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.