An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability)


Jeremy Patzer  Conservative

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


Second reading (Senate), as of June 15, 2023

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-294.


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

This enactment amends the Copyright Act to allow a person, in certain circumstances, to circumvent a technological protection measure to make a computer program or a device in which it is embedded interoperable with any other computer program, device or component.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


June 14, 2023 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability)
June 14, 2023 Passed Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability) (previous question)
Nov. 30, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability)

The House resumed from June 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability), be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 6:20 p.m.
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Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to once again be able to rise and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-294.

This bill comes from constituents in my riding who work at Honey Bee Manufacturing and brought the issue forward to me. It was an issue that came up when we were discussing the CUSMA negotiations. Although it predates CUSMA, it was flagged at that point in time, in the same breath. That was when it was first brought to my attention, and I was able to bring the issue to the House of Commons—

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 6:15 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-294, sponsored by our friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

I simply want to say how supportive I am of the bill. It is a great bill that will certainly help the great folks in Perth—Wellington and the farmers and farm families across Perth—Wellington and across Canada.

While I am on my feet, I move:

That this question be now put.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 6:05 p.m.
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Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, half of me wants to stand on a point of order and speak about this great colleague of mine for suggesting that perhaps he is better looking than I am, but we will let the public be both the judge and the jury on that.

Ironically, although I do not smell like smoked meat, I did appreciate the fact that he spoke about the firefighters in the field, because the truth of the matter is that I was a firefighter for seven and a half years. I put out many a wheat fire and grass fire, many of which were actually caused, unfortunately, by our farming industry, so I appreciate his bringing that up.

It brings me great pride today to stand here in this place on behalf of the fantastic residents of Essex, who sent me here. I say “thanks” to them.

Before I dive into the bill, in great support of the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands's private member's bill, Bill C-294, I do want to just send out heartfelt thanks and best wishes to the firefighters across Canada, who are battling, so dearly and desperately, the raging wildfires.

I have said it before and am proud to say it: My father was the milkman in Essex, with Lewis Dairy. As I always say, am I ever happy that my mother opened the door when he dropped off that milk to the house, because, otherwise, I would not be here today. The reason I say that is that I have heard many stories from my dad about how farming equipment, both in the dairy industry and in the grain industry, has evolved. I know it to be true, because I grew up on a farm.

I, myself, do sharecropping, so I have my own farm. I see the various utility equipment that goes onto a tractor or goes onto a combine. Bless my wife and my daughter for loving horses so much, all five of them. Now we are getting into hay. I suppose it is easy for me to speak to this because all the different farming takes a whole bunch of different utility equipment, to not only harvest but to also plant these crops. I look at this equipment and I look at the interchangeability, the opportunity to save a few thousand dollars, for a thrasher from one company to another that perhaps would not or could not interchange with a Case tractor, a John Deere tractor or a New Holland tractor.

I will then also take it one step further. Especially in Essex, where we are somewhat landlocked in that we are surrounded by three bodies of water, land is, quite frankly, at a premium. It is darn expensive, but it is really expensive, and almost unheard of, for our next generation of young adults not just to be able to afford a home and start a family but also to take over the family legacy, which is the farm. They need every opportunity, every possibility possible, to ensure that they can even begin to think about taking over the local farm.

I have two amazing sons and an amazing daughter. Both of my sons spend a lot of time on the farm. They are grease monkeys, and I am darn proud of them for being grease monkeys. They repair a lot of the farming equipment that, quite frankly, I break. Whether it is cutting the laneways or plowing in the headlands, there is always a screw, a nut, a bolt or a washer that just does not fit anymore. It gets worn out. The cost to repair that, the cost that our farming community goes through because something is not interchangeable, is absolutely astronomical. I think about when we blow a belt on that same utility that I cut the fence rows on. I am sure the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands would know how expensive a farming belt is, especially when one has to bring it in from overseas.

If we start today, if we start in this beautiful country today, to make the equipment interchangeable, the lives of farmers today and the future for the next generations will be that much easier.

My brother-in-law, Rob Reid, has been with the Ridgetown agricultural college, a subsidiary or sister college to Guelph University, for a number of years. He has been in charge of the dairy and the hogs, but he also does all the work with the college training students for future generations with regard to the equipment.

This year, I will have been happily be married to my lovely, loved wife Allison for 25 years, so I have known Rob for about 30 years. I have heard the stories, the trials and tribulations at the college. It has to really watch the money it spends, when it spends a whole bunch of money on one type of equipment, and five, six, seven or 10 years later, when half of the equipment comes to the end of its useful life, it has to buy new additions to that equipment. The tractor still works, but the plow or the thrasher or the planter needs to be replaced, and it is not interchangeable. Therefore, the college has to basically start from zero. What does that do? It not only costs the college, but, ultimately, it also costs the students. As if it were not tough enough to go to college now, and as if it were not tough enough to excite future young adults to get into farming and take over their family business, now the cost of tuition has just gone crazy, right through the roof. Therefore, this private member's bill only checks all the important boxes of what the future of Canadian farming looks like going forward.

I think about Vollans farm equipment business, just around the corner from my house, and about how many times I have taken my Zero-Turn lawnmower there if, as was previously mentioned, there was a nut falling out of the bottom, or there was a worn out U-joint. If it were not for Vollans, and I do not have a lot of money in my pockets here today, I would have a whole lot less money in my pockets, because it is so unique and so excellent in how it is able to adapt various pieces of equipment and put them together. However, we are now getting into the digital age, which allows for an interface of two digital systems coming together to put together two pieces of critical infrastructure needed to feed Canadians, put food on the table of Canadians and, quite frankly, to feed the world, as well as to make life much, much more exciting and more affordable for our farming industry.

Essex, as I mentioned, is a very small, landlocked, area, but it is a very vital area. As a matter of fact, the majority of the grain produced in Essex, and this should put a smile on a lot of faces here, goes straight to our distilleries. If members like Crown Royal, they will probably like the fact that we grow a lot of corn. Now that I have everybody's attention, they probably know just how important this private member's bill is.

To conclude, I am a very proud son of an amazing father who taught me a whole bunch about farming, as did my grandfather while he was still alive. I am proud to be partners with Greg Eisler, a fantastic farmer who farms my land alongside me. Also, I really want to thank, one final time, my dear friend, the member who represents Cypress Hills—Grasslands incredibly well, for bringing this private member's bill forward.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 5:50 p.m.
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Brendan Hanley Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-294, now in its final stage of consideration in the House of Commons.

I am also pleased by the overwhelming support received for this legislative initiative thus far. I want to thank our colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands who brought this important initiative to the House that seeks to remove a copyright barrier to interoperability, which would benefit all Canadians, including those in my riding of Yukon.

The Copyright Act, as it currently reads, represents an obstacle to Canadians who really wish to make their products with functionalities enabled by software, such as smart phones and farm vehicles, interoperable with other products, devices or components.

The Copyright Act currently represents an obstacle to interoperability because it generally prohibits that circumvention of technological prevention measures, also called TPMs, or digital locks. Manufacturers often include digital locks to protect software in their products to prevent unauthorized access and copying.

The Copyright Act also includes an exception that permits the circumvention of digital locks to achieve interoperability between two computer programs. However, being limited to the interoperability between computer programs, this exception is not sufficient to cover the needs of Canadians and the market.

With the increasing number of products with functionalities enabled by software, interoperability also means ensuring that parts or components added to such products be compatible and exchange information with these products' software. As the member for South Shore—St. Margarets just explained, these parts and components actual can then talk to each other.

Without being permitted to circumvent digital locks to access the product's software, it remains difficult to make these products interoperable with other products, components and devices. This obstacle can notably impact Canadians when manufacturers decide to introduce new technologies that are not compatible with the previous generations. In such scenarios, software-enabled products we can own easily become only good to gather dust next to our VHS players.

Bill C-294 specifically seeks to address this issue. The bill proposes to expand the scope of the current exception in the Copyright Act, so the copyright framework allows Canadians to circumvent digital locks to make a computer program, or a device in which it is embedded, interoperable with another computer program, device or component.

Bill C-294 does not call into question the importance of digital locks in the copyright framework but stresses the importance that the Copyright Act provides efficient exceptions and limitations to digital locks when they harm the legitimate interests of consumers to have control over the products they own.

Legal protection for digital locks is an important enforcement regime in the copyright framework with roots in international treaties. Canada has obligations to provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of digital locks used by copyright holders under the WIPO Internet Treaties and certain free trade agreements.

Digital locks are meant to grant creators more control over the distribution of their creative works in the digital marketplace by preventing others from copying, accessing or using the fruits of their labour without their permission. This enforcement regime ensures the Copyright Act continues fostering Canada's flourishing creative economy by providing creators with an efficient mechanism to obtain a return on their investments.

Protection for digital locks was originally promoted as a tool to encourage creative industries to offer their works, such as songs, books and movies, on the Internet and in other digital forms. It has never been the intent of the protection for digital locks in the Copyright Act to prevent the interoperability of products.

Bill C-294 is an essential measure to rebalance the equilibrium of interests and provide consumers more control over the products they own and use, while also preserving incentives for creators in the Copyright Act.

For instance, Bill C-294 would solely permit Canadians to circumvent digital locks for the purpose of interoperability. Bill C-294 would not facilitate copyright infringement.

Protection for digital locks and copyright infringement are two distinct regimes in the Copyright Act. While persons may be allowed to circumvent a digital lock on a work to access it, they are not allowed to make unauthorized copies of the work unless an exception to copyright infringement also applies. Bill C-294, with the amendments reported to us by the committee, would ensure that the expanded interoperability exception permitting the circumvention of digital locks would not be available if it involved an infringement of copyright.

I want to reiterate my support for Bill C-294, which is a pledge to Canadians that they should not be frustrated by digital locks when they seek to render the products they own interoperable with a new part, component or device.

I acknowledge that the scope of this bill is limited. It is an exception to the prohibition to circumvent digital locks that addresses only one aspect of facilitating interoperability. As such, it does not encourage industries to develop standards ensuring interoperability between different manufacturer products and ecosystems. However, I am persuaded that the exception proposed in Bill C-294 would have positive impacts in offering more opportunities for Canadians to make their products interoperable. That is especially the case with the amendments reported by the committee, which ensure that the exception would apply to independent service providers, helping the owners of products to achieve interoperability.

Bill C-294 also aligns with the government's commitment to provide Canadians with a right to repair by encouraging the prolonging of the life cycle of products and with its commitment to support innovation and foster follow-on innovation by small and medium-sized enterprises. This is practicality in action. It really is about the choice of products for Canadian farmers and Canadian consumers.

I look forward to the vote and invite my colleagues to support Bill C-294 to send a strong signal to Canadians of the importance that the House of Commons gives to this great initiative.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 5:40 p.m.
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Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here tonight to speak to the bill presented by the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Bill C-294, regarding interoperability, and the member who spoke previous to me, the member for Mirabel, who is my seatmate, spoke eloquently about the impacts and the structure of this on the agriculture industry, which I will come to.

However, if you will provide me a little leeway, Mr. Speaker, as members know, the Speaker's riding and mine have had some dramatic forest fires these last two weeks. In the context of this bill and agriculture, I just want to stand up and thank a few people in the riding and in the Speaker's riding who have done an amazing job dealing with the issue of livestock that had to be evacuated.

It is a huge issue. People do not generally think about that in these kinds of fires, but on Cape Sable Island in Shelburne County there was agriculture livestock, and a lot of it, that had to be quickly evacuated, because it is tough to move it slowly. They actually did not have an evacuation order, but they moved it out in case. They moved it to the exhibition in Yarmouth, in the Speaker's riding, and they were fantastic to deal with. They took in a lot of animals and kept them safe and healthy, as did the exhibition in Bridgewater, in my riding. It was a full house of livestock that had to be safely moved and stored, which is no small effort. I would like to thank both those organizations for all the volunteer work they did to protect the animals.

In Bill C-294, the summary says that the enactment would amend the Copyright Act to allow a person, in certain circumstances, to circumvent, or get around, a technological protection measure, TPM, which is a technical term, to make a computer program interoperable, or in other words to make a computer program work with any device or component, or with a product they manufacture.

On this bill, we need to start with what the purpose of the Copyright Act is, and the member for Mirabel touched on it. The Copyright Act provides exclusive rights for authors and creators of works. It can be an artistic work, a dramatic work, a musical work or a literary work, and the latter category encompasses computers and computer programs. These exclusive rights are collectively referred to as “copyright”.

Copyright provides the rights holder, the person who created the work, the sole authority to perform specific acts vis à vis the product. They control what happens to their product. That is the purpose of copyright, and these rights are listed under section 3 of the Copyright Act and include the sole right to reproduce the works, so that the owner and creator is the only one who can reproduce that work, or they can choose to rent that work out to somebody else, and that includes a computer program, like when we sign up for or buy Windows. We buy a licence, but we we do not actually own the software. That is owned by the manufacturer, but the manufacturer can license those out.

A copyright generally lasts for a person's lifetime plus 50 years.

Other persons may use a protected work under certain circumstances. The owner of a copyright may assign it to another person. They may also license the use of the work with or without conditions, often in return for a payment or royalties.

What is this act doing on artistic copyright related to the issue of technology and specifically farm equipment? An important part of that is that section 41 of the Copyright Act defines circumventing a TPM, which I referred to earlier, as descrambling a scrambled work, decrypting an encrypted work or otherwise avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating or impairing the TPM. In other words, circumventing it is trying to find a way to use that computer program or work that one was not authorized to use as a person who is not the original rights holder.

This is an important part of what this is trying to get at. The member who is putting this bill forward worked quite extensively with people in his riding who are concerned and having trouble delivering their businesses.

With increased computerization in the development of everything that we buy or do, whether it be a cellphone or even a fridge now, as everything has computer chips the technology can be used to actually be anti-competitive. It can be used to make it exclusive so that nobody else can access or connect another device to that device, in order to make someone buy their other devices and not be able to buy a competitor's device. It is becoming more difficult over time for manufacturers to market their innovative products if they cannot connect to the original product if it requires that.

Large companies such as John Deere, which the member for Mirabel mentioned, have introduced what are called digital locks on machinery. This move restricts access to repair or interoperate the tractor or equipment with another manufacturer's equipment. One cannot even go in and repair it, whether it is on warranty or not, unless it is through an authorized dealer. That is a primary concern as to operating farm equipment because when a repair of this type of equipment needs to be done, it is not done when one is not harvesting, but done when one is out in the field. It is very difficult often to get those who are the only authorized repair people to actually be able to come out, repair that equipment, get the parts and do it all in a timely manner so that one can get back to one's work in farming. Every day lost is an important and costly loss for that farmer.

As a result of all that, those who are significantly disadvantaged by this have been calling for changes that would safeguard both the right to repair and the right to connect one manufacturer's equipment to another manufacturer's equipment. One may prefer a different combine from the combine that John Deere has one's equipment hooked up to. That is a big issue.

What this bill attempts to do is allow, in certain circumstances, an individual who owns that equipment to seek repair from suppliers or even on their own by accessing it and getting it repaired without having to go to that authorized dealer only. That “authorized dealer only” concept is a sort of monopolistic trait that says that if I can only go to that dealer then I am sort of held captive to what that dealer is going to charge me for those repairs. It prevents a free and open market.

We are going to see this not only in farm equipment but with everything in our lives. Try to buy one's home appliances from different manufacturers. If they are all computerized and one is from one manufacturer and the other from another manufacturer, although they are supposed to be able to “talk” to each other they will not be able to because of these restrictions around TPMs and the inability to do this.

The member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands began working with all of these groups and put together, as the member for Mirabel said, a very simple bill. It is not very long. It is two clauses and it repairs that simple clause in the act.

I would commend the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for tackling this. Sometimes it is confused with the right to repair, which is another private member's bill before this House, which is the right for us to repair a certain thing in a certain way. This bill makes sure that, if one wants to connect two pieces of equipment together that have technological protection, one will be able to get that done without breaking the law.

As we consider this going forward, I will be supporting the bill. We studied it at the industry committee. It is now here for third reading. I would encourage all members of this House to support this important bill, which is pro-competition.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

June 8th, 2023 / 5:30 p.m.
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Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a rare opportunity for me to address you twice in such a short period of time. I am sure you are delighted.

I would like to take a few seconds to say that I am thinking of the people in my riding and all the organizations in my riding that are working very hard in these increasingly difficult economic circumstances, when housing and food prices are rising. My thoughts go out to them, given that the Bank of Canada raised interest rates yesterday.

I have in mind the Centre d'aide et de références de Sainte‑Anne‑des‑Plaines, the Dépannage alimentaire de Sainte‑Anne‑des‑Plaines, the Centre de dépannage St‑Janvier, the Comptoir d'entraide populaire de Mirabel in Saint‑Augustin, the Centre de dépannage de Saint‑Canut, the Comité d'action sociale in Saint‑Joseph‑du‑Lac, the Communauté d'entraide de Saint‑Placide, the Armoire d'espoir in Oka, the Saint-François d'Assise parish in Oka, the Sainte‑Marie‑du‑Lac parish in Sainte‑Marthe‑sur‑le‑lac, the Petite Maison de Pointe‑Calumet, the Centre d'entraide de Saint‑Colomban and all the other organizations that provide support in my riding. I want them to know that they are important to us and that we support them in these increasingly difficult times.

That said, today we are debating Bill C-294 at third reading. First, I would like to thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for introducing this bill. I think it is a great initiative. I think, not surprisingly, he knows that we will support it.

This is a very short bill that contains only two clauses. However, the length of the bill is no indication of the quality, because it is designed to resolve important issues related to the debate we had in the House on the issue of planned obsolescence. Essentially, this bill allows the owner of a device that uses an operating system, for example, to break the lock on the operating system in order to take full advantage of it and use applications in the operating system that are not provided by the company that created said operating system. This is essentially an amendment to the Copyright Act.

We understand that creators have to make a living from their art, that it is important, that we have to take action against copying and against the unapproved use of a cultural good or, for example, an application, and so on. However, there are times when the consumer ends up paying a price.

I will give a few examples. Today's phones are literally computers. They are not like the phones of the past. Mine is quite sophisticated, for example. These phones have operating systems. Theoretically, under current copyright law, the company that makes my phone could prevent independent app developers from allowing me to use those apps on my phone. These apps can be extremely useful, like the VaxiCode app we used during the pandemic, or GPS apps that prevent people from getting lost in the woods.

Obviously, phone companies have been gracious enough to allow users to install apps of all kinds, but they do still have the right to prevent us from making full use of our devices. However, it appears that not all companies have been so gracious as to allow us to use other apps on their operating systems, which I think goes a bit too far.

I will give the example of John Deere tractors. I represent an agricultural riding. Over 80% of the city of Mirabel is zoned for agriculture. Our farmers use very sophisticated machinery. Today, these machines are computers on wheels. The operating systems of these tractors have software to optimize the way fertilizer is spread. They come with all kinds of devices that can even coordinate farm machinery based on weather conditions, outside conditions, and so on. They are basically computers.

Farmers think that an innovation market could spring up to allow third parties to offer all the technological innovations that John Deere could offer, but does not. However, when they buy their tractors, they are only paying for a licence to use the operating system.

They do not own the operating system, so they do not have the right to improve the performance of a piece of equipment that they paid a fortune for. Those things are expensive.

There is also the matter of code sharing. The company could say that people can develop apps if they want to but that it will not share its code. That is the kind of situation that my colleague's bill seeks to address.

It is closely related to the issue of planned obsolescence. The House previously worked on the right to repair. What was the objective? The main objective was to give consumers the full value of a product that they paid for, by ensuring that they do not have to buy the same item again at full price when the original item still has years of life and use left in it. We therefore worked on the right to repair.

We worked on planned obsolescence. That is a term that can be defined in a variety of ways, but basically, it refers to methods used by companies to ensure that, after a certain period of time, a period shorter than the full physical lifespan of the product, the product will no longer be usable. There are all sorts of keys and mechanisms that can be used to do this.

How can one describe planned obsolescence? As I said, it can take various forms. A company may simply design a product that is less durable. It could launch new models so that the older model becomes out of date or incompatible with new software. It can make products impossible to repair because the parts are unavailable or prohibitively expensive. It can use the Patent Act to prevent parts from being manufactured, or it can use the Copyright Act, and so on.

The original intent of these copyright laws and patent laws was not to prevent consumers from using their own property. The original intent was to allow the author of a work or the inventor of a new device to earn a living and ensure that a third party did not appropriate their own invention. Today we are in a situation where these laws are being used to prevent the consumer from benefiting. That is precisely what Bill C‑294 addresses.

It is complementary to the approach taken by the Government of Quebec. For example, in 2019, the Liberal MNA for Chomedey at the National Assembly of Quebec introduced Bill 197, which sought to stop planned obsolescence. This bill introduced a sustainability rating. It stated that the replacement parts, tools and repair service required for the maintenance or repair of a good must be available on the market for a reasonable length of time after the purchase of the good. It includes a provision stating that the manufacturer cannot refuse to perform a warranty on the grounds that the good was repaired. We know how it works: If we do not go to the dealer because we do not want a monopoly, since no one likes monopolies, and we get the thing repaired for less somewhere else, we are told that the warranty will not be honoured.

The Quebec government addressed this. The law is not yet in force. Europe has also addressed planned obsolescence. According to a European Union directive, member states are to amend their laws to classify products according to their repairability. Every product will eventually have a rating on a scale of 10 so that buyers know if the product is durable. This is good for consumers and for the green transition. Europe has a repairability index based on five criteria: the availability of documentation; disassembly, thus access to tools; the availability of spare parts; the price of spare parts; and specific criteria for various categories of equipment.

In the Canadian context, this represents consumer protection. It is the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces. No matter what Quebec does to protect its consumers, if the owners of operating systems, in this case, can use the provisions of the Copyright Act against the initial spirit of the Copyright Act to block consumer rights, this counteracts the efforts made by Quebec.

In this context, I want to again applaud my colleague's bill. I thank my colleague for introducing it, and I recognize that his bill complements the work done by Quebec. I will repeat, as I did at the start of my speech, that we will support the bill.

The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (interoperability), be read the third time and passed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2023, No. 1Government Orders

May 1st, 2023 / 5:30 p.m.
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Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, in her speech, my colleague said that nothing is working here in Canada. The Bloc Québécois also finds that most of the time the government is just treading water, when there is a lot more that could be done for Canadians.

For example, the government launched two consultations focusing on agriculture. With regard to the first consultation, Bill C-294 and Bill C-244 were just examined in committee, so why is this consultation necessary?

With regard to the second consultation, the government wants to consult the provincial and territorial governments to help farmers with urgent financial needs. Why hold another consultation when the government just negotiated the agricultural policy framework?

Does my colleague have a word to describe that? It is as though we are taking one step forward and two steps back.

I will let my colleague come up with a word to describe the government's approach on this.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 6:25 p.m.
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George Chahal Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to express my support for Bill C-294, which is now at the last step of its study in the House of Commons. I would like to congratulate and thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for bringing forward this initiative for us to consider.

Bill C-294 proposes a measure that removes an important barrier to the interoperability of products in the copyright framework. The Copyright Act already includes an exemption permitting the circumvention of technological protection measures, also known as TPMs or digital locks, to make two computer programs interoperable. However, with the increasing number of software-enabled products that include digital locks, such as smart phones and farm vehicles, achieving interoperability often goes beyond making two computer programs interoperable.

Bill C-294

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 6:20 p.m.
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Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to take a moment to express my appreciation for the member of Parliament for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for his dedication and hard work in crafting Bill C-294. As someone who is familiar with the demands of crafting a private member's bill and who understands the complexity of the legal amendments, I recognize the effort and energy that goes into such a private member's bill. I believe that even small changes in law can profoundly impact an industry or an activity, and as such, I commend the member of Parliament for his foresight and fortitude in seeing the bill through.

I was part of the last review of the Copyright Act, and the process was like drinking from a parliamentary lobbyist's firehose. First there were calls from special interest groups to appear, and then there were calls asking to meet prior to the meeting. Then there were calls to come to committee to respond to the position of the first group by a second group, and by then the first group wanted a follow-up meeting. I think everyone gets the picture.

Copyright Act changes are full of winners and losers. Everyone wants to win, often at the expense of each other and especially consumers. This is where government is supposed to come in and make sense of it all. Unfortunately, we have seen time and time again that the government would much rather ignore issues such as these than make changes. It has preferred to make changes when needed to appease a trading partner by inserting a clause pertaining to copyright in an omnibus budget bill, rather than to see a comprehensive legislative change.

At a time when digital innovation is moving so fast, the government simply wants to wait around hoping no one will notice. Well, someone has noticed. We know that by tabling the bill, the member of Parliament for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has uncovered an important issue. I will go back to the copyright report.

In the report, we made several recommendations, which unfortunately the Liberal government has failed to pursue. For example, recommendation 19 states:

That the Government of Canada examine measures to modernize copyright policy with digital technologies affecting Canadians and Canadian institutions, including the relevance of technological protection measures within copyright law, notably to facilitate the maintenance, repair or adaptation of a lawfully acquired device for non-infringing purposes.

Most attribute this recommendation to the issue of the right to repair, which has been addressed by other private members' bills. In today's debate, I would like to focus on the last part.

Bill C-294 is all about the “adaptation of a lawfully acquired device for non-infringing purposes.” By the way, this is because some companies are utilizing technological protection measures, or TPMs. As we know, these technological locks are widely used to prevent users from accessing copyrighted content. While these rules were first put in place to protect the works of others from being stolen, such as a pirated video game or music album, we have seen manufacturers use these copyright technological protection measures to create new business models.

In one of these business models, they create a proprietary data ecosystem, one backed by terms and conditions, protected by law and copyright, and secured in the hardware by a technological protection measure. Farming is one of the first examples where this issue of interoperability has arisen.

Once a customer, like a farmer, agrees to purchase a piece of hardware, such as a tractor, a harvester or another piece of machinery, all the data and all the systems are powered using the manufacturer's technology. While this business model may seem reasonable and offer many benefits at first glance, it becomes problematic when a farmer purchases a separate piece of equipment and finds out that due to the TPMs they cannot use it. It is not that the tractor will not tow it, as it hooks up fine, but it will not function, as neither the data nor its operating system allows for interoperability.

First, this raises costs for the user, as the farmer paid for this expensive piece of equipment from another company, so there is that loss. Second, it hurts innovation and productivity, as that piece of equipment, despite it being from a rival company, may arguably lead the field among that kind of specialized equipment. That company would lose the sale, and the farmer would lose the productivity gain in using a different specialized piece of equipment. This hurts innovation overall, as firms that could make or used to make these specialized pieces are cut out of the game entirely due to this business model.

Some would ask what is wrong with that; that is competition. Well, real competition pits products and services against one another, rewarding innovation and productivity, not copyright and exclusivity. This is where Bill C-294 comes in. The bill proposes to amend the Copyright Act to allow consumers to bypass TPMs for the purpose of achieving interoperability, like in my example of the farmer.

The right to interoperability is critical for consumers. In today's digital age, consumers expect to be able to access their software seamlessly on different devices and platforms. Technological locks prevent this from happening and limit consumers' right to use their purchased equipment for non-infringing purposes. Therefore, as we have heard, this argument applies to more than just farming.

The Internet of things, where every device or part has sensors or relays information, raises important questions. A good example is the standard charging cord. If a consumer purchases a generic charger that meets the specifications of a device like a phone or tablet, it should work. I contend that a phone or tablet company should not be able to deny a consumer's wish to use a different charging product just because it was bought from another supplier and works as well as the one the tablet company might offer.

If I bought a car and was only allowed to have it serviced by the manufacturer's approved vendor or was only allowed to install its approved parts, which of course would have a chip in them, there would be benefits to me and to the company. For instance, I would be eligible for a longer warranty or for discounts, I would get performance data and I would have a plan for when each new part should be replaced, so I could budget accordingly. However, what if I chose a different part or wanted to stick with a trusted mechanic? What if the car manufacturer designated under my warranty that if I used a generic part that worked as well but was not the official authorized part, the car would not start or the manufacturer might void the warranty? I am picking on that industry, and those who work in it would say this is unfair. However, is it unfair? What if a company decided it would change its model, as Microsoft and Apple did in the 1990s and 2000s, in terms of what browsers, programs or apps would be available on their networks or devices?

This is why Bill C-294 is so important. We want to see competition and innovation. We want to see profitable companies hiring workers, making investments and paying taxes, but not with a business model that disables choice by limiting interoperability.

It is also my hope that other members of Parliament will look at the example of the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands and show the same entrepreneurial, competitive spirit, looking at how they can make changes to the Copyright Act that are necessary and needed. This is particularly important because the government looks more and more listless; it does not want to tackle these tougher issues outlined in the recommendations in our copyright report that. To this day, they have been ignored or, worse yet, sold out policy-wise for expedience. The government has done this rather than trying to build a truly competitive copyright system.

In conclusion, the right to interoperability is crucial for consumers, and Bill C-294 proposes to amend the Copyright Act to allow consumers to bypass TPMs to achieve interoperability. This amendment would benefit consumers, promote innovation and create a more competitive marketplace. Therefore, Madam Speaker, I will start with you, but I encourage all members of this place to support Bill C-294 and to recognize the right of interoperability and how important it is for consumers and businesses alike. I hope that members of this chamber support the bill and that the other place takes it up quickly.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 6:05 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise on Bill C-294, an to amend the Copyright Act regarding interoperability. I want to thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for introducing this legislation.

As I have mentioned before, private members' bills go through a certain process in this House. This bill builds on previous work done in the House of Commons and at the industry committee. It is almost like a cousin to some of the right to repair work I have done in the past. In particular, this is work related to technological protection measures, or TPMs, which can interfere with the reuse or use of different types of electronics. Many times TPMs are done through a loophole in the Copyright Act that allows them to be used in a way that reduces competition, reduces the ability for products to have an extended life and reduces the ability for individuals to repair an item and for other companies to employ technologies.

What we have, basically, is a system that can be abused to stop devices from talking to each other and, importantly, from being part of the Canadian economy in many different ways. I know we often use it in agriculture, but it is also about other electronic devices, entertainment devices, programs, services and gear. What ends up happening is that we get a lot of waste and get a lot of different ways to reduce competition, affecting small business and innovation. We have a number of different situations where it can be used to create a monopoly in and dependence on different types of industries.

We heard at committee some really good testimony about this. Several witnesses came forward from across the country at the industry and technology committee to talk about the challenges we have. We also had some good testimony regarding what is going on with the United States and the fact that it is a little more advanced than we are in this situation.

This bill would not be the end-all, cure-all for many of the situations we have, but it is a great step forward to start dealing with some of the unfair practices that take place with TPMs. Again, TPMs are technological protection measures.

What they can do is lock in customers. That way, a customer who has been using a certain product, which could be in the farming industry, for example, or another one, is actually stuck with a supplier. That type of product might have been used with something else in the past, but because of the use of technological protection measures, a person is required to make a change and shift into a company's other products, not by innovation but by a designed attempt to circumvent other competition.

In the past, I have worked on the right to repair issue related to automotive. My right to repair bill has been retabled. It would provide more consumer protection, would reduce environmental degradation and would increase public safety.

In the past, automaker companies that were original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, would block the fixing or servicing of vehicles through non-competitive practices to ensure we had limited places to go to fix a vehicle. Why is that important? It is important because if someone has no choice, they are going to need to pay more, which is one thing. Also, people in rural, agricultural or remote communities may not even have access to some of the services and may have to ship or drive their vehicles hundreds of kilometres away, which is bad for the environment and bad for public safety.

I come from Windsor, Ontario, which is right across from Detroit, Michigan, in the United States. In my situation, I could get my vehicle fixed two kilometres away when crossing into the United States, but because Canada was behind with its measures, I could not in Canada. The suppliers, the original manufacturers, would not provide information. In the United States, for the most part people can get this through a number of measures, because its laws are much more restrictive on anti-competitive practices. It is still an issue there and different states are dealing with it, but it has a bit of a better situation.

I tabled legislation, which went through this chamber and passed, on the right to repair, but a voluntary agreement with automakers was created instead. We wanted a full law, but at that time, the industry agreed we could try a temporary solution to it. We basically got a field goal instead of a touchdown on the issue.

The problem is that we now have a new digital age where technological protection measures are much easier to embed, and some companies, like Tesla, have opted out of the voluntary agreement. The voluntary agreement has a number of manufacturers that have agreed to participate. There is no free cost to this and no rip-off going on in the aftermarket. It is a way to pay for the product, have a servicing application for the product and get the training and all the necessary things needed for the product. It is not a gift. It is not stealing. It is just a way of being able to use those things.

Unfortunately, if we look at Tesla, Elon Musk is just choosing to opt out, and it is ironic that the government is allowing Tesla to put charging stations in parks and recs but is not enforcing the act. We are actually going into discussions on that. Maybe the act should not be voluntary anymore. We will see about that, but it is unfair to consumers. This is one of the reasons I support this particular bill.

With the TPMs and access to technology, it is also really clear that the agricultural community needs this right now, as this issue creates inefficiency. It puts greater stress on those in the industry, whether they have small, medium or even larger farming establishments. It also creates more pressure for services, because some of these areas are remote, as I have noted before. One of the dangers is that there are fewer options because of the geography of remote or rural areas. We put equipment either on the road or in the fields that is not operating as if in prime condition, as it should be, just because of anti-competitive measures that use a loophole in the Copyright Act.

We have been warned that the bill has to be compliant with the Canada-U.S. trade agreement. This issue was raised at length. We believe we have found a kind of sweet spot for the bill, and we will now pass it on to the Senate for it to have a review. I think that is to the credit of the entire committee, which is known for being as co-operative and collegial as it can possibly be.

One of the reasons I think the bill should go to the Senate now and get passed is that the session is coming to an end. I say it is the end now, but we have a long four weeks and then another four weeks, and believe me, that is a long time. At any rate, it will disappear before we know it. Hopefully the bill will get to the other chamber, where senators will get a chance to look at it and get it done before the end of the summer so it can go to the next process at that time.

This is the policy outcome we want with this legislation. When this type of private member's bill comes forward, it is very much focused on a particular problem and issue. It is why its merits were proven at committee. I think that is important to recognize, because the committee could have sent it back here, and it could have come back at a point where we would not have supported it. However, we have decided to support it as New Democrats, first for the issues related to competition and the TPMs, which basically use a loophole to be anti-competitive, and on top of that, for the stress already placed on the agricultural community. This is one of those unnecessary elements that should be eliminated from it.

This could have been done a long time ago; it is not a new issue, but I do want to acknowledge that it is becoming increasingly complicated to deal with. That is one of the reasons we want this to be done in a relatively quick fashion, if we can. The other House will decide its agenda in terms of its time and what is at committee, but hopefully it can look at the bill and get it done, because there is no time to waste in the chamber on this. There will only be increased elements to consider with artificial intelligence and the other types of electronics and communication issues that take place among devices and goods and services, so this is one of the things we should clear up right away. I am happy to support the bill, and I encourage all members of the House to do so.

I want to conclude by thanking the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for bringing the bill forward. I think it is an important piece of legislation that would create at least one benefit to help people in our economy.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 6 p.m.
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Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on the importance of this interoperability bill, a key initiative in protecting consumer rights and encouraging innovation.

However, it is equally important to prevent this legislation from being used to restrict competition or limit the consumer's ability to use products and services they lawfully purchased themselves.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands. He answered questions from us and showed a strong command of the topic. I think that all members of the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology would agree that many companies will use this new provision of the Copyright Act as intended. I would also like to underscore the work of the member for Halifax and parliamentary secretary, who managed to get us all on board despite our conflicting positions during the negotiation phase.

Like the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, I also come from a rural area, and all too often our farmers, miners and others find themselves stuck in closed ecosystems. In other words, if a farmer purchases a John Deere tractor, and a company has developed a piece of machinery with the features he needs and that suit him, as it stands, it is quite possible that the elements are not interoperable, that they cannot connect to one another. Bill C‑294 will allow the company in question to develop a connector so that the machine can be used properly with a John Deere tractor.

The Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of Bill C‑294 at third reading.

Interoperability is an important concept in the digital world, too. This is about IT products and services being able to work together, regardless of their origin.

In the copyright context, interoperability means that consumers can legally use the products and services they have purchased with other products and services, even if they are produced by other companies. This might seem obvious, but in practice, companies can use the Copyright Act to limit the interoperability of their products and services with those of other companies.

For example, a company can use technological copyright protection measures to keep consumers from using a product or service with another product or service that has not been approved by that company. That can have major negative consequences for consumers and innovation. Consumers can find themselves stuck in a closed environment where they are forced to use the products and services of a particular company. That can make it difficult for competitors to compete with these companies, which can stifle innovation and lead to inferior products and services. I could cite the example of Apple products, which can only connect with other Apple products.

The interoperability bill seeks to address this problem and allow consumers to circumvent technological copyright protection measures used by companies to limit the interoperability of their products and services. It amends the Copyright Act to allow interoperability in certain circumstances. Specifically, Bill C‑294 proposes to introduce a copyright exception to permit the creation of products and services that are compatible with other copyrighted products, provided that it is done in a fair and equitable manner. This exception to copyright would allow developers to create compatible products and services without infringing on other companies' copyrights. This could pave the way for greater competition and innovation in the technology industries.

In addition, the interoperability bill would help strengthen consumer rights. Consumers would be able to freely choose the products and services they prefer without being limited by digital locks. It may also encourage companies to offer higher quality products and services, as they would be forced to compete on the basis of quality and innovation, rather than on the basis of digital locks.

It should also be noted that the interoperability bill would not affect companies' legitimate copyrights. They would still be able to protect their products and services with copyrights and prevent their illegal use. However, they would not be able to use copyrights to block interoperability and prevent competition. In committee, I wondered in particular about the video game industry, for example, and the possibility of copying games and putting them on other platforms such as online streaming platforms.

The interoperability bill is also important for researchers and universities. They often need to access data and proprietary software to conduct research, which can be easier with interoperability. This could encourage research and innovation in a wide range of areas, from medicine to technology.

Finally this bill could help boost Quebec's economy by encouraging competition and innovation, especially in the regions. Interoperability could stimulate the creation of new companies by making it possible for emerging companies to create products that are compatible with existing products without having to develop a new ecosystem from scratch.

This could also help more established companies to innovate and remain competitive by offering goods and services that are more user-friendly and adaptable. This is an important initiative for the future of innovation and competition in Canada. It will allow consumers to freely choose the goods and services they prefer, help stimulate research and innovation and encourage the creation of new and innovative companies.

This bill brings something positive for consumers, since it frees us from the limitations that many companies tend to impose on their clients, preventing us essentially from becoming prisoners of the original software owner. I commend the companies that do not resort to the act, that allow interoperability and do not obstruct it. If this bill gets through every stage, which has become highly likely on this side of the House, it will be the standard for all. There are many companies that come to mind that illustrate good practices and the benefits for consumers. If there is one thing to remember, it is that interoperability opens infinite possibilities to use the technological tools we have in better ways.

We need to think about the enjoyable and user-friendly tools people want to work with. That is what the bill addresses. Take a cellphone, for example. It is much more than a telephone; it is a pocket computer that can be used for all kinds of activities. To make it even more versatile, we can download many different apps that get added to the operating system and add new functions to it. Without interoperability, would the use of this device be so widespread? I doubt it. The answer is obvious.

I invite all my colleagues to support this bill and to work to promote it. By working together, we can create a more equitable, innovative and prosperous future for everyone. The idea is to dissuade businesses from developing products in a vacuum. I will repeat the same message this evening: We need to shift to a new paradigm and stop throwing money away. Repairability and interoperability are principles that need to be enshrined in the Copyright Act. We have to do much more with fewer resources. This realization is already reflected in Quebec's new laws and policies. It also helps to prevent waste and planned obsolescence.

I want to thank the many witnesses and all the companies that made submissions. They have contributed to an initiative that originated in the work of an MP who was able to reflect the needs his constituents, as well as those in many other ridings.

In closing, I would like to point out that the Copyright Act can be reformed in many other ways. I am thinking in particular of the people from Copibec, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Science and Research today. They basically told us the same thing they have told us in the past. There is recommendation 18 of a report by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage from 2019. The Standing Committee on Industry and Technology has already done a lot of research as well, but I am referring to this recommendation because it could take the Copyright Act further. To be clear, the fair dealing provisions do not apply to educational institutions if the work is commercially available. This creates a whole imbalance in terms of funding for creation in the science and research publishing community. This law prevents full funding because universities do not have to pay dues or royalties. Another example of how the Copyright Act will need to be reformed in the near future is to include all the issues involving artificial intelligence, where interoperability will certainly have many possibilities, but also some limitations.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 5:50 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I really appreciate the manner in which the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands made his presentation on the bill. I also had the opportunity to speak to it previously.

I believe that as a government, and as members on all sides of the House, we have an appreciation for consumers, and it is important that we take legislative and budgetary actions where we can in order to support consumers. That is the way I look at this piece of legislation.

Although the emphasis is in one area, the example I was going to use is the one the member made reference to, which is that of Apple. I recently purchased an Apple iPad. When I say “recently”, it was a number of months ago. The Apple iPad now has a different end on it, so if I have other Apple products I cannot use the same charger, nor plug in a headset to listen. If I want to listen to a video, I have to buy a special attachment, which Apple of course is the first to produce, at a prime price. This is something very serious, and it gives the bill a great deal of merit.

A number of years ago, when I was much younger than today, I can recall being out in the area of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. They were stowing a farm, and they had the big John Deere tractors back then. What was really impressive was how this individual, and the family, understood every aspect of the machinery. It is truly amazing how our farmers in the Prairies understand farm machinery. It very much matters should something go wrong on the farm, if they are cultivating their field and they have a computer issue or a part issue, or if they want an add-on. If we want to talk about innovators, we can look to our farmers and we will see innovation in many different ways, in how they can modify equipment to enable the operation of that piece of machinery to ultimately do a far better job because they are using it first-hand.

Therefore, when we talk about interoperability and how technology has changed over the last number of years, we find that the initial thinking behind it, in dealing with issues like the Copyright Act, made a whole lot of sense because as a government we want to encourage and promote creativity and innovation. That is one of the reasons why it is important that we have the Copyright Act, whether it is with respect to our cultural industry or our economic industry, which is specific to things such as manufacturing.

That is why we have the legislation. That is why we have governments around the world, in particular western governments, that have recognized that if they want to support state-of-the-art technological advancements or creativity, they need to have copyright legislation. Generally speaking, it has been very effective. However, when we look at the TPMs and the advancements in technology, in particular in the whole area of computers, we can very quickly understand why in recent years we have seen issues come to the table that I do not think people had really anticipated. I can try to relate to it from a personal perspective.

At one time, I had a car where I could take the motor apart and put it back together and it would actually run. Today, if a person pops the hood of a vehicle, it is truly amazing how the computer is intertwined with the running of the vehicle itself. In the past, one could go to third party manufacturers to pick up the necessary parts and make some modifications so that the vehicle or the tractor would be able to do the things that it was meant to do.

Those are the types of concerns I think that most of us have. This inability was put in place by things like TPM, or better known as digital locks, and particularly through the advancement of computers. The days when someone would look at a motor and attach some wires to it to try to find out what the issues were are long gone. Now we can plug in one thing and it will do a complete diagnostic. Nowadays, through the Internet, we can get notifications telling us when it is time to have an oil change done on a vehicle. Those are the types of advancements that we see in technology. It has actually gone to a degree in which TPMs are now being utilized in such a fashion that it is not friendly to the consumer. That is why there is a need for us to take a look at the act to ensure that there is a heightened sense of fairness to the individual who owns the product or to the third party manufacturers. That is a very important industry to be taken into consideration.

Talking about the Copyright Act, we need to balance consumer rights and competition. I appreciate the member made reference to the bill, Bill C-294, being at committee with presentations being made. Some suggestions from the government were actually incorporated, I suggest, for good reason.

In the chamber I have talked about the importance of international trade for Canada. That is of the greatest importance. International trade and the trade agreements that Canada has entered into need to be respected. Having these agreements in place, we cannot just pass anything that we feel ultimately makes a whole lot of sense too quickly; due diligence must be done. If we were to unknowingly pass something that has an impact, we could potentially be in violation of a trade agreement that could cause other repercussions. I know this should concern all members of the House as we do not want to be in violation of agreements or areas of the legislation meant to promote and protect innovation and creativity.

I think, in listening to the member and having somewhat of an understanding of the legislation, that the legislation will in fact improve upon the system. That is why, I suspect, the member is getting the support because it is indeed a step forward. This government has been a champion of consumer rights and competition. Therefore, I suspect that it will be getting the support of the government.

Copyright ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2023 / 5:30 p.m.
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Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to once again be able to rise in this place and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-294. This time, it has reached a new stage, at third reading, in the House of Commons. It is also important to acknowledge many of our fellow Canadians who are listening and who have been following this bill's progress for a while now. They are watching and waiting for the necessary change that it would bring.

So far, the process of reviewing Bill C-294 has been moving along at a steady pace. It might not happen very often, but when we voted on it, this bill passed through the House of Commons at second reading with unanimous support. That was an encouraging thing to see and I remain hopeful that it can happen once again as we go through third reading and debate in the House again. Now that the committee has finished its study and the bill passed through the committee unanimously as well, I am eager to, hopefully, vote and pass this as quickly as we possibly can. There are many communities in my riding of Cypress Hills—Grasslands, in my province of Saskatchewan and all throughout this country who are counting on this bill's passing. The sooner we can help them, the better. That is what got this whole thing started in the first place.

In my first speech with respect to Bill C-294, I told the story of Honey Bee Manufacturing, which is based in my riding, because its owners are the ones who brought this issue of interoperability to my attention. It is one success story among many for small businesses in Canada and it should be allowed to continue doing what it does best. However, it is the company's larger impact on the survival of local communities in the surrounding area that really brings it home for me, so when we had witnesses appear for the committee study, it felt like I had some déjà vu, because some people from Honey Bee came all the way out to Ottawa just to be part of the panel. About three years earlier, they had done the exact same thing when I was a member of the industry committee and we were studying the CUSMA deal. That is when they started to raise the issue of interoperability under the Canadian Copyright Act.

The same effort to make sure that Canadian innovators and communities can thrive has been going strong ever since. Once again, during their most recent appearance, they were the best advocates for the issue because of their unique position on the front lines as the people who are the boots on the ground working on these issues each and every day. I am going to quote from a large portion of their statement to the committee, because they can speak to their own situation better than anyone else can. I quote:

We are a global company, from the people we work with to the 29 countries we export to. Honey Bee sells 50% of its product in North America and exports the remainder to the rest of the world. However, our industry is still placed on an uneven playing field versus our U.S. counterparts. Foreign platforms seek to prevent participation by Canadian brands.

Honey Bee's opportunity to capitalize on intellectual property is based on our ability to interoperate with OEM equipment platforms. Interoperability means that a Honey Bee harvest header can “plug and play” with OEM equipment. Historically, this has been provided in a straightforward and obvious way, like the way a keyboard plugs into a computer.

Today, Canadian industry is technically blocked by some dominant international brands, with the impact being a loss of substantial market participation opportunity. The net result is “authorized use only”. This is controlled by OEM digital locks and keys that are unavailable to manufacturers of implement. Instead of spending our research budget on innovation, we are burning it on adaptation.

It is important to state that in no way should Canadian manufacturers, dealers and—most importantly—farmer customers be at a disadvantage on choice. Historically, we had an integrated farm equipment market in North America and abroad. Honey Bee innovation caters to the specific needs of many markets and considers their unique environments, practices and crops. Meeting these challenges brings Canadian innovation to the world. The impact of technical lockout by OEMs will be the collapse of our Canadian implement manufacturing industry, which will decimate many of our smaller communities.

Throughout the different stages of Bill C-294, I have talked a lot about Honey Bee specifically. It is a good example of short-line manufacturing in particular, but it is always important to emphasize that the issue of interoperability is something much larger and more significant than a single business or any one single type of product. In their presentation, the people from Honey Bee made a point of passing on support for the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada and the North American Equipment Dealers Association, whose representatives were unable to attend the proceedings on that particular day. They mentioned that those two industry associations represent 240 members and 4,000 members, respectively.

In addition, the committee heard directly from other witnesses who were present. Along with members of the Canada West Foundation, there were various stakeholders and experts who specialize in copyright or related areas of public policy. Overall, it is fair to say that the testimony provided to the committee was overwhelmingly supportive of Bill C-294 and what it is aiming to do.

For the benefit of my colleagues who were not at the committee meetings but are participating in this debate tonight, I will try to quickly provide some highlights from the study. One of the witnesses, Anthony Rosborough, is a lawyer with relevant expertise. He explained part of the issue this way:

In the world of embedded computer systems and the Internet of things, interoperability is synonymous with innovation.

Bill C-294 reflects this reality, and it reflects the needs of Canadian innovators by not allowing manufacturers to prevent competition in secondary markets under the auspices of copyright.

In another part of his opening statement, he added:

This bill takes the right approach by broadening the application of the interoperability exception to include not only computer programs but also devices in which they are embedded. This is crucial, because the distinction between the computer program and the computing hardware is much less clear than it once was. In the past, it may have been easier to distinguish between hardware and software, but when software now controls the physical functioning of devices and components, the software and hardware blend together. As I wrote in my 2021 article, the Copyright Act’s conceptualization of interoperability needs to reflect today's computing and innovation paradigm. Computers are no longer just boxes with screens and keyboards. They are cars, home appliances, pacemakers, agricultural equipment and learning technologies.

With the rapid pace of changing technology, it is no surprise we need to update the Copyright Act after its most recent update over 10 years ago. The focus of Bill C-294 is to update our legal enforcement of TPMs so they are not misused to stifle creativity and innovation. That was never their original intention, and we have to make sure our law is applied fairly and with common sense. Over the last decade, the use of digital locks has been spreading far beyond the simple protection of creative works.

Dr. Alissa Centivany, who works as a professor and researcher, provided more detail and context about TPMs. In her opening remarks, she said:

TPMs were originally intended to create artificial digital scarcity so that creators of creative and artistic works who feared that the burgeoning Internet would lead to unfettered infringement on their works online wouldn't lose all incentive to create. Times have changed. We can now see that TPMs overshot their original mark. Today TPMs are used to restrict a wide range of lawful non-infringing activities that bear no relationship to protected works at all. By being keyed to access rather than infringement, TPMs have been a disaster for consumers....

TPMs lock consumers and third parties out. They also lock us in to ongoing relationships with companies and service providers whether we like it or not. We live in walled gardens, platform bubbles and tech silos—disconnected, closed worlds—and we are largely stuck because restrictions on interoperability have enabled switching costs to rise to untenable levels. We lack the economic agency to leave for an alternative or substitute provider. No matter how nice the trappings might appear at times, a cage is still a cage.

On a similar point, a witness for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre added:

In order to achieve improved access to compatible goods, competing companies must be able to examine each other's software for the purpose of developing interoperable products. Currently, manufacturers use TPMs to deny competitors access to the information, preferring instead to make goods that can only be used in conjunction with other products that they manufacture in a closed loop that encourages anti-competitive lock-in.

It was good for us to hear some of the academic input in committee. It helped us to step back and hear about the issue in a way that shows how broad and far-reaching it can be. While most people do not think of interoperability very often, if they ever do at all, it is still an issue that affects us as consumers or as businesses in a competitive marketplace. This issue has so many aspects and we only have a limited amount of time for debate.

There were some points of disagreement between different witnesses, although there seemed to be almost consensus that Bill C-294 is going in the right direction and would improve an outdated version of the Copyright Act. It reaffirmed the all-party support that this bill received at second reading. We are moving forward with the same principles that the Copyright Act has always maintained.

This bill is not doing something new. It is only responding to recent changes in the marketplace that have caused innovators and consumers to lose ground they once had. All we are trying to do is get back to the right balance, which we had before. Interoperability has existed all along and was taken for granted. It is an essential part of our economy that we cannot afford to lose. Bill C-294 has a simple solution. We would have a limited exemption for interoperability with clear and meaningful language that is currently lacking.

Something else that should be discussed at this stage is the amendment that was made to the bill at committee. The original draft that I introduced had a separate section with specific language about manufacturers. With the example of Honey Bee and similar businesses out there, it is absolutely necessary for the legislation to protect what they are doing. At the same time, I have acknowledged from the start that our approach to copyright has to be compliant with our trade agreements. The additions to the bill have taken a careful look at our agreements and have expanded the scope of the bill in some ways. That is what we are trying to do by using newer language about “lawfully obtained computer programs”, instead of specifically mentioning manufacturers.

To be clear, the intent of this bill remains exactly the same as it was in the first version. We want to guarantee manufacturers the right to circumvent TPMs for the purpose of interoperability. That is non-negotiable. For my part, I agreed to accept this amendment from the government on the understanding that this would be the case. I have been assured that this is what the bill’s language would do in practice if it is, hopefully, passed.

Along with the need to use technical language that is in harmony with our trade agreements, I want to reassure my colleagues across the House once again about our relationship with our trading partners, especially the United States. For the agricultural sector, we are seeking an exemption for interoperability that is equivalent to what already exists south of the border. Their system for regulating copyright is quite different from ours in practice, but this bill is trying to accomplish the same goal, mainly for our farm equipment, but also across other parts of the economy.

We did hear some testimony at committee about the potential benefits of imitating the U.S.'s regulatory approach, and that could be a conversation worth having. That will have to be on another day. It is not the intent of this particular bill. What we wanted to deal with is what is not happening in Canada, and we need to catch up. Sometimes we have to move faster than the speed of bureaucracy, which is why we are taking this legislative approach.

As it stands, our consideration of Bill C-294 has helped to show how we might want to improve the Copyright Act in other ways, such as by having a more flexible approach that can be accomplished through regulation, but that is a much larger issue than is typical or realistic for a private member’s bill. I will leave that to the government side to figure out, and I hope the work we have all done together on Bill C-294 will help that out.

I have a lot of hope that we can move forward with this bill and see it quickly pass this House and move on to the other place, where hopefully it can receive royal assent.