It's truly a great opportunity for me to be here this afternoon.
Last month, I was contacted by an author from Saint-Hyacinthe, a town in the riding I represent. I realize that the reality of creators and authors is similar to that of musicians. Let me read you an excerpt from his letter, which is eloquent, like the one you read, Mr. Willaert.
The 2012 changes to the Copyright Act, he says, “served as a framework for the legalized stripping of artists and writers.”
He goes on:
Saint-Hyacinthe has a long cultural tradition. The town's CEGEP is a focal point for future authors [and actors], since it is home to one of the best theatre schools in the province. This measure particularly hurts regional writers [it could be the same for musicians] since the opportunities to make their art profitable are often fewer than in larger centres. This income of which they are deprived leaves less money in their pockets, affecting their families, their ability to thrive in our area and their participation in our local economy.
On my behalf and in solidarity with all creators across the country, I invite you to make your voice heard...in the process of reviewing the Act [it is interesting that I have the opportunity to do so this afternoon], by supporting amendments that will make the Copyright Act fair and equitable to Canadian artists and creators who are at the heart of our culture.
He is an author, but we also have many artists from the music industry and incredible venues in a small community such as ours.
I am thinking of the Zaricot, for example. The Zaricot in Saint-Hyacinthe is a small venue that you may know and that animates our cultural life with diverse programming, both with emerging local artists and with those with a wider audience, who are probably members of your organization.
This small venue stands out because it is still going. Recently, several venues like that—I am thinking of Montreal's Divan Orange—have closed their doors. For us, animating the cultural life of our small communities is important. These venues must remain open, and artists must be able to live from performing in those venues. For 15 years now, the Zaricot has been truly creative and active in bringing music to life in Saint-Hyacinthe.
We often think of the large-scale shows in major centres, such as the Bell Centre, but the reality of our Quebec artists—as you rightly said—is long tours, with a lot of mileage, travelling around Quebec and performing in small venues in the regions, such as the Zaricot. If they are lucky, the artists go to the Centre des arts Juliette-Lassonde, a medium-sized venue in our area. For those artists who struggle to sell their music because of distribution platforms, such as Spotify, shows and merchandise sold locally are now essentially their only source of revenue, as you said.
So I agree with the author who wrote to me: we need a copyright law that is fair and equitable to artists. To do so, it is important to tax giants such as Spotify. Royalties must be collected. Everyone in our cultural ecosystem, from cable companies to technicians' unions, artists and writers, is also calling for this measure. You have demonstrated that well.
Online broadcasters, unlike our broadcasters such as MusiquePlus, have no obligation to showcase domestic content, and I'm concerned about that. Our culture is experiencing unfair competition from those web giants in all aspects, web, music, authors, and so on.
Mr. Lefebvre, you mentioned the various recommendations you are proposing. As you said yourself, the act has become complex. I would like to hear more from you about each of those different recommendations, in order to enlighten us on how we can support what I just mentioned, namely the development of culture in a rural riding such as mine.