Madam Speaker, as we know, copyright is a complicated issue and features competing demands from different stakeholders. We have artistic, academic, business, technology and consumer rights that we need to balance.
I am pleased to speak to this bill because just a few years ago I did not actually know very much about copyright. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion and a movie viewing. I was invited by some Dalhousie law students and some Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, or NSCAD, students, law students and art students working together to shed some light on the issue of copyright.
They had a screening of RiP, a remix manifesto, which is a great Canadian documentary featuring the artist Girl Talk. Girl Talk does a lot of work doing mash-ups, putting different songs together to create a completely new song. There is a big question around whether Girl Talk actually violates copyright law. I threatened to do a mash-up in the House today but I will leave that to Girl Talk.
However, I thank the students at Dalhousie and NSCAD for holding that panel because it enlightened me on the issue of copyright and made me realize how important an issue it is to the riding of Halifax, as well as across Canada.
This bill, as we know, was brought forward in the last Parliament as Bill C-32. Despite a lot of feedback from stakeholders and community organizations that the bill did not strike the right balance, it has been reintroduced and it is exactly the same bill as before. The NDP believes that copyright legislation needs to be modernized and that it is long overdue, but this bill has a lot of errors, some glaring omissions and, in certain cases, it actually creates problems where none existed before. The NDP will work to try to amend this bill to ensure it reflects the best interests of Canadians.
The NDP believes that copyright laws in Canada can balance the rights of creators and their right to be fairly compensated for their work, and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to copyrighted materials. We will look for all possible amendments. This is what committee is for. It is to bring people forward, talk about what the solutions are and to look at amendments. We will look at all possible amendments to the bill that will create a fair royalty system for creators because, as it stands, this bill would wipe away millions of dollars in revenues for artists.
As I mentioned, the constituents of Halifax have a lot at stake with this bill. First, there is a very high student population in Halifax. Students are the creators and owners of copyrighted material in their articles, essays and works of art, but, at the same time, they are also consumers. In order to study and learn, students need access to the copyrighted works of others.
I met with the Canadian Federation of Students and it pointed out that this three part perspective of use, creation and ownership of copyright gives students special credibility when it comes to the struggle for fair and balanced copyright law. I met with CFS representatives and they have reinforced to me how much any copyright reform needs to strike that balance. It needs to be fair and balanced.
With so many students in my riding, it follows that we have libraries. We have law libraries, medical libraries, archives, university and college libraries and public libraries. I have met with many librarians and they have told me that they need balance. If we are looking at this issue, no matter where in Nova Scotia or Canada we are, balance is needed. Most of the librarians I have spoken to have pointed out the fact that this legislation does not get the balance right, especially when it comes to digital locks.
As we have heard in the House, the bill would create powerful new anti-circumvention rights for content owners. I want to take a second to point out that I said “content owners”. That does not necessarily mean creators or artists. It means owners. Often the owners are not the creators or the artists themselves.
The rights for owners prevent access to copyrighted works and they can be backed with fines of up to $1 million and five years in jail. That would create a situation where digital locks could actually supersede all other rights, including charter rights. If we look at people being able to modify the way they can see material because they have a visual impairment, that penalty would impact someone who has an actual charter right to view this material, which is not what anyone would intend to happen.
What does this mean? It means there is a very real danger for consumers that they could be prohibited from using content that they have already paid for. Sometimes the format just needs to be changed. It has already been paid for. There should not be anything wrong with that.
The legislation is really important to people in Halifax because my community is rich with artists and creators. We are home to movie and television studios. We have video game developers, song writers and playwrights, authors, designers, sculptors and dancers. It is really incredible to think that there could be that much talent in one small city, but we are a hub of creativity and innovation.
In being elected by those people, I have been sent to the House to protect their rights, to protect their ownership interests in their creations and to stand up for fair compensation for their work. We will bring forward all possible amendments to the bill to create a fair royalty system for artists because, as the bill stands now, it would wipe away millions of dollars in potential revenue for artists.
The bill would grant a range of new access privileges but it would not increase opportunities for remuneration for artists. This new playing field would profoundly affect the ability of artists to survive, something that all of us have seen first-hand in our ridings. Artists and creators make our communities worth living in. They deserve access to fair compensation opportunities for their work. Without those opportunities, we risk destroying our creative communities altogether.
In the bill, there is a long and complicated list of exceptions, and I do not think it adequately recognizes creators' rights. In fact, it would create new ways for consumers to access copyrighted content. We talk about balance and we are creating new ways but at the same time we are not providing new avenues to remunerate creators for their work.
The no compromise provisions in the bill would provide sweeping powers to rights holders that would supersede all other rights. If enacted, the bill would ensure that artists could not access their work despite the fact that they own it. In the example that has been shared with me, if people are studying abroad or doing long distance education they cannot keep those materials. I would go so far as to say that it is draconian and inappropriate to ask people to destroy class notes within 30 days of the course ending. This is knowledge they have learned. They have paid for this material. It seems absurd that they would need to destroy them at the end of the course.
What are the propositions? We really need to come together at committee and hear from people who are impacted by this legislation. There is a lot of opportunity to do some very good work and modernize the bill while balancing the rights of creators and the public.
I look forward to the bill getting to committee to see what happens. I am very hopeful that the Conservatives are listening and that they will take feedback into account and work with the NDP to bring forward good, solid amendments that will benefit everyone.