Madam Speaker, I am very honoured to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party today representing the people of the great region of Timmins—James Bay. It is my honour every day to serve them, respect their issues as constituents and bring their concerns into this venerable House of debate and legislation.
Copyright is a crucial issue for Canadians. We need to move forward with a regime of copyright reform that will bring Canada into the 21st century.
The word “copyright”, the right to make a copy, was created out of English common law. I like the alternate emphasis in French law, which is “le droit d'auteur”, the right of the author. These are both very similar perspectives, but there is a different balance in the equilibrium of it. It respects an interesting balance of how we develop culture within Canada in terms of the right to make a copy. Who has the right to make a copy and profit from it? That is a “copy right” that goes back to the book wars of the 1700s and 1800s in England as to who actually could control a work and the right of authors to be remunerated for their work and to have some say as to how their work is exploited.
This is a debate that went on long before the digital age and the Internet. The balance of the right to make a copy is not a property right. It has been argued over the years, and copyright lobbyists today will talk about their property and their right to protect their property. They will say they want to put a lock on the door to keep people from going in or to make them pay to go in, and that it is their property.
However, it is not a piece of property. Creativity is not a piece of personal property. It has been defined in Parliament and the courts.
I refer back to the 1841 debates where Lord Macaulay, who was a writer himself who had been ripped off and plagiarized many times over the years, fought within the English Parliament to separate the idea that it was personal property that copyright was created to protect. Macaulay at that time imitated much of the modern debate. He even talked about the pirates of that generation, the “knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men”, the people who would unfairly infringe on the copyright of the author and not pay for it as they should.
At the same time, he also called copyright an evil. It is interesting that he said that. He called it a necessary evil. He said that copyright should only exist for a period to ensure the author was paid, but it could not be used to interfere with the larger development of society. He said that the creation of ideas is not something that can be compartmentalized: that when a work is created, it is brought into a larger frame. Parliamentarians around the world have been trying to find the balance between people's right of access to new ideas and the right of remuneration of the creator. Those are the two fundamental balances, and they are the balanced principles that the New Democratic Party has articulated throughout these debates for the last number of years. The two fundamental principles in the digital age are the same as they were back in the 1800s in the book wars: ease of access and the right to remuneration.
We talk about le droit d'auteur and copyright, but this bill does not deal with either of those rights. It is about corporate right, which is different from copyright. The fundamental problems with this bill are the provisions on digital locks, which I will get to in a moment, and the direct attack on the collective licensing regime that has existed for artists in Canada for the last number of decades. The right of artists to have remuneration for their copies is under direct attack in point after point in this bill. I will go through the areas wherein the right of artists to be paid is being taken away and replaced by a false right, which is the right to lock down content.
The Conservatives are good about locks. They understand prisons and locks. We heard the minister say the lock will restore the market. I spent many years in the music industry and I never met an artist could feed his or her family on a lock. They feed their families on the right they have as artists to be remunerated through their mechanical royalties, television rights and book rights, and they fight very hard for mechanical royalties. It is a small amount of return for their efforts, but that return is crucial, so when the government comes along and would strike out, as it does in this bill, the mechanical royalty rights that have been guaranteed under the Copyright Board of Canada, it is depriving artists of the millions of dollars that actually make it possible to carry on the works.
There is no balance there, and this is what we need to restore a good copyright regime in Canada: a balance of the rights of artists and the rights of access.
The New Democratic Party has spoken out time after time in this House on the need for a long-term digital strategy so that Canadians can fully participate as digital citizens in a digital public commons. A public commons is a place where people, not just from Canada but from around the world, can exchange ideas and art.
It is certainly fraught with many problems. We have seen that with downloading and with piracy, but it is essential for cultural development in the 21st century that Canada have a long-term digital strategy. We in the New Democratic Party see the need to codify net neutrality so that the large telecom giants and BDUs are not deciding for us what kind of content we can access.
We see establishing a national benchmark for broadband access, including in this latest spectrum auction. What provisions are there to ensure that the regions of rural Quebec and northern Alberta are given the same chance to develop in a digital economy as downtown Montreal or Vancouver? A broadband strategy that looks at the totality of our country is essential. This is the new national dream that we need to be pushing. We have heard dead silence over on the government benches in terms of a digital strategy for broadband, but for the New Democratic Party it is essential. We want to see within the programs of the Canadian government support for the enhancement of digital cultural products, because more products are moving away from the old models. Those old models worked well for us in the 1970s, but this is 2011, and we need to move toward that.
The other crucial element, which we have asked for again and again, is a copyright reform that will address the needs of Canadian consumers, artists and students in a digital realm.
Does this bill do that? No. In its present form, it does not.
What we need to do is to restore the balance. As it stands now, we cannot support this bill, but we are willing to work with the Conservative government to get this bill to committee. If we can make the vital technical changes to ensure that balance, then we are more than willing to bring our efforts as a party and to work with the government to ensure that this bill restores the balance.
I will grant that the government made efforts in Bill C-61, which was a dog's breakfast. Bill C-61 died as soon as it was born because it was the ugliest child of the backroom lobbyists, and they could never sell that publicly. Bill C-32 shows that it is obvious the Conservatives heard there were problems with Bill C-61, but we are not there yet. We have to see whether or not the government is willing to move forward.
I would like to talk about some of the major problems with this bill. There are three areas that are fundamentally flawed: the issue of the attack on collective licensing and the removal of artists' rights to be remunerated for their work, the issue of education, and the issue of digital locks.
I asked my hon. colleague, the heritage minister, about the fundamental problem with the education provisions, which is if students in Fort Albany on the James Bay coast want to take a college course, they would be obliged to burn their class notes after 30 days. As well, college professors who were teaching long-distance education courses to students in northern Canada would have to destroy all their class notes after 30 days because that is an infringement on copyright.
That requirement would mean the creation of a modern book-burning regime. As well, we would see the creation of a two-tier set of rights. There is one set of rights in the analog and paper world that would allow students going to school in Toronto to keep their class notes. Those class notes are important, because year after year students keep them to build a body of work towards getting their degree. However, students on a northern reserve trying to get long-distance learning do not have that same set of rights. They have a lesser set of rights.
I was absolutely shocked to hear from my hon. colleague, the heritage minister, where this crazy idea of modern book-burning had come from, this idea that after 30 days students would not have the right to their own class notes. He said it had come from the ministers of education.
I have met with the ministers of education many times, as well as people throughout the education sector, and I have never heard anyone say that the best idea for the digital development of Canadians is to make kids or adults going back to school burn their notes after 30 days.
That provision is unacceptable. It is backward thinking and it is needless. It is not protecting any business model, but it would have a major detrimental effect, so in terms of education, that provision has to go.
In terms of the digital locks, there is an important right of creators to protect their work. We can think of the amazing work of the gaming industry in Canada, particularly in Montreal, and the millions of dollars that have been invested in creating the games that people all over the world play. We want to make sure those products are not ripped off in their entirety and that business model made to disappear, so there is a provision for digital locks to protect those works.
However, the digital lock cannot override the rights that Parliament guarantees.
This legislation is going to create certain rights. An example is the right to extract the work for satire, parody, or political commentary. We all support that right, yet if there is a digital lock, we would not have that right. We have the right to access a work and move it into a new format; we are told we can do that, but if there is a digital lock on it, we cannot.
My colleague, the heritage minister, said that if we do not like the lock, then we do not have to buy the product. That is kind of a bullish way of talking. I wonder if this guy has lived in the digital world at all. How many times do people buy a product in a store? They will get it online, so if we make restrictive provisions with digital locks, people will just bypass them. That is problematic.
It is important that Canadians believe in the copyright regime, because the copyright regime is fundamental to creating a strong economy and a strong creative community. However, I would say there is not a six-year-old kid in this country who does not know how to break a digital lock, and people would break them with impunity. Should they be criminalized for that? I do not think so.
We need to look at why Canada is putting restrictive digital lock provisions in place. Under the U.S. DMCA, which is the most backward-looking copyright legislation on the planet, even the Americans have recognized the right to extract certain works.
I will give an example to show just how boneheaded the digital lock provisions are. If a journalist on the evening news wanted to show an excerpt from a movie that was being discussed or debated, the journalist would not be able to show that excerpt because he or she would have to break the digital lock to do it. The journalist would have to show a picture of the screen. Can anyone explain to me how having a shot of the screen somehow protects the copyright and the artist when a journalist is trying to extract it for a program?
It is the same with the documentary film producers. The documentary film community is very concerned about the digital lock provisions, because they would impede their ability to extract, which is their legal right under the bill. They have all those legal rights, but if a digital lock is placed on it, they would no longer have those rights.
The government is saying that the legislation of Canada should allow U.S. multinational corporate interests to decide what rights we have. If they decide we have no rights, then we have no rights. It does not matter what the bill says or what the House of Commons says; the government is saying that it would hand over all those rights to corporate interests. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is flawed.
It is also flawed in terms of our obligations under the WIPO treaties. We are signatories to international conventions about intellectual property and we can look at how other countries have dealt with the digital lock provisions. In particular, as I said earlier, sections 10 and 11 of the WIPO copyright treaty states clearly that limitations to technological protection measures may be supported as long as they “do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work”. That is within the WIPO treaty.
I remember that my Conservative colleagues used to always say that they had to put the digital lock provisions on to be WIPO compliant. However, WIPO itself is saying that countries could decide what those exemptions and limitations are, the limitations being the technological protection measures and the exemptions being the rights that consumers and students should be able to employ.
All those rights are erased under this, so it actually puts us at a disadvantage in comparison to many of our European competitors, which have much more nuanced provisions when it comes to the digital lock provisions.
As it stands now, we have asked a fairly straightforward question on whether the government would be willing to work with us to amend the digital lock provisions to ensure that the normal rights that Canadians should legally be able to access would not be overridden by corporate rights. It has said no. Unless the digital lock provisions change, the New Democratic Party will not support the bill because it is not balanced.
We need to change the education provisions. We need to change the digital lock provisions. We also need to change the issue that the bill, time and time again, attacks the existing collective royalty rights of Canadian artists and that will not build the kind of cultural regime that we need in our country.
We have come through some of the most bizarre copyright wars of recent memory. In the United States we have seen the $30,000 to $50,000-plus lawsuits against kids. The large Sony, Warner, EMI companies are going after kids who download Hannah Montana songs, hitting them up with million dollar lawsuits. We have seen what is called the John Doe mass lawsuits, extending across the United States and moving into Canada, if individuals downloaded the movie Hurt Locker. Mass emails are being sent, suing people based on their IP addresses.
That model of attacking consumers is probably the most dead-end business model on the planet. I was so pleased to hear Canadian artists, all the great Canadian groups that came together under the Creative Music Coalition, say that they did not sue their fans, that their fans were what made them survive. The American model of suing kids, grandmothers and even dead people for copyright infringement is a dead-end model.
We have heard all this talk about piracy and the pirate bays. It is interesting that the very first pirate bay was in Los Angeles. We think Hollywood is the natural place to make movies, but it is not. Why, in God's name, when the vast majority of the U.S. population lives on the eastern seaboard, would filmmakers go to the dessert outside Hollywood to make films? It was because they were escaping the copyright rules of the day. They could not make movies in the eastern United States because Edison controlled the copyright on the camera. However, there was not the same copyright rules in California, so Hollywood was the original pirate bay.
It went on through the years when the VHS came out. Jack Valenti, the defender of the Hollywood industry, called the VHS the Boston strangler of movies and begged Congress to shut it down, to make it illegal because VHS was a threat.
The big pirate company at that time was Sony, which is suing people all over the planet for corporate infringement now, because it had created the VHS player with the record button.
At that time there was a big corporate fight and everybody said that the VHS would destroy Hollywood. However, as you know, Madam Speaker, and you are very young but you were probably right in your prime when the VHS came out, people started to rent movies, something they would never have thought about before because they would go to the theatre. Now they were able to rent movies, so this pirate activity, which Hollywood tried to shut down, became such a lucrative new business that it did not have to bother releasing movies to theatres. It could just release it to VHS and eventually on to DVD.