An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance or repair)

Sponsor

Bryan May  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (House), as of June 2, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-272.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Copyright Act in order to allow the circumvention of a technological protection measure in a computer program if the circumvention is solely for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of a product in which the program is embedded. It also allows the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, renting and provision of technologies, devices or components used for diagnosis, maintenance or repair of such products.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 2, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-272, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance or repair)

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, whenever I have had the opportunity to address the House in person or from Longueuil over the past weeks and months, I have typically been unhappy about something. There are all kinds of issues and problems I am not happy about, things we are not moving fast enough on, such as housing, health and seniors. Today, however, I am relatively happy.

I think the bill before us now, Bill C-272, is a step in the right direction. I am pleased to speak to this issue this morning because it is kind of a personal one for me. I am an actor, so copyright issues are important to me. I am here to say that I support the bill because improper use of the Copyright Act to prevent people from fixing electronic devices is immoral. It is also expensive for consumers and has a terrible environmental impact.

Bill C-272 would amend the Copyright Act to ensure that it “does not apply to a person who circumvents a technological protection measure that controls access to a computer program if the person does so for the sole purpose of diagnosing, maintaining or repairing a product in which the computer program is embedded”. What immediately spring to mind are telephones, lawnmowers, washing machines, and even tractors.

The Copyright Act is intended to allow creators to earn a living from their art and to protect their work from being copied or used in ways they do not approve of. It is important legislation. As I said before, as an actor, I am keenly aware of the need to protect both artists' revenue streams and their rights to their creations, that is to say their art.

Curiously, the Copyright Act also applies to those who write computer programs, particularly when the work is protected from pirates by what is called a digital lock. The law prohibits breaking that lock to reproduce or alter the work without the consent of the copyright owner, which is good. However, since the Copyright Act also covers software, businesses have decided to use it to keep repair professionals from breaking the digital lock. That effectively renders many objects irreparable.

The vast majority of today's products have electronic components, so of course we see this everywhere, but many companies have included a digital device to prevent repairs from being made, unless the company has expressly provided the codes. According to those manufacturers, a repair person who overrides a digital lock to fix a phone, car or tractor without the company's consent is committing an offence under the Copyright Act. This is making it impossible to fix items that we own when they are broken or not working properly, unless we go to one of the company's dealers, and even then, the company has to agree to fix the item.

Companies often refuse to repair their own products, just so customers are forced to purchase new ones. This is what is known as planned obsolescence, which is a terrible source of waste and above all totally unnecessary. It is costly for consumers and obviously disastrous for the environment.

Take Apple as an example. That company has patented all the parts of its phones to ensure that no one can produce replacement parts. That is no joke. It has also locked its operating software to prevent repair people from circumventing the locks, which would make them subject to prosecution under the Copyright Act.

If a consumer has a defective phone, the only way to get it fixed is to take it to an Apple store or an authorized Apple retailer. Even then, the company will fix only a very limited number of parts.

Consumers are often told their phone cannot be repaired and must be replaced because Apple opts not to do the repairs knowing that the consumer does not have the right to do repairs the company refuses to do. It is a kind of repair monopoly.

If a consumer has a problem with their smart phone and chooses to have an unauthorized person open it up to diagnose the problem, the consumer can no longer have it repaired and cannot even have it replaced under warranty because they had it repaired by someone else and that violates Apple's conditions. It is fascinating.

Incidentally, in the last quarter, Apple made a net profit of $28 billion. Members should think about that for a second because planned obsolescence is a particularly unethical concept. The company is manufacturing a product knowing in advance that the product will ultimately break. The company then makes sure that the product cannot be repaired so that it can sell more of the product and make more money. That is unacceptable.

Companies are preventing consumers from repairing their items themselves and from paying someone a small amount of money to repair a product that costs hundreds of dollars. All of that is done with the goal of filling order books and lining shareholders' pockets. This aspect of consumer society is simply not compatible with environmental protection. In a finite world, we cannot encourage infinite consumption that cannot even be mitigated by re-use or repair. The need, and I want to emphasize that word, to protect the environment for future generations makes all acts and initiatives important, whether they be big or small.

This bill does not seek for the elimination of fossil fuels or the oil sands, nor does it seek the adoption of measures that would ensure that greenhouse gas reduction targets are met, even if those targets keep changing. However, that does not change the fact that this is an important bill. Every action truly counts. I encourage my colleagues to quickly pass this bill.

As I said, every action counts no matter how small. I would like to take a minute to remind my colleagues that we can do much more to combat planned obsolescence. For example, across the Atlantic, the European Union introduced a directive requiring its member countries to amend their laws to classify products according to their ability to be repaired. Since January, products in France have been labelled with their repairability index.

For the most part, electronics such as smart phones, computers and televisions, as well as household appliances such as washers, dryers or lawnmowers now display a score out of 10. This rating lets consumers know what options are available to them when the time comes to have a particular item repaired.

Such a measure obviously helps consumers make informed choices. It also makes businesses want to compete in an effort to manufacture more sustainable products, since consumers will finally know the sustainability of the product they are buying. Within the next two years, other European countries are also set to adopt measures similar to the ones taken by France.

The bill to amend the Copyright Act will address a significant loophole and resolve part of the problem of planned obsolescence. We need to do more. Solutions such as the one I just spoke about already exist. Planned obsolescence is a major problem in our society because it creates a lot of pollution. It is very important that we tackle greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore the bill is important.

According to ABI Research, 720 million cellphones are thrown away every year around the world. While people everywhere purchase their first cellphones, about 60% of the 1.2 billion units sold annually are purchased to replace discarded phones. If we do nothing to address planned obsolescence, just imagine what will happen when everyone or almost everyone has a smart phone.

Every year, between 30 million and 55 million tonnes of electronic waste is buried. That is disastrous. As a point of comparison, 55 million tonnes of electronic waste is more than 1,000 times the weight of the Titanic. That is unacceptable.

Therefore, it is urgent that we take action to protect our planet. Almost everyone agrees on that. We cannot go on this way. Let us leave cleaner air, clearer water and more fertile soil and not an immense mountain of waste to our children and grandchildren.

I invite my colleagues to quickly pass the bill. However, we must not stop there. We can do much more. For the future of humanity, every small step must immediately be followed by another.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to virtually rise in the House today to speak on this important bill. However, before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the tragic news we heard last week of the discovery of 215 children's bodies at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. I am saddened by this discovery and my prayers are with the Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation, as well as all indigenous communities across Canada.

I will now speak to the bill at hand. The increased pace of digitization of our economy and the use of software in more of our everyday consumer products has transformed the ownership and control consumers have over many purchases. Consumer products from kitchen appliances to cars, which were once only mechanical and electrical, are now embedded with software. These technological transformations can make products more useful and responsive for consumers. However, the software that controls the components of the products is protected by copyright. This reduces some abilities consumers have traditionally exercised, including the ability to repair their own purchases when they malfunction.

The Copyright Act provides protection for software to encourage innovation and investment. It further grants copyright holders the ability to use technological protection measures, also called TPMs or digital locks, to protect their software from access, unauthorized copying and infringement. TPMs were originally promoted as a tool to encourage creative industries to offer their work in digital form. TPMs are now being used broadly across the economy to protect software incorporated within products in industries such as manufacturing. While I believe in the importance of legal protection for TPMs, I also believe that the Copyright Act should provide exceptions to these protections when they harm the legitimate interest of consumers to maintain and repair the products they own.

Under current copyright law, it would be a violation for someone to circumvent a product's TPM for the purpose of repairing it. The Copyright Act already includes exceptions that permit TPM circumvention for a number of purposes, including ensuring interoperability of computer programs, conducting encryption research or unlocking a cellphone to change telecommunications services, to name a few examples. I believe adding a new exception to the Copyright Act permitting the circumvention of TPMs for the purpose of repair only makes sense.

The recent parliamentary review of the Copyright Act drew attention to this situation. Recommendation 19 of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology’s 2019 report, entitled “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act”, calls for measures to permit Canadians to circumvent TPMs allowed under copyright law for the purpose of repairing, maintaining and adapting their software-embedded devices. Facilitating repair is a multi-faceted public policy challenge that might require additional legislative action. However, I support referring Bill C-272 to committee because it proposes to address the one issue that is clearly in federal jurisdiction: the Copyright Act.

Bill C-272 would not solve all the issues faced by consumers regarding repair, but it is an important step in the right direction. I will vote in favour of referring Bill C-272 to committee because I believe that removing the copyright-related restriction to repair will make any further measures introduced by provinces and territories to support repair more effective.

If Bill C-272 is referred to committee for further study, we as parliamentarians must work to ensure that all information and evidence comes to light on the issue of copyright and repair. This evidence would ensure that the TPM exception for the purpose of repair that Parliament ultimately decides on will be the best possible option. It will be an exception that balances all the varied considerations and interests that come into play on this issue.

We must ensure the exception serves the interests of Canadians who want more choice and ease to make repairs, but we must also ensure the exception has the appropriate safeguards to preserve the safety and security of electronic products.

Removing the copyright-related restriction to repair may enhance competition for independent repair shops. To support the post-pandemic economic recovery, we need any boost to entrepreneurship we can get.

Making it easier for consumers to repair their products, as proposed by Bill C-272, could also contribute to reducing electronic waste. A United Nations report found Canada was responsible for 725,000 tonnes of electronic waste in 2014.

A study commissioned by Open Media found that 75% of Canadians have discarded or replaced a broken device because of a repairable issue. That study also found that one-third of respondents claimed that the repair of the product was prohibitively expensive, forcing them to buy a new one.

All electronic waste is not because of the copyright law; however, a TPM exception such as the one proposed in Bill C-272 would facilitate the repair of products as opposed to their replacement. This could only help toward an overall reduction in electronic waste produced in Canada.

Finally, it is my hope that a TPM exception for the purpose of repair, such as the one proposed in Bill C-272, would help historically marginalized groups to gain better access to repair services and have more repair services become available in rural and remote communities.

In closing, I am in favour of this important change to the Copyright Act in support of repair. I look forward to further discussion on this to make sure we do not introduce unintended consequences at the same time.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-272. When I saw that this bill had to do with the Copyright Act, I figured I was right in my element. As a songwriter and composer, I speak on behalf of thousands of my peers, and I was pleased to see that we would finally be able to debate the importance of creators, who, in a way, are such a big part of our everyday lives. They entertain our minds and hearts, inspire our dreams and stir our emotions, and challenge us to reflect on our very existence. They create the music that fills our ears with words and messages that influence our priorities and social choices. They play a huge part in how our future progresses and unfolds. I would be remiss if I had not at least mentioned this.

When I read this very important bill introduced by our colleague opposite, I obviously thought it was about something else. It is not at all what I had imagined. This bill does not have to do with protecting copyrights for songs, theatre, music, writing or productions. I want my artist and creator friends to know that I will fight for that as well, because there is a lot to be done in this area, and our creators are suffering financially because this government has been slow to introduce legislation.

That said, let us get back to the bill. The purpose of the Copyright Act is to allow creators to earn a living from their art and to protect their work from unauthorized copying or use. This may come as a surprise, but, as I just recently learned, the Copyright Act also applies to software developers, which brings me to this very important Bill C-272.

Contrary to the fundamental principle of copyright law related to author remuneration further to universal usage, as is the case with songs, for example, the act does not apply when it comes to a refrigerator, washer or dryer or to computer equipment.

The bill therefore proposes that the person circumventing the technological protection measure controlling access to a computer program for the sole purpose of diagnosing, servicing or repairing a product into which it is embedded should not be subject to the current Copyright Act and should not be guilty. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. We appeal to common sense, and when something makes sense, we get behind it.

Incidentally, major nuances in the current act absolutely must be considered and corrected as well. When a work is protected from piracy with a digital lock, the act prohibits breaking the lock to reproduce or alter the work without the copyright owner's consent, and that is fine.

The problem is that software is also covered by the Copyright Act, so many companies use the act to prevent repair people from breaking the digital lock, and that makes many devices irreparable. When a consumer product contains electronic components, as most products do these days, many companies include a digital mechanism to prevent repairs from being made unless the company has expressly provided the codes. According to these manufacturers, a repair person who overrides a digital lock to fix a phone, car or tractor without the company's consent commits an offence under the Copyright Act. I do not even know what to say.

That makes it impossible to fix an item that belongs to us, is broken or is not working properly, unless we go to one of the company's dealers. Another problem is that the company has to agree to repair the product. They often refuse, which forces us to buy a new product. That is called planned obsolescence, and it is a terrible financial and environmental waste. It is environmentally disastrous.

Let us look back in time. I do not have to look very far to find examples. My family never wanted for anything. My parents fell in love with a big house by the river and transformed it into a small hotel. To do this, my father and grandfather had to sell their schooner, with some regret, to finance the purchase of the house. I am sharing this story because it allows us to gain a better understanding of what we are talking about today. Times have changed, but have they done so for the better? Not always.

Before running the hotel, my father and grandfather were schooner captains on the St. Lawrence. The role of these invaluable schooners was to deliver goods to the north shore, since, at the time, roads and railroads had not yet reached this area. For northerners, as my father called them, these schooners, these boats that people built and owned, were of the utmost importance. On the St. Lawrence, many of these schooners sailed from Montreal to Sept-Îles, and from there on all the way to St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Their arrival was quite the event, because everyone awaited the delivery of some coveted item, be it sugar or flour, farming implements to ensure their food self-sufficiency or, of course, a refrigerator, a toaster or an electric stove, for those villagers who were lucky enough to have electricity.

It was therefore essential that all of these appliances have a long life expectancy, since they were not easy to get and supply was never assured. I think members would be happy to see a nice picture of some schooners. There is a bit of a glare, but I believe—

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

It is timeless, Madam Speaker. I apologize. Compare this situation to what is happening today.

When I was just six, I remember my father buying a used dishwasher for our small hotel. He told me that he was buying a second identical one that was out of order so he could repair the first one if it ever broke down. I will not share how old I am, but believe it or not, that dishwasher has survived my dad. It is still working, and I swear that we have not found a better replacement. Obviously and fortunately, it is not subject to any code of obsolescence, or we would have been fined many times over under the legislation. Since this appliance is still fit for purpose and generally meets commercial standards in terms of water temperature for disinfection, we are keeping it and repairing it. Most importantly, it is not polluting the planet.

This story illustrates what Bill C-272 seeks to correct. The Bloc Québécois thinks it is an interesting bill that confirms that we have the right to repair and have repairs done to our belongings. Repair technicians, be they mechanics, computer experts or former schooner captains cum hotel operators, will no longer be liable for copyright infringement.

This bill will be especially helpful in the regions, where companies often do not have dealers, making it downright impossible to repair goods. By correcting a provision in the Copyright Act that manufacturers were using to prevent their products from being repaired, the bill gives substance to the right to repair our own belongings. This will go a long way in protecting the environment, which cannot take any more of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of scrap metal, computer equipment and cellular devices, refrigerators and toasters that have keep piling up. The life span of those items could have been extended were it not for this egregious provision in the act, which is more about money than about common sense or the environment.

The planet is making a green shift that is cannot be denied, and the future of the world absolutely depends on it. Perhaps this legislation will force companies to return to making devices that last. They might be more expensive to manufacture or purchase, but they will be more durable and therefore less polluting. Bill C-272 is a step in the right direction to force companies to adopt this approach, and the Bloc Québécois supports it.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, do we have the right to fix the things we buy, or do we have the obligation to bring those things back to the person who sold them to us and pay them to fix them for us? That is a long-standing question.

Many sellers build into their business model or their engineering plans a system that requires buyers to come back to pay for maintenance and repair at the place they bought the product or service. This can generate a stable stream of income for the seller and also allow the seller to continue to improve his or her products. On the other side, it prevents the buyer from shopping around and finding a better deal for repairs. There is a conundrum.

Sellers typically use two different ways to maintain their exclusive rights over the repair of products. One way is to build it right into the warranty or into the sales agreement that, for example, buyers can buy an automobile at a set price, but for the warranty to apply, buyers must bring it back to the seller and the seller alone for servicing. They can write into the contract, or the purchase agreement, that, if buyers want to buy this tractor, the seller will offer this original price, but customers are obliged by contract to give them the contracts to repair it. That is one way, through the use of contractual arrangements.

The other way is through technological protection measures. This is a particularly new phenomenon in the case of most products because, 30 or 40 years ago, those products did not have a lot of digital technology baked into them that could be encrypted or made exclusive through coding techniques. Today, almost everything we buy has some sort of a technological component to it. The future of automobiles, washer and drying machines, toaster ovens, basically anything we buy will mean less about the hardware, the tin, iron or aluminum in it, and more about the technology that operates it. Therefore, businesses have become very clever in embedding technological protection measures that encrypt the ability to maintain and repair the equipment.

There are two major extreme positions on what to do about this tension between the buyer who wants to repair his own product or the seller who wants to repair it for him. I will go through them very quickly. On the one hand, some argue that the government should force sellers to stop using technological protection measures or exclusivity clauses in sale and maintenance agreements. On the other hand, some argue that the status quo should continue, which forces buyers to respect technological protection measures and continue to go back to the seller in order to have repairs and maintenance done. Both of these solutions require government forcing one side on the other.

I believe in the free enterprise system where government applies as little force as humanly possible. Having read Bill C-272, right of repair, that the member for Cambridge has offered, I conclude that he is of the same view. His bill neither bans technological protection measures nor bans efforts by buyers to circumvent those measures. What he simply does with the bill is that it would legalize the practice of developing technologies to get around those technological protection measures so that buyers have the ability to try and repair a product for themselves.

For example, if someone were to buy a tractor and the tractor manufacturer put in a technology that prevented the buyer upgrading and maintaining that tractor, under the law today, the buyer could not buy a circumvention product that will allow them to get around the protection measure.

That is the way the law is written under the Copyright Act in section 41 today. If one does that, one is breaking the law. However, the bill proposes to remove that prohibition, so the manufacturer of the tractor could still put in a protection to prevent the buyer from maintaining the tractor themselves, but the buyer would have the legal right to buy another product that would allow them to get around that technological protection.

In other words, the bill would basically open the matter up to buyers and sellers to sort out how they are going to arrange their contractual agreements on their own. It would continue to allow companies to put in place measures to try to retain their exclusive right to repair the products they sell, but it would also allow the customer to try to get around and circumvent those protections. I believe this is the right solution, because we should leave, as much as possible, decisions in commerce to the buyers and sellers involved and minimize the involvement of government in between their voluntary decisions.

For example, if a car dealership wants to write in a requirement that a car buyer must come back to the dealership for maintenance as a condition of the warranty, that should be legal. However, if the car buyer does not want to follow that edict, he can go and buy a car somewhere else. That is the genius of the free market system.

A buyer can say, “I do not want to be stuck going back to the dealership for maintenance. I want to go to Jane's Mechanics because she does a better job. I am bringing my car to her, and if the dealership is not going to allow my warranty to stand when she maintains my car, then I will not buy the car from that dealership. I will to go to another dealership where they do not have that requirement as part of their warranty.”

This allows the buyer to make an informed decision about the trade-offs involved when purchasing a product, whether it is a smart phone, an automobile, a washer and dryer, or a farm tractor, the buyer will be able to decide whether or not he or she will buy a product knowing that the seller has a requirement for a product to be maintained at the seller's business.

At the same time, if the seller wants to put some kind of technological method to prevent others from maintaining and repairing the product, well, he or she can do that. There is nothing in this proposed law that would prevent them from doing that. However, if the bill passes, the state would not enforce that technological protection, and I believe that is as it should be.

We should live in a free and open market system where people get ahead by having the best product rather than the best lawyer, and where the voluntary exchange of work for wages, product for payment and investment for interest allows everyone to do well by doing good, which is the genius of the market system. If someone has an apple and wants an orange, and I have an orange and want an apple, we trade, and we still have an apple and orange between us but we are both better off because we each have something worth more to us than what we had before.

What is true of that simple transaction of apples and oranges is also true in more complicated products, such as software-enhanced agricultural equipment, smart phones or other devices. We, as consumers, do our research. We find out the terms involved in buying a given product, and then we decide for ourselves. If we do not like the arrangement that the seller has put into the purchase agreement, then we shop elsewhere.

I congratulate the member for Cambridge. I believe he has found the optimal solution in federal law to allow buyers of goods and services to try to maximize their utility when buying a product, and he removes unnecessary intervention by the state so that the buyers and sellers can do commerce and achieve the best possible outcome for themselves.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2021 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak to my private member’s bill, Bill C-272, and I am excited to see this bill will come up for a vote very soon. I became interested in this topic because of how many aspects of our lives that it touches. It touches everything from agriculture and the food we eat, to the environment and how we divert waste away from landfills, to consumer rights and allowing people to do the things they should be able to do with the goods they purchase.

I hope this legislation also kicks off a deeper conversation about the right to repair. This issue is non-partisan and spans the concerns of urban and rural citizens, the young and the old, those who are tech savvy and those who are technophobes. It impacts all of us. I am pleased to see the positive response Bill C-272 has garnered from all parties, and I hope that an in-depth discussion at committee will follow.

Bill C-272 addresses some concerns that have become more frequent over the past decade, concerns that the Copyright Act is being used and interpreted in areas far beyond its scope. In particular, these concerns focus on the provisions of copyright that are actually able to prevent the repair of digital devices and systems, even when nothing is being copied or distributed. As digital technology around us has become less expensive, it has become more integrated into our daily lives, and the Copyright Act governs the software that is found in these systems.

As an example, the technology has not changed dramatically in refrigerators over the past few decades, but now you can get a fridge with a computer inside or digital touch screens on the front. That computer, more specifically the onboard software, is protected under the Copyright Act. That computer runs and manages the refrigerator and the onboard systems.

However, a manufacturer could choose to not allow the repair or replacement of a filter, compressor, or some other part without a specific code, password, or permission entered into the system. They may do this to prevent outsiders from making repairs, to ensure only their approved technicians make the repairs or to prevent the installation of aftermarket parts. However, if someone makes that repair on their own and breaks the technological protection measures in place to force it to accept the repair, they could be violating the Copyright Act, and they could be charged with breaking a federal law.

This need for repair is even more critical for people in rural or remote locations as they likely do not have quick or easy access to dealerships or manufacturers. These technological protection measures, or TPMs, can inadvertently prevent repairs, and they can shut out independent repair shops and home DIY repairs. They can even stop repairs after the company has gone out of business because they would still be breaking the TPMs, even if there are literally no other options for repair. That goes against everything that Canadians understand instinctively when they purchase something. Bill C-272 works to prevent these kinds of issues by carving out a specific and very limited allowance for consumers to circumvent a TPM, but only for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair.

None of these copyright protections are an issue with respect to repairs, and the spirit of the Copyright Act is not intended to speak to the repair of physical devices at all. Interpreting it this way is wildly outside the scope of the intent of copyright, and the legislation is out of date and misused as a result. The circumvention of TPMs discussed and allowed under Bill C-272 are only for repair, maintenance or diagnosis. Any other circumvention would remain illegal under the Copyright Act.

So far I have had the opportunity to hear from constituents, people across Canada and internationally who are all interested in seeing this bill passed. I thank them for their support.

I would also like to thank my staff for all of their hard work on this bill, especially that of Andrew Cowie, without whom we would not be speaking about this today.

My thanks to the hon. members for their debate today and in the first hour. I am also happy to discuss any changes requested by committee, changes that could strengthen the bill and its impact.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2021 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

moved that Bill C-272, an act to amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance or repair), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am so proud to appear before the House today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-272, and discuss the background and details of it. I really appreciate everyone for their attention to this debate, including those in the House digitally and Canadian citizens who are watching from home.

If members care about agriculture, the environment or consumer rights, they should care about passing Bill C-272. The bill has wide-ranging implications when it comes to solving some key problems for farmers in reducing landfill waste, particularly toxic e-waste, and in the innovation economy. I hope this legislation kicks off a conversation about the right to repair in Canada. This issue is non-partisan, and it spans citizens from all corners of urban and rural areas.

The bill protects consumers. It has a positive impact on our health and safety and the environment. It takes a common-sense approach and is highly targeted to a specific problem. I trust it will be supported by all members of the House.

Bill C-272 addresses some concerns that have become more frequent over the past decade. There is a concern that the Copyright Act is being used and interpreted in areas far beyond its scope and that, in particular, the provisions of copyright are able to prevent the repair of digital devices and systems, even when nothing is being copied or distributed. This is well beyond the intent of copyright as Canadians understand it, and it is beyond the scope of the legislation as intended by the drafters.

Copyright is there to protect producers of content and to ensure that they will derive reliable and effective compensation for their innovative works. However, as the digital technology around us has become more affordable, more integrated into our daily lives and more relied upon for everyday services, the Copyright Act has become increasingly influential on these items throughout this process.

As an example, if people had a washer or dryer in the 1960s, it had no digital technology in it, no code and no software. It had nothing that could have been or would have been copyrighted. Today we see the introduction of smart appliances, including smart washers and dryers, that have thousands of lines of code within them, all of which are protected by copyright and may have many technological protection measures, otherwise known as TPMs, that prevent doing repairs without breaking copyright. The cost of easy repairs has gone up, and if the owner of the appliance circumvents any of those TPMs to conduct a repair, it would be illegal. These technological protection measures are everywhere and are increasing as more devices incorporate them.

Copyright is supposed to prevent people from essentially stealing the ideas and works of authors, artists, engineers and others. It also protects the works of programmers, as the code that all of our cellphones, televisions, computers and so forth have within them are copyrighted. TPMs include everything from encryption to password locks. They prevent access or modification of these works, and it is illegal to circumvent them in Canada.

The system works well for the most part, but if people attempt to repair something they own, these TPMs may work to prevent the repair from being completed or beginning in the first place. Many vehicles and appliances are not able to be repaired without entering some form of reset code or modifying the code to accept a new part that was installed.

I will give a quick example. There is a popular video game console that has a disk drive and a motherboard. Inside there are matching serial numbers in order for it to function. One cannot simply replace the disk drive without replacing the motherboard with a matching one, even though there is no technical reason for this since drives are changed in computers all the time. This is resulting in more of these devices ending up in landfills and is making what should be a simple repair difficult or sometimes illegal. One cannot make the switch without violating a technological protection measure.

Of course, everyone will be familiar with these systems because they are present in many of our cars and trucks, as well as other items we typically take to get repaired by manufacturers and dealerships. These challenges existed in the automotive industry before the industry came to a voluntary agreement to allow for repairs by local repair shops. This system functions well today for almost all Canadians, although, because it is voluntary, there are still some ongoing issues.

I ask members to consider this scenario: Farmers across Canada pride themselves on their ability to repair their own equipment because they must be able to not just for their own livelihoods but, frankly, to feed our country. However, agriculture and farming equipment does not have the same agreement as automotive, so they are blocked by TPMs in many cases from making repairs. A recent article spoke about these differences between farming equipment and automobiles. The author, a gentleman by the name of Scott Smith, is an electronics technician who works in the agriculture industry. He wrote:

All vehicles made since 1996 have had onboard diagnostic systems. Initially, the only way to get the information was with a dealer service tool. Neither the vehicle owner or local repair shops had access to the system.

This system was eventually challenged and overcome. The tools and information are now readily available.

Farmers need the same level of access. Whether they do the work themselves or use a local repair shop do the work, the farming community needs to be given options.

Bill C-272 would work to prevent these kinds of issues by carving out a specific and very limited allowance for consumers to circumvent a TPM, but only for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair. This bill is not a sweeping change to the Copyright Act, but a rather limited change designed to give a small amount of control back to the consumer.

As always, it is important to remember that consumers are quite often motivated by price, and the free market is critical for people to continue innovating and bringing new and better products to market. Individuals will seek out their most cost-effective option when repairing or replacing a product. If outright replacement is cheapest, people will replace things. If repair is cheaper, then they will repair. People will take the least expensive option.

However, in some cases even simple repairs can cost thousands of dollars when consumers or local repair shops are prevented from making these repairs due to misapplication of the intent of copyright. This means higher costs and more items being sent to landfill well before they should. This is why Bill C-272 is critical. Our constituents want these changes. Overwhelmingly, Canadians are supportive of the right to repair.

A recent survey tells us that three-quarters of all Canadians would support a right-to-repair law in Canada that would allow them to repair their own devices more freely. However, Bill C-272 is not just about this problem today. It is about what is coming next in our society as the Internet of things becomes evermore present. We know that the Internet will connect our appliances, our wearables and our vehicles, and that ever smaller and less expensive devices will be able to be networked in the future.

We must, as consumers, have the ability to conduct basic repairs on the objects that we own. We must have the ability to replace a part without risking charges under the Copyright Act. If we do not, we are dooming many more devices to the junkyard, to the detriment of our pocketbooks.

We also run the risk of inadvertently making criminals of many Canadians. Bill C-272 is about preventing planned obsolescence and a proper reconsideration about what the legal limits of copyright must be.

We are far behind our counterparts in Europe in legislating in this area, and a number of U.S. states are actively considering right-to-repair legislation. The time is right for action to address this issue here in Canada. We must address it clearly and openly as well so that manufacturers, repair shops, technologists and retailers know the direction that industry must take.

The right to repair has also come up in Ontario with recent proposed legislation, but the changes under Bill C-272 that I am proposing would change federal law in Canada as a key step in allowing provinces to be able to create their own right-to-repair legislation as they see fit. Bill C-272 is part of the federal responsibility within the broader right-to-repair legislative framework. I want to stress that much of this responsibility does, in fact, lie in the provincial sphere.

However, this is one part of the federal responsibility that must be addressed in order for meaningful right-to-repair legislation to exist in Canada. We must, as legislators, review what the intent of copyright must be. It is there to protect works: to ensure that their authors can derive a profit, to ensure programmers, writers and artists can make a living from their works, and of course to prevent piracy.

None of these copyright protections is an issue with respect to repairs, and the spirit of the Copyright Act is not intended to speak to the repair of physical devices at all. Interpreting it this way is widely outside the scope of the intent of copyright. The legislation is frankly out of date and is being misused as a result.

The need to address these issues has been more important than ever during this pandemic, when repair professionals are often unable to visit homes or even farms. It is critical that Canadians have a legal ability to conduct the repairs they are able to on the spot. This need for repair is even more critical for people in rural or remote locations who likely do not have quick access to dealerships or manufacturers. Their cost for travel to repair facilities might already be in the hundreds of dollars and that is, of course, before the cost of the repairs.

I am unable to get into every single example of the importance of this bill with the time that I have, but I trust that everyone will see its far-reaching implications. Digital technology lies in all of these systems and technologies and ties all this together, and copyright covers the gamut.

I want to take a moment to be clear on the limits of Bill C-272 in order to address the concerns that I am certain will be pressed upon the members of this House. The circumvention of TPMs discussed and allowed under Bill C-272 is only for repair, maintenance or diagnosis. Any other circumvention would remain illegal under the Copyright Act. Bill C-272 is not a rewriting of the act and does not allow TPMs to be circumvented under other circumstances. The rights of copyright holders are maintained and appropriate legal remedies are available for those who wilfully violate the Copyright Act for illegal purposes.

It is of course my hope that members of the House agree with me and that they take a few moments to review the legislation and vote in support. I look forward to questions and subsequent debate. Furthermore, I am always happy to take calls and emails if anyone would like to discuss this matter further.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2021 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, the Copyright Act is intended to ensure that artists can earn a living from their art and to protect their work from being copied or used in ways they do not approve of.

In fact, discussions with associations like Copibec and Access Copyright have helped me identify issues that need to be brought to our attention, such as fair compensation for creators and publishers for the educational use of their work, as well as the loss of sales revenue associated with the education sector, especially the Canadian university environment.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry should consider reviewing the act. Many stakeholders are calling for just that, particularly when the work is protected from pirates by a digital lock. The law prohibits breaking that lock to reproduce or alter the work without the consent of the copyright owner, which is good.

Now companies have decided to use the Copyright Act for other purposes, namely industrial and commercial purposes. When a consumer product contains electronic components, which is the case with almost everything today, many companies have included a digital device to prevent repairs from being made, unless the company has expressly provided the codes.

According to these companies, a repair person who overrides a digital lock to fix our phone, car or tractor without the consent of the company commits an offence under the Copyright Act. Thus, it becomes impossible to fix an item that belongs to us, is broken or not working properly, unless we go to one of the company's dealers.

In some cases, obtaining replacement parts from a third party is considered an infringement, and this discourages any expert or company from providing this service. Even worse, in many cases the company will have several reasons for refusing to repair the item, which forces us to buy a new product. That is programmed obsolescence, which is a terrible source of waste both financially and environmentally.

Given that technological waste represents a growing environmental concern, several measures should be looked at. Today's debate concerns a small part of this burden, but we must consider making changes to laws to allow the repair, diagnostics and maintenance of electronic devices in particular.

Bill C-272 seeks to amend the Copyright Act to allow a person to circumvent a technological protection measure in a computer program if the circumvention is solely for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of a product in which the program is embedded.

The member for Cambridge will be pleased to hear that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. We believe that the amendments that we are debating today will prevent the act from being twisted for economic and industrial ends, especially when it is intended to protect artists. This is a worthwhile bill that confirms that we have the right to repair products that belong to us or to have them repaired. The people doing the repairs, whether they be mechanics or computer specialists, will no longer risk being sued for copyright infringement. This will open the door to healthy competition and the development of the SMEs that we are so proud of in Quebec.

Once we are no longer at the mercy of the company's authorized retailer, we will likely be able to save a fortune. The bill will be particularly useful in the regions, where large corporations do not open stores, which means residents have no way to get their products repaired. I find that is particularly true of Apple.

By fixing a provision in the Copyright Act that manufacturers used to prevent people from repairing their products, the bill establishes the right to repair one's possessions. Bill C-272 clarifies that a person can circumvent a protection measure for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair. This will democratize repair businesses, help grow our local businesses and support healthy competition. It will apply to electronic, computer and mechanical devices, such as John Deere tractors, which the company insists on repairing itself.

My region is overflowing with talent, but our population is not large enough for big corporations like Apple to open stores there, even though most of our residents own one of its devices. We have few options when one of our devices breaks down. We can travel 600 kilometres to the nearest store; mail in the device, which means we cannot use it for some time; or, sadly, just get a new one, even if the old one only needed a minor repair.

Still, there is no shortage of talent in my region. We have many small businesses that could do the work, but they do not have the right to do it or do not have access to the parts to do it. In that sense, the bill is a step in the right direction towards supporting the development of our local businesses and establishing the terms and conditions that will foster healthy competition.

The Bloc Québécois supports the changes proposed in Bill C-272, because they promote healthy competition and the development of our economic ecosystem in the regions and in major centres. For consumers, it also allows for freedom of choice and full ownership of the items they have purchased.

For all the reasons previously mentioned, we believe that it is important to preserve the very essence of the foundation of the Copyright Act, which aims to protect the rights of individuals who own literary and artistic property and which encourages fair compensation for the work they do. Using this legislation as a ploy in an industry to limit competition distorts its nature and, in that sense, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-272, introduced by the member for Cambridge.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 15th, 2021 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-272, a right to repair bill. It is actually very similar to one that I had passed in the House of Commons and I will talk about that in a little bit.

I want to congratulate the member for bringing this forward, because it is part of a cultural shift we have had in economics. It is about our economy, of course. It is also about rights and it is about a series of different things that are important. It is about competition too. Today, we had a boost for competition. I want to thank all those who were involved in the campaign to stop Nav Canada from closing airports.

In Windsor, we had this case brought forward and I want to thank Mayor Drew Dilkens, the Windsor Flying Club, Rakesh Naidu from the chamber of commerce, Brian Hogan from the labour council, and pilots Karan D'Souza and Dante Albano, just to mention a few. There are many others. I could go on and on.

I do not want to spend my whole time on that, but I do want to recognize them because they fought for public safety and for competition. We were successful today, when the government said that it could not do anything and there was no way to intervene. I offered a private member's bill, and even questioned the Prime Minister yesterday, and today we were successful in stopping that process. Again, this is about competition, fairness and public safety.

I had my original bill, Bill C-425, and also then reintroduced Bill C-273, which was passed in the House of Commons under a minority Conservative government. It went to committee, came out of committee and we reached a voluntary agreement. It provided information for the automotive aftermarket. Canada was being treated differently from many other countries in the world by some corporations. We were being treated as a colony, quite frankly. The United States was getting information to help fix vehicles in the aftermarket because it had provisions on the Environmental Protection Agency and through some of its consumer legislation. In Windsor, people could drive their car over into Detroit and get it fixed in the aftermarket. Meanwhile, over here in Windsor, flash software, which was important to reset the car, was denied, training was denied, and tools and other things were denied to the aftermarket, affecting hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country. In fact, my bill took me everywhere from the east coast to the west coast and even to some parts of the north. We found that many Canadians were losing out.

As I mentioned, competition is not just with regard to jobs for people in the aftermarket fixing the products and services, it is also about jobs related to servicing the industries. People were driving vehicles that threatened public safety because they were not fixed. They would have to wait for an opening in a shop to get it done, or have it towed somewhere to be safe. Environmentally, there was an impact: cars were on the road even longer and they were higher polluters. I commend the member for bringing this forward because it is more robust in many respects. It would provide some fairness and competition that is necessary.

Right now we are grappling with electronic waste. There is so much unnecessary ending of the life of products and services, in particular, hardware and devices. Later on, the small shops and small and medium-sized businesses are shut out. They cannot get the right information because of a monopolistic approach by some of the larger corporations.

This bill would help level the playing field. It would not interfere with intellectual property. It would not undermine the production and assembly of the first product to start with. It provides for what we have always had in our societies, which is secondary work on objects that are useful in our society. In the farming community, in the auto manufacturing community where I am, in the software industry or in the electronic device industry, we found multiple and continued uses of products. To have them denied just because of a monopolistic approach by a large corporation that is using basically a back door to prevent that type of an economy is not helpful.

We found some companies are very progressive on this. In my case, General Motors officials were open and shared their information. They treated Canada pretty much the same as they treated the United States. Right now, one of the problem companies we have in the automotive aftermarket sector is Tesla. The people at Tesla refused to sign the voluntary agreement that we have in place, and it needs some modernization. I thank the member again because this is going to bring to light some of those issues.

My agreement at the time was made with Tony Clement, who was the minister of industry then. Basically, we had it pass in the House of Commons, and the aftermarket association, at the end of the day, agreed at the time that we would settle with the voluntary agreement instead of bringing it through as an actual law. It is still on the paper and on the books, and it is still enforceable in many respects, but it is not as strong as it could be. However, that was okay. We were compromising to work together as a country and as political parties.

As a New Democrats, we found this to be a step forward right away, and it avoided, of course, the Senate. I have far too often had some of my bills, the sports betting bill, for example, and there are others, die in the Senate for a lot of different, complicated, and some not so complicated, reasons.

At that point in time, we decided to go that path, but that needs to be renewed and looked as well. Bill C-272 is an opportunity to build upon that agreement because it is about 10 years old. Now we are dealing with software, personal information and a whole series of different things that are more complex than they were a decade ago.

Again, the bill, if passed, would prevent, for example, electronic waste. How much money do members of the public, municipalities and taxpayers actually have to spend for the disposal of electronic waste that does not have the proper life cycle because companies will not provide the information or software, or they block the equipment, tools or the capacity to repair those things? I think we have all had frustration over phones or other electronic devices that had a cracked screen or something like that, which is a very modest problem, but it becomes a big complication for some devices just because of the proprietary nature of some of the organizations that will not allow a smaller shop or workplace to deal with it.

What is really important about this bill, which is kind of undercharacterized and sometimes under-reported, is that some of our young people who are very innovative, creative and tech savvy are looking at new parts of the economy and are very engaged in dealing with the new aftermarket devices. We do not want to stymie that type of innovation because they use it to bounce further innovation and further development of products and services that are very important for us.

We have seen how hard it is for young entrepreneurs to get going. Can members imagine, for example, if back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s we were told that we could never have a shop that could even touch a vehicle, other than the major automotive companies?

However, Bill C-272 also deals with farm equipment, which was, sadly, left out in my proposed legislation. This is an improvement, because there is high tech involved in that equipment, which is very important. As well, we have the whole aftermarket for vehicles, such as emergency vehicles, heavy equipment and a series of things that were really left out.

As New Democrats, we are very proud to support Bill C-272, because it builds upon what we believe is very solid consumer protection, very solid environmental protection and very solid competition elements. In the industry committee, we have been dealing with the competition in this country, and our Competition Act is far outdated. It needs a lot of work and needs to be revived basically from the front to the back cover. Canada, at one point, was a leader in competition, but we basically left that on the shelf.

What are we going to do in the meantime? We only have limited opportunities to put on the pressure to get some good change for the economy and for the consumers, and Bill C-272 is part of that. There are elements that we could probably find some agreement on for the Competition Act right now that could pass rather quickly. However, other things that are much more complicated and complex, but the bill before us is not that. The bill is actually part of something that could, right away, protect consumers and a lot of jobs.

I am going to conclude by saying that Bill C-272 is more important than it might seem on the surface. It is not just about fixing a device in the kitchen, a phone, or any other electronic device. It is much more complex than that. It is about hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country that are at risk.

It is also about public safety, because many devices continue to be used improperly or are tinkered with and not fixed correctly because of not having a good third-party that is actually responsible in getting the proper parts, services and information from the supplier. As well, environmentally, it would very much be an improvement, because we would extend the lifespan of things.

Again, I congratulate the member for putting this bill forward. I really appreciate it.

Copyright ActRoutine Proceedings

February 22nd, 2021 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-272, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance or repair).

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to introduce my private member's bill. It addresses copyright being used in a way for which it was never intended: to block the repair and maintenance of items that have been purchased by Canadians.

It is a targeted bill that would create specific exemptions to copyright. When someone buys something, it must be able to be repaired by that person and not restricted by the manufacturer. Repairing the things we own is key for our environment, for the safety of Canadians and to our livelihoods. These factors have never been more important than during the pandemic, when repairs are more critical than ever for manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture.

I look forward to the debate and the support of all members of the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)