Great. Thank you.
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me.
My name is Danielle Parr, and I'm the executive director of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. With me today is Jason Kee, ESAC's director of policy and legal affairs.
Our association is the voice of the Canadian video and computer game industry, which employs 14,000 people in creative and cutting-edge jobs that are leading Canada's digital economy.
Video games make up the fastest-growing entertainment medium in the world, with some blockbuster titles rivalling Hollywood movies in sales and excitement. In 2009 Canada's video game industry accounted for more than $2 billion in retail sales of entertainment software and hardware, and contributed over $1.7 billion in direct economic activity to Canada's economy.
In our view, Bill C-32 proposes measures that will bring the Copyright Act in line with advances in technology and current international standards of intellectual property protection. Subject to certain technical changes we are very supportive of the bill, and we strongly urge the committee to pass it as soon as possible.
Piracy is a massive problem for the video game industry. It represents huge losses of revenues to game developers and publishers that depend on large, upfront sales to recoup the significant costs of game creation. Piracy ultimately leads to studio closures, lost jobs, or worse.
The bill will provide rights holders with the tools they urgently need to go after those who facilitate piracy, either by trafficking and circumvention devices or services, or by operating pirate websites. Further, by establishing clear rules it will provide much-needed certainty in a digital marketplace, permitting market forces to operate properly, and enabling creators and companies to choose for themselves the best way to make their own content available.
This will contribute to job creation; promote innovation; spur investment in the development of new digital products, services, distribution methods, and platforms; and support a diverse range of new and innovative business models that will, in turn, foster legitimate competition, more consumer choices, and lower prices.
Today we'd like to tell you about how copyright is central to the video game industry, and recommend specific technical changes intended to address loopholes and avoid unintended consequences. We've outlined these issues in more detail in our submission to the committee, so I'll just give you a brief overview.
When it comes to TPMs, the video game industry makes extensive use of technological protection measures in all aspects of its business in order to protect its works. We strongly support the provisions in the bill that will protect TPMs. However, we have concerns with some of the exceptions, and recommend narrowing and clarifying them.
TPMs not only help prevent piracy by allowing creators themselves to determine how their work can be used, and to be properly compensated for their work; TPMs also enable a wide variety of business models by enabling value-added features and facilitating new products, services, and distribution methods in a digital environment.
Let me break that down a little. The choice of whether or not a creator, artist, or company can use a TPM to protect a digital work is and should be the purview of creators. Consumers clearly have the right to avoid purchasing products or services that make use of TPMs if they wish, and it's incumbent on creators and companies to respond to consumer demand, or they'll suffer in the market.
Some companies, such as iTunes, have responded to demand for format shifting by offering TPM-free versions, while others have responded by providing a downloadable copy of the work with the packaged version, like many Blu-ray movies. However, there's no equivalent expectation that a video game purchased for a Nintendo Wii should be playable on a Xbox, and there's no consumer demand for format shifting.
The point is that each market is different, with its own specific rules and idiosyncrasies, and it's good public policy to support the widest possible range of markets and business models and let the consumer decide, rather than pick winners and impose a regime that may be beneficial for one sector over all others. Strong legal protection for TPMs accomplishes this by ensuring that the creator's choice to use a TPM is respected.
It's also important to understand that TPMs play an increasingly critical role in new and emerging platforms and distribution channels for content online. From new streaming radio and music services such as Spotify, to film and television services such as Hulu or Netflix, to gaming platforms such as PlayStation Network or Xbox LIVE, all of these services are supported by TPMs. They control access to the services, thus preventing piracy. They provide viable market-based revenue streams for creators, and enable value-added features, such as rental versus purchase. The video game industry also makes extensive use of TPMs to provide additional downloadable content for games to prevent cheating and to implement subscription services.
We're in the midst of a fundamental change in the way we consume content, and creators will increasingly use online platforms and other new innovative distribution models to deliver their content.
Strong anti-circumvention measures such as those contained in this bill are essential, not only to prevent piracy and allow creators to determine how their works will be exploited, but also to ensure the new platforms are secure and to maintain the integrity of the nascent digital marketplace.
However, we are concerned that certain exceptions to circumvention will be exploited by those who enable piracy by trafficking in circumvention devices and services in order to escape liability. Overly broad and vague exceptions will render the provisions virtually unusable. We recommend that those exceptions be narrowed to close this loophole.
Briefly I'd like to mention three other areas that are of concern for our industry.
With regard to enabling infringement, we applaud the new enabling infringement provision but we are concerned that as drafted it might not be effective. We recommend clarifying it to ensure services that are both designed or operated to enable infringement are captured and that rights holders can obtain the full range of legal remedies against enablers including statutory damages.
The second is the exception for user-generated content. Generally the video game industry takes a very permissive approach to UGC. However, the wording of the bill would essentially permit widespread appropriation of existing works. It essentially allows anyone to copy the designs, art assets, even programming code from a game, and release a copycat game, for free, on the Internet. This exception must be narrowed and additional factors added, such as the need for the new work to be transformative, to avoid these clearly unintended consequences.
Another issue of major concern is with regard to the statutory damage provisions. The new multi-tiered approach is clearly intended to limit damages payable by private individuals who infringe copyright for personal purposes, but it could create perverse incentives and have the unintended consequence of giving a free pass to large-scale pirates. We recommend that this unworkable distinction be eliminated and that instead the factors the courts must consider when determining the award be emphasized.
Thank you, and we look forward to your questions. Merci.