Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much for having me, committee members.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is a national non-profit organization and registered charity that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests, in particular vulnerable consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services.
PIAC has been active on copyright, from a consumer perspective, since the mid-2000s. In particular, we were heavily involved in the creation of the balance between creator and public rights achieved in the major overhaul that led to the Copyright Modernization Act.
Our message today is simple. The present Copyright Act has generally helped Canadian consumers to enjoy copyrighted works, as they should, without excessive strictures that do not align with the realities of how consumers watch, listen to or interact with copyrighted works.
Shaw Communications, when they appeared before this committee, said:
Overall, our Copyright Act already strikes an effective balance, subject to a few provisions that would benefit from targeted amendments. Extensive changes are neither necessary nor in the public interest. They would upset Canada's carefully balanced regime, and jeopardize policy objectives of other acts of Parliament that coexist with copyright as part of a broader framework that includes the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act.
However, the FairPlay coalition application recently brought in CRTC, and now brought to this committee by several vertically integrated media and telecommunications companies, substantially misrepresents the context in which this committee's report must be made.
In reality, first, expedient judicial relief is available against intermediaries. Secondly, administrative censorship is not common around the world. Third, little online copyright infringement may actually be occurring. Fourth, online copyright infringement appears to be declining. Fifth, Canada's broadcasting industry is profitable and growing. Sixth, blocking is not very effective at reducing privacy. Seventh, blocking piracy services generates little additional revenue for broadcasters; pirated programming is predominantly not Canadian. Next, increased revenues for broadcasters may not necessarily increase the quantity or quality of content produced and finally the proposed regime will result in the blocking of legal sites.
PIAC believes that the committee should not recommend the implementation of FairPlay-type proposals. The courts are better positioned to enforce copyright, and balance enforcement against the public interest in freedom of expression, innovation and competition, and net neutrality. Secondly, technical protection measures already exist and are available to protect the interest of content owners. Lastly, the blessing of any Internet censorship in this domain will likely spread to other areas of government activity. These considerations, we feel, weigh strongly against implementing the proposed regime.
As noted above, judicial relief is already available against intermediaries under the Copyright Act, and it's actually subsections 27(2.3) and (2.4). They address the enablement of copyright infringement “by means of the Internet or another digital network”.
In other words, the FairPlay coalition members wish to replace the present judicial enforcement regime with an additional administrative regime. What matters about an administrative process, besides its duplicative nature, is that the process would be handled likely by the CRTC, which the FairPlay coalition members apparently hope through its general jurisdiction over telecom would be able to use a blanket blocking order on many alleged infringing sites on all telecommunications service providers, not just providing the right of one ISP to block one website. That is why they are so keen on enshrining this belt-and-suspenders type of remedy.
To move to fair dealing, PIAC believes that fair dealing exemptions in the Copyright Act generally have facilitated fair use by the public that benefit the public interest. We would resist calls to reduce this, whether in the educational field or elsewhere. Ideally, Canadian fair dealing should also encompass transformative uses, such as remixes of songs and other creative endeavours, including documentary filmmaking. However, we recognize that this was not in the previous act revision.
The iPod or smartphone levy has also been proposed by some in this committee, and has been rightly rejected as inappropriate on many occasions, including in the Federal Court. This recycled idea is no better today. It denies the use of such devices' full capabilities, raises prices on a staple of consumerism and makes the person who uses only licensed content pay twice: once for a licensed copy of the content, and again for others who are presumed to violate the act. This unfairness should be obvious and conclusive.
Lastly, PIAC also opposes the idea of an ISP levy or Internet tax. Such an idea does violence to the very concept of common carriage by telecommunications providers and very likely would raise prices for Internet service. This is a bad idea when Canadians, and in particular low-income Canadians, are struggling to afford broadband Internet for economic and social purposes.
PIAC thanks the committee very much. I look forward to your questions.