moved that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to open debate at third reading on the copyright modernization act. This has been a long process. After 15 years, unprecedented levels of consultations, introduction in two Parliaments, reviews conducted by two legislative committees, over 30 hours of review and debate, 100 witness testimonies and thousands more submissions, and several efforts by our government, it is a great honour to rise today at third reading of the bill. I look forward to seeing this bill move toward the Senate.
I thank the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, who have put a tremendous amount of work into crafting this bill and toward consultations to get us here today.
Modernizing our copyright regime is one of the key ways to create a dynamic, growing and creative digital economy in Canada that creates jobs, not only today, but for many years to come.
I remind members of the House who are thinking of opposing this bill of what Canadian businesses, entrepreneurs, creators, artists and users have said throughout this difficult process. They have said that they need modern legislation to reflect modern times and that they could no longer wait.
Our copyright laws were last substantially amended in 1997. Compared to the fast-paced world that we live in today, where we have new smart phones every year, we can watch movies on many devices with a screen and Internet connection, and where artists and creators can get their big break through social media, 1997 was a different world.
Indeed, for those of us with young children or teenagers at home, it is fascinating to see the ease with which they interact with digital media. That which we need to learn they have already internalized as part of the world in which they are growing up.
However, our copyright laws are simply not relevant or responsive enough for today's world. Whether it is the everyday online activities of the average Canadian, saving a favourite show on a personal video recorder, updating a music playlist on smart phones or putting a mash-up online, whether it is artists or creators looking to manage the release of their works online or protect their works from online infringements or rights holders looking to ensure that their investments are protected, all need modern copyright laws. This would ensure that the digital web, with its vast database of knowledge, incredible ability to connect people, and its limitless potential to create, innovate and grow, is fully accessible to all Canadians.
Since the current round of copyright reform began, we have seen a tremendous change in the digital world. Social media is everywhere. It is now easy to access copyrighted material online and to do so using hand-held devices. Now cloud computing is looking to completely upend old service models for data transfer and storage.
Over the last few years, many different views have been expressed on how to approach copyright reform. Quite simply, to move forward we need to establish a balance between what is necessary for consumers and what is good for creators. What will support users while protecting rights holders?
This bill finds a fair balance. It gives copyright owners the tools they need to combat piracy, including new provisions enabling them to sue in case of copyright violations.
Under the legislation, consumers will be able to record their favourite televisions shows to watch them later, transfer music from a CD to a digital device, and create digital mash-ups to post on social media sites.
Until this bill is passed, these activities are technically illegal. Consumers who do ordinary activities that are commonly accepted, such as the activities I just mentioned, are now in a grey area with respect to their copyright responsibilities.
The bill updates the act's exceptions to allow for the use of copyright-protected content for the purposes of satire and parody, according to the provisions of fair dealing. It also expands the notion of fair dealing and provides exceptions for educators to better use digital resources. This will improve teaching, research methods and educational content, through the use of the most recent technologies. It specifies the roles and responsibilities of Internet service providers and search engines.
The bill also supports private sector innovation by creating exceptions for reverse engineering, security testing, encryption research and technological processes. It provides legal protection for companies that, in the context of their operational model, rely on digital locks to protect their copyrighted content.
Finally, under this bill, rights and protections in Canada will be harmonized with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties signed by Canada in 1997. We will finally join the group of nations that have brought their copyright legislation into the digital era.
Taken together, the measures in the bill would help Canadian creators and innovators to compete and contribute to attracting foreign investment to Canada, while ensuring that consumers, educators and users would have new protections that would give them full opportunity to engage in their digital world.
As I described at the outset of my remarks, this House has debated the bill extensively, at second reading, during both legislative committees and during the report stage just two weeks ago.
Throughout this process, we have made a special effort to introduce technical amendments that preserve the balance and spirit of the bill.
At the report stage, many of my colleagues spoke eloquently about the nature and purpose of these amendments. In the minutes remaining, I would like to remind the House why we introduced these amendments. I would like to begin by discussing the three main amendments that will strengthen the anti-piracy tools available to copyright holders.
First, members will recall that the bill before us includes a provision enabling copyright holders to take legal action against individuals who knowingly violate copyright online, such as those operating websites that facilitate the illegal exchange of files. I am sure that everyone here agrees that such sites should be the first target of an anti-piracy campaign.
To ensure that this provision will be as effective as it is meant to be, we introduced an amendment clarifying that the provision will apply to online services primarily provided to violate copyright, even if they were not initially designed to do that. The idea is not to do indirectly what we cannot do directly. To sum up, regardless of the initial purpose of a site, if the site enables copyright violations, there will be consequences.
Second, copyright holders told us that they were worried about the fact that they would not be able to exact pre-established damages from these enablers. Websites that facilitate illegal file-sharing hurt copyright holders and often profit from their pirating activities. Accordingly, the bill was amended to ensure that copyright holders can protect themselves against these enablers and pre-established damages.
Lastly, the committee amended the bill to eliminate a potential loophole. We were told that the liability exemptions, which were intended to protect neutral intermediaries, could become a loophole that enablers could use to protect themselves against litigation. A technical change corrected the situation in order to ensure that enablers would not be able to use these exemptions to protect themselves against litigation.
I would now like to highlight some of the changes we made that will identify some of the exceptions included in the bill regarding innovation.
Specifically, the bill contains exceptions to support important innovative activities related to software reverse engineering, security testing and encryption research.
On that point, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Kitchener—Waterloo, for bringing this to our attention and working to better the act.
We were told that someone could use these exceptions to engage in illegal activities. The government therefore has made a balanced change that will ensure that people engaging in such activities cannot get around copyright requirements and that our honest innovators and researchers can pursue their important work, inventing new products and marketing their innovations. In addition to those changes, we have also proposed changes that will support non-profit agencies that work in the interest of people with visual impairments.
As far as consumers are concerned, the bill indeed includes an exception that allows non-profit organizations to create and export material adapted for people with perceptual impairments, under certain conditions, including a limitation based on the nationality of the author.
However, given that the author's nationality is not always easy to determine, there was concern that an organization might have to pay damages for errors made in good faith. An amendment to the bill responds to that concern and recognizes that in many cases, people do make honest mistakes.
In order to ensure that the non-profit organizations in question are not unduly penalized as a result of mistakes made in good faith, the amendment states that, in such circumstances, an injunction is the only remedy that the owner of the copyright in the work has against the organization.
With regard to intermediaries, Internet service providers and search engines play an important role in exchanging ideas and information. They make it easier to access the online world and help us to sort through a vast quantity of information.
At committee, many intermediaries informed us of the unintended consequences that the provisions of the bill could have on them. In order to protect these groups from such unintended consequences, we proposed amendments that take their concerns into account without affecting the bill's balanced approach. For example, the bill requires Internet service providers to forward to subscribers the notifications of claimed infringement they receive from copyright owners.
This provision was amended to require Internet service providers to forward notifications of claimed infringement “as soon as feasible” rather than “without delay” as it said in the original version of the bill. Furthermore, it is important that the intermediaries are not held responsible when they play a neutral role. By establishing an exemption for real network intermediaries and new technologically neutral exceptions for consumers' daily activities, Bill C-11 paves the way for an increased use of digital technologies, such as cloud computing, networked personal video recording and other services that have yet to be invented.
A service that meets the conditions of the exemption will not result in liability under copyright law. Although intermediaries must assume clear responsibilities in the fight against online piracy, we also have to ensure that the requirements imposed on them are not unrealistic or too cumbersome.
The government firmly believes that the provisions of Bill C-11 strike such a balance.
I think all members would agree that this House has debated and consulted for some time now on how to strike an appropriate balance while establishing a modern, responsive copyright regime in Canada. These amendments are the latest demonstration of our government's commitment to strike the right balance between rights holders and users.
We recognize that copyright in the digital age will always evolve and that efforts to maintain balance are ongoing, whether a bill is before us or not. Such is the complexity of copyright and the many views on what is an ideal regime.
Our job as government is to ensure that the bill strikes the right balance, that it promotes innovation, investment and job growth in the Canadian digital economy while also preserving the rights of Canadians to use legally purchased copyright material in new and creative ways. For that reason, the bill has a built in five-year review so it does not fall this far behind again.
I hope hon. members will agree with me that the bill should be passed as amended and moved quickly to the Senate for debate and review.
This bill will bring Canadian copyright into the digital age. It is long overdue.
The faster it moves through Parliament, the faster it will benefit creators, the faster we can adopt measures to fight piracy, the faster search engines and Internet service providers will have clearly defined roles and responsibilities with respect to copyright, and the faster users will be able to go about their daily non-infringing activities with confidence and full knowledge of the practices permitted under the law.
We can no longer put off passing this bill. It is time to move forward.