Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.
Without question, copyright is a very complex issue, and on that I think we can all agree. It is required as a balancing of competing demands of multiple interests.
At the root of this issue is the fact of unrelenting technological advancements. Therefore, I rise today to speak to this issue with some trepidation. I am not a very technologically sophisticated kind of guy. In the race to keep up with technology, my 15-year-old blew past me some years ago and has disappeared over the horizon. My 12-year-old has lapped me several times and now I simply marvel at my 7-year-old's facility with all technological matters. It seems like it is intuitive and, to extend or abuse the metaphor, I hear his footsteps right behind me.
My challenges with technology notwithstanding, I do realize and recognize that there are great possibilities and new horizons that open up to us on our current trajectory of technological development. These possibilities emerge from our ability to explore vistas that were not available or accessible to us before. Much of the broadening of horizons comes from our greater exposure to and easier access to the arts of all kinds, but performing arts in particular.
From this we all benefit. It gives us as Canadians a better sense of each other across this vast land with such tremendous historical, cultural and linguistic diversity. Collectively, it gives us a greater sense of our national identity and our place in this world. It gives us, as Canadians, an existential foothold. The reverse is also true. It gives others around the world a better sense of who we are as Canadians. For all of this, we should be thankful and understand ourselves to be in the debt of our Canadian artists. One asks where our creative Canadians are represented in the bill. Where in the bill do we acknowledge their role in our lives and acknowledge our debt to them?
In the answers to these questions, we discover the fatal flaw of the bill because artists are locked behind the digital locks that prevent the sharing of product and the opportunity to support themselves economically. What our artists need and what we all need is to take advantage of our technology to enhance access to creative products hand-in-glove with enhancing compensatory opportunities for our artists. The value of proceeding in this fashion is not just cultural but economic.
A 2008 Conference Board of Canada report found that the cultural sector generated approximately $25 billion in taxes for all levels of government in 2007. This amount is more than three times higher than the $7.9 billion that was spent by these governments on culture in that year.
The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, better known as ACTRA to many, estimates that Canada's arts and culture industries contribute $85 billion per year to our country's economy. This works out to roughly 7.4% of Canada's gross national income and 1.1 million jobs, equivalent to about 6% of Canada's labour force.
In stark contrast, the average earnings of a Canadian artist in 2009-10 was just $12,900, well below the poverty line. Far too many people in Canada's arts and culture community have no choice but to subsist, depending on the generosity of friends and family to get by. They are relegated to a state of quasi-survival that does not reflect the tremendous economic and cultural benefits that we all reap from their talents.
What we should be doing in the House is protecting the creator by providing him or her with a way to make a living and at the same time protecting the ability of Canadians, often called consumers in the language of this debate, to enjoy the creative product of Canadian artists. Instead, the bill seems to privilege or enhance the economic and legal position of content owners, not creators and certainly not consumers, because the bill does nothing to deal with the most troublesome issue confronting us under the present copyright regime, which is the digital lock.
Behind that lock is the artist's work with limited ability to get out. On the other side is the consumer who is limited by his or her ability to access the creative product. We should be facilitating cultural and economic exchange between creators and consumers, not placing barriers between them that will benefit almost exclusively large foreign content owners. It is backward and it needs to be reworked.
On the same theme that I began with, the democratic possibilities of new technology, I would like to talk about the implications of this bill for education. Our new technologies carry with them this tremendous opportunity for providing greater access to education by making knowledge and information available to a much larger audience. This technology is an equalizer of educational opportunity, not by limiting opportunity for some but by raising it for all.
However, this bill, again primarily through the mechanism of the digital lock, places in front of students obstacles to their education. This is most obvious in the case of distance education. It should be noted that distance education or learning is an important issue, not just because of the sheer vastness of Canada but also because of the intensity with which so many of us live our lives and the convenience that distance education offers. It is also a huge issue because of the need for so many Canadians to pursue continuous education to keep up with new technologies and shifting labour market demands.
This bill would require that digital copies of educational materials for the purpose of study be made to self-destruct within five days. This would pose obvious problems for those pursuing long distance education, among others. In the case of long distance education, people in a remote isolated community would have to destroy their course materials within 30 days after the conclusion of the course of study. This is hardly an appropriate use of copyright law as these people would be effectively prohibited from having future access for reference or other purposes to content they have already paid for.
Further, with this bill, as presented, digital locks supersede other rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as changing format in the case of a perceptual disability. Again I would argue that this is hardly an appropriate use of copyright law.
Under the terms of this bill, any removal of digital lock information would come with punitive fines of up to $1 million and five years in jail. This measure is based directly on the United States' controversial digital millennium copyright act model.
In conclusion, I will point to some principles that should not change over time and should inform copyright legislation. One is that we need to value, treasure and protect the creative people among us. Their gifts are gifts for all of us and this needs to be recognized socially but, and very important, materially with appropriate remuneration for those in the arts and cultural community.
A second such principle is that education is critically important to us individually and collectively and, in all that we do, we should enhance access to education not limit it.
A third and very serious principle is the inviolable rights afforded to all Canadians by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On all three of those principles, this bill fails and requires, as a result, significant amendment.