embedded in iPods and other MP3 players, which the commission designated as digital audio recorders.
The Federal Court then ruled that the commission had erred in its decision and threw out the CPCC's case. Since then, this collective has tried to speed up the modernization of the act and to have it changed to include MP3 players, which is a good thing. The goal is essentially to ensure that artists are paid for their work.
I have an example to show that artists are not always paid for their work. On December 3, the Minister of Industry, a Conservative minister, gave a radio interview with CBC. During that interview, he bragged to host George Stroumboulopoulos that he had downloaded 10,000 songs to his iPod. He bragged about it.
The interviewer, Mr. Stroumboulopoulos, asked him twice whether he had obtained all those tracks legally and the minister started laughing. The interviewer repeated the question and asked the Minister of Industry again whether all the tracks had been obtained legally and he laughed again. He was unable to clearly state that he had acquired all the tracks legally and that all the music he had downloaded onto his iPod had been paid for in accordance with the Copyright Act.
Yesterday, in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, a respected university professor, Michael Geist, told us it is not so bad if artists, singers and musicians do not get paid for all their recordings because they can make up for those losses by putting on shows and earn money in other ways. He was reluctant to agree with a levy on MP3s.
I asked him whether he would agree to being hired as a university professor, but not paid. I told him that he is now known as a university professor and he could give talks and find other sources of income. He did not answer my question. In any event, it was not the best of questions; comparisons are always clumsy. Nonetheless, people have to get paid for their work and not just for things they do on the side.
When an artist makes a recording they have to rent a recording studio, and the recording studio does not give shows all across Quebec, Canada or the world. Professionals, sound engineers and the producer make the recording. I am talking about music, but there are also visual artists and authors whose work ends up on iPods and MP3s. The photographers, the printers and the cover designers all have to get paid for their work.
How can we expect all those people to earn an income any other way? It is unthinkable.
Last Friday we got some surprising support from the Edmonton Journal. I want to bring this editorial to the attention of the House. It ran last Friday, one week ago today. I will read the editorial in French. I tried to translate it, but I am not a professional translator. I have a lot of respect for translators. This is more of an interpretation, and I did the best I could. I chose certain sentences, so it is not a word-for-word translation and I hope that you will not judge my translation skills. Please do not think that I am bragging.
The title is Creative content must be paid for, which I translated as On doit payer pour le contenu artistique . I hope that that is correct and that I started off on the right foot.
Before I begin reading, I should say that the same day I managed to have a motion adopted authorizing a levy for artists on the purchase of iPods, the member for Timmins—James Bay, my NDP colleague, introduced a bill containing exactly the same proposal. Obviously, the Edmonton Journal is talking more about the actions of a federalist member than a Bloc member. It is surprising enough that it would support someone from the NDP; we would never have expected it to go so far as to support a motion from the Bloc. But the objective is what counts, and the Edmonton Journal supports it and ran a whole article about it. This is what it had to say. Once again, this is not a translation but, rather, an interpretation.
It's not surprising, says the Edmonton Journal, that the people of the world have warmly embraced the idea of getting creative content for free. Most of us understandably prefer not paying for something whenever possible, even when securing the product gratis technically breaks a rarely enforced statute.
And the editorial in the Edmonton Journal continues.
Downloading music, it says, is a good example because everyone does it. It's true that some of us always dutifully buy our music online, from sources such as iTunes—I would say, rather, sites like Archambault in Quebec—which do distribute royalties, however imperfect the system.
And I would add that this is true for all systems everywhere.
But millions either don't do this, or share with others what they have purchased, making crooks of 11-year-olds, at least in the eyes of the law.
That is how the Edmonton Journal puts it.
Recognizing this reality some years ago, the Canadian government, along with others around the world, began levying a small fee on all blank recording media used to copy music, such as CDs.
Canada's private copying levy—that is its name—was introduced by the Canadian Private Copying Collective, which is a non-profit, independent organization founded in 1997 to distribute monies collected from retailers and consumers to musicians, record companies, publishing firms and other copyright holders.
The sky hasn't exactly fallen in over that legislation, although some retailers, unrepentant pirates and libertarian types have continued a bitter fight railing against the fees for years.
On the other hand, the tough-talking record companies and their agents, who beat the garbage can demanding severe penalties for perceived offenders, must also be taken with a mine shaft of salt.
I repeat, that is the opinion of the Edmonton Journal.
What has changed over the past 13 years is digital technology. These days, most of the file-sharing taking place—and expanding exponentially—involves the next generation of devices. Royalties would be added to the purchase price of only MP3 or IPod players, not computers, tablets or phones. The new legislation would help balance the interests of both consumers and creators.
In this editorial published in the Edmonton Journal, from which I am quoting rather freely, as I said, our colleague from the NDP, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, is quoted as saying that artists have a right to get paid and consumers have a right to access their works. That is important. Digital locks and suing fans are not going to prevent people from copying music from one format to another. By updating the legislation—I am still quoting the hon. member—, we will ensure that artists are getting paid for their work, and that consumers are not criminalized for downloading their legally-obtained music from one format to another. The comment by the member for Timmins ends here, but the Edmonton Journal editorial continues.
While all this seems like a perfectly reasonable compromise, to hear the Conservative government tell it, it is the Boston Tea Party circa 2010. Personally, I would talk about a revolution. The Minister of Industry, misrepresenting its contents, denounced the bill as “total nonsense”.
One might have thought that the Minister of Canadian Heritage would defend creators, but we know that he defends many causes which are not that of creators. This minister also distorted what was suggested in the proposed legislation, talking as if it included a levy on BlackBerrys, iPhones and laptops, railing oddly that consumers deserve lower, not higher taxes.
According to the Edmonton Journal, it is true that the royalty distribution system in Canada is far from perfect, but record companies have not exactly always been a paragon of fair-dealing when it comes to honestly compensating artists.
The system overlooks lesser known artists. The system is not perfect but it is about time that we, as a society, face the fact that those who create cultural content should be given fair compensation for their work, something we all desire.
The Edmonton Journal added that it usually does not support NDP bills, but that the bill introduced by the member for Timmins—James Bay is fair and balanced and worthy of everyone's support.
As I stated earlier, the bill introduced by the member for Timmins—James Bay is identical, word for word, to the motion we are presently discussing and that I was able to have the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage adopt.
The Edmonton Journal concludes that the Conservatives are clearly playing pandering politics, and that hopefully the opposition parties and independently-minded Conservatives will sign on to a compromise that upholds basic Canadian values of straight dealing.
That is the end of my quotes from the Edmonton Journal,, and the end of my translating. You will have realized that it was a very loose translation. The main ideas are there but I am obviously not a translator.
The Edmonton Journal is not the only one to agree. In general, the public feels that artists should be paid for their work.
A nation-wide poll conducted in June 2006 by Environics Research Group confirmed that 60% of Canadians believe that creators should be compensated when unauthorized recordings are made of their music. The same poll indicated that of those Canadians who make private copies of recorded music, 80% feel that a royalty of 30¢ for CD-Rs and CD-RWs would be fair and reasonable. it currently stands at 29¢.
In a similar vein, 79% of Canadians who make private copies stated that a $40 levy on iPods—which is a lot—or other 30GB digital audio recorder would be fair and reasonable. We should remember that a 30GB iPod costs several hundred dollars and that a $40 levy on an iPod has never been considered. What had been suggested previously was an amount between $2 and $25.
A 30GB digital audio recorder can hold up to 7,500 songs or the equivalent of 500 CDs. That is much more than can be listened to in one week unless that is all you are doing.
On the weekend, in Quebec City, when the Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert riding association presented this same motion to the Bloc Québécois general council, it was our executive's youth representative, Frédéric Burque, who presented it. He is not even 30.
Who supported this important motion presented by the riding association executive? The Forum jeunesse, a strong, energetic, realistic youth wing that is in touch with the concerns of young Quebeckers. It was the Bloc Québécois Forum jeunesse who supported the Bloc motion.
Who voted in favour of the motion recommending royalty levies on iPods? Everyone. It was unanimous. The 75 riding associations, the citizenship committee, the national bureau, the leader of the Bloc Québécois—everyone in the Bloc Québécois, from young to old, agrees with this motion.
In the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, who voted in favour of this motion? How did we manage to adopt this motion in this committee? I moved the motion and my Bloc Québécois colleague from Drummond, who, of course, has the interests of artists at heart, supported it. The member from the NDP was also in favour of such a bill since he introduced a similar one the very same day.
Two of the three Liberal members also voted in favour of the motion; the third abstained. Who was the sixth voter? A Conservative, the chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage himself. The hon. member for Perth—Wellington even wrote a letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and a letter to the Minister of Industry to ask them for changes that would modernize the legislation. The words he used are exactly the same ones used in this motion.
In closing, I hope this motion will be adopted. Unfortunately, it will not become law, but if adopted, it will send a clear message to the Conservative government to change the Copyright Act and make this correction as soon as possible.
This message also means that the new Copyright Act the government is cooking up will have to include an exception for private copying, with levies not only on obsolete audio cassettes, but also on CD-Rs, CD-RWs and digital audio equipment such as MP3 players.