Evidence of meeting #49 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was copyright.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian Boxall  President, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan
William Hanvey  President and Chief Executive Officer, Auto Care Association
Joshua Dickison  Copyright Officer, University of New Brunswick, Canadian Federation of Library Associations
Catherine Lovrics  Chair, Copyright Policy Committee, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada
Matthew Hatfield  Campaigns Director, OpenMedia
John Lawford  Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Alexandra Kohn  Copyright and Digital Collections Librarian, McGill University, Canadian Federation of Library Associations

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

I call the meeting to order.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to meeting number 49 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 5, 2022, today we are considering Bill C‑244, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (diagnosis, maintenance and repair).

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of Thursday, June 23, 2022.

I want to thank the numerous witnesses we have with us today. Thanks for taking the time to join us on this Monday morning.

We have, from the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, Mr. Ian Boxall; and from the Auto Care Association, we have William Hanvey.

We are also hearing from Joshua Dickison and Alexandra Kohn, from the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, as well as Catherine Lovrics, from the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada.

From OpenMedia, we have Matthew Hatfield.

We are also welcoming John Lawford, from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Without further ado, I give the floor to Mr. Boxall, from the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

Mr. Boxall, the floor is yours for five minutes.

11:05 a.m.

Ian Boxall President, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

APAS is Saskatchewan's general farm organization, representing farmers and ranchers across the province.

Saskatchewan farmers have the largest farm sizes in the country. We need access to modern equipment to be able to grow our crops. In the last decade, farm equipment has gone through a significant amount of modernization. This modernization has been part of the story that has made Saskatchewan the world's most sustainable place to grow food, fuel and fibre. With the integration of digital and mechanical tools, we can do so much more with less, and we are 30 years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to section control, zero till and precision agriculture.

Being world leaders in sustainability comes with added costs. Producers will spend millions of dollars this year on new pieces of equipment. In 2021, 5% of all farm expenses were for equipment, which does not include the fuel to operate them.

Saskatchewan has a very short growing season, which means that farmers' work is very time-sensitive. During harvest, seeding and other critical production times, if a farmer misses a single day of work, that can affect the quality, quantity and value of their crops. This can result in thousands of dollars of loss to the producer.

Being able to repair a piece of machinery in a prompt manner is extremely important. Typically, most of this work can be done on the farm by producers. A farmer can also go to a dealership or get work done by a third party or aftermarket repair shop. The current Copyright Act, however, limits what producers can do on the farm and what aftermarket repair shops can also do. Instead, farmers are required to go to the dealership for these repairs, adding additional delays and expense to getting the work done.

Ultimately, this adds an extra barrier and constraint to getting repairs done in a fast and efficient way. In fact, this can be so extreme that some producers will move to purchase replacement equipment just to keep production going, so when equipment breaks down, unable to get it repaired, they will have an added cost at that time to replace that piece of equipment.

Amending the Copyright Act to extend the work that producers and the aftermarket can do is essential to keeping the market transparent and competitive. Producers aren't looking for ways to get out of safety control features or emission controls. We want to be able to repair our equipment in the most efficient and cost-effective way for our farms. Producers instead are looking to see amendments that will update the Copyright Act for 21st century agriculture and bring us in line with our international counterparts.

Saskatchewan producers continue to have a good relationship with their equipment dealers, and we value the knowledge and experience that they bring to the industry. We value the innovations manufacturers are continuously making to help make agriculture successful. Producers, however, want more flexibility and ability to control their costs. Changes to the Copyright Act would facilitate this. Our machinery and equipment have allowed us to achieve this, but that also means that our expenses are high, and we need to have the ability to control the costs in all ways.

I thank you for the time to be able to speak on behalf of the agriculture industry on this important matter. APAS intends to submit a brief to this committee before the end of your discussion.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much, Mr. Boxall. It is much appreciated.

We'll now turn to the Auto Care Association.

Mr. Hanvey, the floor is yours.

I believe you are on mute.

11:05 a.m.

William Hanvey President and Chief Executive Officer, Auto Care Association

I made a mental note not to do that.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, honourable members of the committee, for the opportunity to speak before you on Bill C-244.

My name is Bill Hanvey. I am president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

The Auto Care Association is the voice of the approximately $400-billion United States auto care industry. We provide advocacy, education, networking, technology, market intelligence and communication resources to support the collective interests of our members, which are companies that provide quality parts, products, services and repairs for all 290 million vehicles on the United States' roads today.

The vehicle service and repair industry is an essential service that includes the manufacturing of replacement parts, distribution networks, and service and repair shops. Around the world, our industry is responsible for keeping over a billion vehicles on the road in safe condition. Independent auto repair shops are in every jurisdiction and constituency worldwide. These independent shops ensure that motorists in every community, including small and remote ones, have reasonable and timely access to essential vehicle services.

Across the globe, consumers are facing a significant threat to their right to repair their vehicles at the auto repair shop of their choice. Vehicles are increasingly becoming like cellphones, connected wirelessly at all times. These connected vehicles collect thousands of data points on the health of vehicle systems. The automakers then transmit these data to themselves wirelessly, precluding access to the data by independent repair shops.

Without access to these data, there are significant risks to the automotive aftermarket. For example, without access to data, independent auto repair shops cannot service a vehicle. It becomes more difficult to ensure that vehicles are operating as efficiently and safely as possible. Moreover, consumers will lose the right to repair their vehicle at the auto repair shop of their choice. In the United States, approximately 70% of post-warranty repairs are currently handled at independent repair shops. This open, fair and competitive automotive aftermarket needs to be protected to meet consumers' needs.

The Auto Care Association supports the intention and principles behind this bill. Bill C-244 is a step in the right direction when it comes to levelling the playing field for the service and repair of consumer goods, something that is of importance not just to the automotive sector but also to many others. The bill comes at a critical moment, as manufacturers of goods, including vehicles, have become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to create a closed loop for service, diagnostics and repair.

The Auto Care Association supports the proposal to expand exclusions from software circumvention prohibitions for the purpose of repairing or diagnosing a product. While the exemption is similar to one available under its sister law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States, we believe this provision is superior, since the current U.S. law requires industries to seek a product-specific exemption every three years. Further, it appears the exemption in this legislation also includes the availability of circumvention tools used by independent repairers to diagnose and repair a product. The inclusion of this provision should increase the effectiveness of this legislation in preventing manufacturers from using software to impede competition in the repair industry.

In addition, the Auto Care Association recommends that legislative bodies around the globe include unambiguous statutory language that eliminates manufacturers' ability to prevent independent shops from obtaining diagnostic, repair or maintenance information for the purpose of legitimate repair for any devices—cellphones, farm equipment, automobiles or heavy trucks.

To that end, we support the amendments discussed by our sister organization, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada, otherwise known as AIA Canada. These amendments, which include parallel changes to the Competition Act, would help reinforce a manufacturer’s requirement to allow access to diagnostic and repair information.

The right to repair consumer goods, including motor vehicles, is necessary for a truly open, fair, and competitive automotive aftermarket to continue to exist. Right to repair is a global movement. In the state of Massachusetts, 75% of voters supported state legislation for right to repair. In March 2021, the first ever right to repair laws in the European Union came into effect that require manufacturers to make parts and repair information for products available to third parties, and I understand that 83% of Canadians agree that automakers should be required by law to share data with independent auto repair shops.

It is critical that vehicle owners—and not automakers—are the owners of their vehicle data. If our industry is to remain competitive, automakers should be required to provide access to this data so that consumers can continue to choose where to get their vehicle repaired.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present today. I look forward to answering your questions.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much, Mr. Hanvey.

I now give the floor to Mr. Dickison and Ms. Kohn, from the Canadian Federation of Library Associations.

11:15 a.m.

Joshua Dickison Copyright Officer, University of New Brunswick, Canadian Federation of Library Associations

Good morning.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My name is Joshua Dickison. I'm a member of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations on the copyright committee, and a copyright officer at the University of New Brunswick. With me here today is Alexandra Kohn, also a member of the CFLA's copyright committee, and a copyright and digital collections librarian at McGill University.

We greatly appreciate this opportunity to meet with you today regarding Bill C-244.

The CFLA is the united, national voice of Canada's library community. We represent the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, and all of those concerned about enhancing the quality of life for Canadians through access to knowledge and literacy.

The CFLA applauds the Government of Canada for the introduction of Bill C-244, and supports the right to repair. As noted in our brief, the CFLA believes that additional and critical modifications are required if the legislation of technological protection measures—TPMs—is to ultimately succeed in being both balanced and technologically neutral.

Libraries, archives and museums—LAMs—believe that all Canadians should be able to circumvent TPMs for all non-infringing purposes, including the right to repair products. The right to repair should be a user right in Canada. It is essential for preserving balance in the law.

TPMs prevent our communities from fulfilling our socially beneficial mandate to preserve and maintain access over time to our collections. Libraries and archives play an essential role, providing access to many objects and devices that control access to information, such as printers, scanners and digitization equipment, and enable innovators with our maker spaces, tool lending libraries and 3-D printers. Our collections increasingly include software-enabled products, devices and applications, such as e-books, datasets, video games, computers, Wi-Fi hot spots and more.

Without a right to repair, the ability of libraries and archives to provide access to services and collections is threatened. For example, some Canadian academic libraries purchased Espresso Book Machines. It is print-on-demand technology. These machines were over $100,000 apiece. As a result of licensing terms restricting repair to the physical equipment, many of these machines are now rendered useless and sold for parts because of prohibitive software licensing costs and the inability to fix or adapt software for continued use.

Archives need the right to repair software-enabled products, for example, as part of their preservation activities and, in some cases, to simply correctly identify their holding. U of T libraries lost access to 55 discs of purchased case study teaching material due to obsolete file formats and a lack of documentation from the proprietary software source.

Information professionals are concerned that once devices and software are rendered obsolete, are no longer supported or are deemed unprofitable by a vendor, irreplaceable knowledge will be lost or made inaccessible if repairs and modifications cannot be legally made to preserve this content and access.

Canadian TPM legislation goes beyond our international treaty obligations and has far-reaching and detrimental consequences for the preservation of our cultural expression. The current language distorts the intended balance of rights, increasingly stifles access and innovation and is at odds with the principles of technological neutrality. Libraries are stewards of the cultural record and teachers of copyright protection for creators and users. Denying users rights simply because of the medium creates a culture of copyright chill.

The CFLA and the entire library community understand and acknowledge the complexity of the issues related to the right to repair. We also welcome efforts to improve upon the interoperability exception in Bill C-294. We applaud the Government of Canada's attempt to find balance between the concerns of rights-holders and those of users as a key goal of continuing copyright reform.

The library community plays a vital role in providing Canadians access to all forms of material. That access to information is integral to ensuring that Canadians are regular contributors to the economic, social and cultural well-being of our communities.

We would like to thank you once again for this opportunity and we're happy to respond to any questions you might have.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much.

I now give the floor to Catherine Lovrics, from the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada.

11:20 a.m.

Catherine Lovrics Chair, Copyright Policy Committee, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Mr. Chair and honourable members, on behalf of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, thank you for the invitation to appear as part of INDU's study.

IPIC is the professional association of lawyers and patent and trademark agents practising in all areas of intellectual property. My name is Catherine—or Cat—Lovrics, and I am here as the chair of IPIC’s copyright committee and our subcommittee on the right to repair.

IPIC recognizes that the 2021 mandate letters reflect the policy objective of implementing a right to repair to extend the life of home appliances and amending the Copyright Act to allow for the repair of digital devices and systems, a pursuit that led honourable member Wilson Miao to table Bill C-244.

We are pleased to hear the openness to amend the bill, including from MP Wilson Miao himself. IPIC’s written submissions will follow and include specific proposed amendments to the bill for you to consider, which are aimed at helping the government achieve its objectives.

To that end, our subcommittee focused our efforts on the specific wording of Bill C-244, considering the entire scheme of the Copyright Act, a comparison with approaches of our trading partners, as well as compliance with Canada’s treaty obligations. I will provide some highlights today.

From a copyright perspective, the right to repair concerns exceptions that permit technological protection measures—or TPMs—to be circumvented. Since 1997, Canada has recognized that adequate legal protections for TPMs are indispensable to protecting copyright. Since then, reliance on TPMs has become integral—

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Excuse me, Madam Lovrics.

Can I ask you to slow down a little bit? The translators must be having a really hard time. Please slow down a little bit.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Chair, Copyright Policy Committee, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Catherine Lovrics


Since 1997, Canada has recognized that adequate legal protections for TPMs are indispensable to protect copyright. Since then, reliance on TPMs has become integral to the digital economy.

Today, TPMs not only play an important role in IP protection but are relied on for safety and security. For example, TPMs help to ensure health, privacy, safety and environmental standards are maintained once products are in the hands of consumers.

Through various copyright treaties, Canada not only has agreed to protect TPMs but has agreed that any exceptions to TPM protections should be very carefully crafted, supported by evidence and focused narrowly to ensure TPMs remain effective. IPIC believes amendments are needed to comply with our treaty obligations, including the WIPO Internet treaties and CUSMA.

We are concerned with the blanket approach taken in the current bill and unintended consequences that may follow. We heard honourable member Wilson Miao, among other witnesses before the committee, discuss the need to develop a right to repair framework. We agree: A framework is required.

In particular, IPIC supports evidence-based exceptions that permit circumvention of TPMs to enable a right to repair. We recommend that goods that benefit from the exception be specified in regulations, subject to a framework that assesses the specific use case.

We've proposed a regulatory framework that would consider factors including that the TPM is indeed demonstrated to have an adverse impact that warrants circumvention; that enabling access to computer programs would enable repair and not copyright infringement; and that circumvention does not carry risks to health, safety, privacy and security. Such a framework would comply with our treaty obligations, better align with our trading partners and manage other risks, all while aiming to achieve the policy objectives set out in the mandate letters.

Further, and importantly, IPIC is of the view that the exceptions should not enable distribution or trafficking in circumvention tools. We recommend that the bill be amended accordingly to instead enable service providers to exercise the right to repair on behalf of consumers.

Any exception that would permit distribution of circumvention tools raises serious concerns. For example, as stated in the WIPO guide on the Internet treaties, once placed on the market for a specific purpose, such tools would then become available for all to use with impunity. Permitting sale of circumvention tools is not only out of step with our trading partners but also inconsistent with the evidence before this committee.

Many witnesses have discussed the importance of this bill's enabling a robust aftermarket repair service industry. Those comments appear to misunderstand the bill. The bill as drafted does not introduce an exception for service providers, and IPIC proposes that the bill be so amended.

IPIC also recommends amendments to ensure that what constitutes a repair is understood to be the proper functioning of a product according to its approved specifications. We believe it's important to be clear that the bill enables repairs and not modifications. Manufacturers' specifications aim to comply with standards to protect the environment as well as the health, privacy and safety of Canadians.

IPIC also encourages studying the right to repair in the context of the commercial rationale for manufacturers disclaiming liability and voiding warranties if a product is tampered with and/or updated with unauthorized aftermarket parts.

As TPMs are an essential safeguard to the digital and connected economy well beyond IP, circumvention should ensure repairs are safe: that they do not risk health, personal injury or property damage and that they maintain security, such as protecting the personal information of Canadians and preventing interception to gain unauthorized control over a consumer product. This is particularly important given the explosion of the Internet of things and computer-controlled products like self-driving cars, and in a time when hacking and ransomware are pervasive, along with state-sponsored terrorism.

Finally, we also recommend small technical amendments to the bill to address a redundant reference to “computer program” in clause 1 of the bill: A “computer program” is a work.

In sum, our proposed amendments provide a framework for case-by-case assessments that would consider the risks and benefits. IPIC recognizes that Bill C-244 is only one piece of a framework and that a robust framework would involve other areas of law, with provinces at the forefront of facilitating a meaningful right to repair.

I thank all of you for your time, invite any questions you may have and direct you to our brief and proposed amendments, which will follow shortly.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much.

We'll now turn to Mr. Hatfield from OpenMedia.

December 5th, 2022 / 11:25 a.m.

Matthew Hatfield Campaigns Director, OpenMedia

Good afternoon. I'm Matt Hatfield and I am the campaigns director of OpenMedia, a grassroots community of nearly 300,000 people in Canada who work together for an open, accessible and surveillance-free Internet.

I am speaking to you from the unceded territory of the Stó꞉lō, Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam nations.

I am thrilled to be here to tell you that Copyright Act amendment Bill C-244 is critical and common-sense legislation that you should pass immediately. Canadians need full ownership of the products we buy, and that means being able to get them diagnosed and appropriately fixed by anyone we choose, including ourselves. Bill C-244 will help us do this.

Digital technology is increasingly built into everything. Not just computers and phones but also cars, appliances and even clothing are now digitally intelligent and connected. We're seeing the birth of the Internet of things, a world in which everything we own can digitally communicate. If we can make citizens and consumers the full owners and primary beneficiaries of that world, we're looking at a very exciting future; but if we allow the Internet of things to wrest control of our possessions from us, leaving us stranded by fridges, farming equipment and everything else that requires constant approval from the original manufacturer's data centres to perform their basic functions, we're on the threshold of a nightmare.

Sound rights-reinforcing legislation like Bill C-244 will make the difference in what comes next.

In the pre-digital world, producing an excellent product and selling lots of it once was considered good business. In the digital world, many companies see that as a fool's game. Why charge a one-time price when you can transform your product into a service and collect perpetual fees for the life of the consumer? Some ways of doing that are relatively benign and consumer-friendly, like most streaming services, but some are plainly unfair and parasitic.

The digital locks that Bill C-244 will prevent are a clear example of parasitic abuse of power by manufacturing companies. Digital locks force consumers out of the competitive market and into a monopoly market in which the manufacturer sets the cost of repair parts and services. Sometimes they even lock customers into a repair market that no longer exists, as the manufacturer goes out of business or stops supporting their devices well ahead of schedule.

Not surprisingly, customers often find that repairs in this system somehow cost nearly as much as a new device and wind up buying a new product rather than repairing the otherwise functional device they have. A public survey we commissioned in 2019 showed that 76% of Canadians had thrown out a digital device that could be repaired to be fully functional due to fixable problems like dead batteries, cracked screens or lack of security software updates. Electronic devices frequently contain rare minerals and compounds—some toxic—and represent a spiralling share of our societal waste, with net global e-waste growing by an estimated three to four per cent a year.

That is bad for the consumer, bad for society at large and bad for the environment—bad for everyone except the manufacturing company in question. Preventing a net social loss due to bad incentives is exactly the kind of problem on which we need the government to intervene.

Bill C-244 isn't going to get us all the way there by itself. I hope our government will also adopt the interoperability changes in Bill C-294 and introduce full right-to-repair legislation soon thereafter. We also agree with the speakers from CFLA, who flagged the importance of archival copyright exceptions.

The big picture is that it isn't enough to stop manufacturers from suing repairers or customers who break their software locks to repair their devices. Much more is needed to right the growing imbalance between what manufacturers choose to provide and what Canadians need for an affordable green future. To name just two common-sense changes, I hope we will soon see an obligation for manufacturers to provide replacement parts, instructions and software security updates for their products for a healthy five to 10 years after purchase, as exists in the EU; and I hope that we will see legislation requiring products to display a repairability score at purchase so that manufacturers are incentivized to compete on durability and long-term performance, not just initial price.

I was privileged this year to work with the environmental non-profit Équiterre on a deeply thoughtful report studying how to implement the right to repair in Quebec and Canada. I encourage all of you who want to see this right fully implemented to give it a close read.

OpenMedia has collected nearly 20,000 petition signatures from our community asking you to fully legislate the right to repair. Passing Bill C-244 is a critical and necessary step to fulfilling that request. We have been truly heartened by the level of bipartisan consensus shown around Bill C-244. It proves that the wheels of democracy continue to turn, and that you, our representatives, can still come together to support measures that are plainly in the public interest. We hope to see that consensus continue to move forward, both on Bill C-244 and on full right-to-repair legislation.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much, Mr. Hatfield.

Finally, we'll turn to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre's Mr. Lawford, in person in Ottawa. The floor is yours.

11:30 a.m.

John Lawford Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Thank you, Chair.

Honourable members, my name is John Lawford. I'm executive director and general counsel at PIAC, a national not-for-profit and registered charity. We provide legal and research services on behalf of consumers and, in particular, vulnerable consumer interests concerning the provision of important public services. PIAC has been active in the digital consumer protection world for over 20 years.

PIAC supports Bill C-244's creation of an exception to technical protection measures under the Copyright Act to allow consumers and businesses to circumvent TPMs for the purposes of diagnosing, maintaining and repairing a consumer product in which a computer program is embedded. PIAC believes that consumers should have the option to repair their own products or select repair providers of their choosing.

The fact that mechanical or electrical parts have been replaced by software in many consumer goods, such as household appliances, medical devices and vehicles, must not impede that possibility. Currently, consumers cannot legally circumvent TPMs, and as a result they are forced to use manufacturer repair services or manufacturer-endorsed, authorized repair shops when something goes wrong.

This restricted access makes it possible for manufacturers to set inflated prices, extend timelines, disconnect users' access when TPMs are circumvented, prevent users from accessing their own data, and create other unfavourable conditions for product utility and use, which can harm consumers financially, emotionally, and even physically. If the product needing repair is a tool required for work, such as a vehicle or a table saw, then manufacturer-imposed repair restrictions can potentially lead to job insecurity.

Consumer inability to circumvent TPMs can also create life-and-death situations. Under the current regime, many people who own software-integrated medical devices, such as insulin pumps and oxygen machines, cannot fix the medical equipment themselves or have qualified technicians service their devices without authorization from the manufacturer. This inability to seek out quicker or more cost-effective solutions places strain on those consumers and may result in their underservicing or needlessly replacing incredibly vital, expensive medical equipment.

The effects of limited repair options have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is creating workflow disruptions, supply shortages and reduced access to in-person services.

The expression of the repair right in Bill C-244 indeed covers a wide and generic range of software-enabled products. This aspect of the bill is a strength and is not over-broad. This means it applies to a piece of farm equipment, a thermostat, a medical device or a gaming console. This wide scope is needed to avoid siloing variable consumer rights in particular products.

Diagnosis, maintenance and repair are all related acts that further the public interest, the aims of which are: consumer freedom and the right to use their own, legally owned items; extension of the useful life of these products; avoidance of the consumer costs and the environmental harm from needless disposal of workable products, which often contain, as mentioned, toxic or precious, expensive-to-obtain materials and minerals; and increased control of the timing and expression of consumer demand, which can lead to increased competition, consumer choice, lower prices, improved customer service, greater innovation, and support of small, local repair businesses.

I'll speak briefly to what is missing in the bill—both interoperability, which, as has been mentioned, is the subject of another bill; and consumer manuals.

The bill lacks an exception to copyright infringement that allows consumers to find, reproduce and disseminate information such as diagnostic codes and repair manuals for the purpose of facilitating repair. This exception would be complementary to the TPM exception at issue in this bill and would better support the development of a repair market.

The new repair information right would be a species of fair dealing. Repair information requirements could be limited to personal, non-profit or commercial contexts, depending on where Parliament draws the balance between original equipment manufacturers and repair rights.

Without dealing in detail with interoperability, I'm happy to take questions. It could be either in this bill or in Bill C-294. The scope of interoperability is, I think, the issue, and whether we put a definition of “interoperability” into the Copyright Act in the section under consideration here, or in a different bill or act is something that we can discuss.

In conclusion, PIAC supports Bill C-244 as a necessary consumer protection in the digital economy.

I thank you and look forward to your questions.

11:35 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

Thank you very much, Mr. Lawford.

We will now go to questions.

Mr. Perkins, you have the floor for six minutes.

11:35 a.m.


Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you witnesses for appearing on this important bill. Thanks to Mr. Lawford in particular for coming in person. We appreciate that.

Perhaps I could start with Mr. Boxall.

We've heard testimony here at this committee from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and a couple of other representatives from that industry that about a third of the farm equipment that comes in for repair to dealerships and repair shops has had alterations done to it. The owner, or somebody before the owner, has already gone out and altered it. That's because the repair manuals, the codes and all of that equipment is available for farm equipment, as I understand it. It's a modest price for buying a diagnostic tool.

The two primary things that this has been used for are to up the horsepower of the motor, which puts it out of sync with the transmission and causes issues, and the removal of the emission control devices. That causes it to use less fuel, but obviously without any emissions controls, that causes other impacts on the environment.

While this bill is well-intended, some industries, like the farm equipment industry, actually show what may happen if there aren't restrictions on alterations.

Could you comment, first of all, on the alterations that happen currently?

11:35 a.m.

President, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan

Ian Boxall


I think there probably are some alterations done when it comes to some of the emissions stuff. From my experience on my own farm, it is because they give lots of trouble. They give lots of software trouble. They give lots of trouble that is hard to fix. We lost days at one point on a combine that was giving us emissions issues.

I understand the frustration from the producers' standpoint on altering it. I also think that within the act there's an opportunity to limit that. We're not asking to be able to increase horsepower or reduce emissions, but to do simple diagnostics when we have fault codes. When we have issues, we should be able to do that on our own.

Yes, manufacturers have put in ways to do it remotely. That's all fine and dandy if you live in Toronto. It doesn't work too good in rural Saskatchewan where you don't have Internet or cell phone service for these dealers to dial in to see what is wrong with our equipment. Giving the producer or the third party—local people—the opportunity to do that is great.

Do I believe we can put some limits in there when it comes to horsepower and modifying the equipment so that it would void the warranty? Absolutely, but simple diagnostic and maintenance of that equipment should be available to who ever wishes to have it.

11:35 a.m.


Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Ms. Lovrics, perhaps I could get a comment.

The question I put forward is that...obviously having the right to repair now allows individuals to alter equipment through the current technology that's available. That's a problem in terms of not only warranties, but what may happen if you're in an autonomous vehicle and...other issues.

Could you explain to me what that might do to innovation if that kind of proprietary technology is available to anyone who wants to use it or access it?

11:40 a.m.

Chair, Copyright Policy Committee, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Catherine Lovrics

I think there's a natural concern surrounding disclosure to the extent that this bill may result in confidential information being disclosed in a way that is unfettered. There's a natural concern when it comes to innovation. I don't know if that's a concern uniformly across the board.

IPIC is proposing that there be a framework developed to address those types of concerns specifically.

I think the main concern that we have with respect to what we've heard before the committee and with respect to the bill is that it takes a one-size-fits-all approach. In our view, a one-size-fits-all approach isn't appropriate. Different products raise different concerns, including on the innovation front. To the extent that the bill can be amended to develop a framework that weighs the risks and benefits for specific use cases, that's what we would encourage. One of those considerations would be the impact on innovation.

To be clear, part of our proposal as well recognizes that copyright is only one part of a framework to the extent that the goal is really to achieve a meaningful right to repair. The expectation we have as an IP community is that there would be other legislative amendments that would come forward in other areas of law. The province likely would be involved.

If we look at what's happened in other jurisdictions for example, the EU right to repair standards provide that manufacturers will have to supply spare parts for certain household appliances for up to 10 years and only professional repairers will be supported.

To the extent that we're looking at a framework, many of the concerns, including those related to innovation, can be addressed as part and parcel of a meaningful framework.

11:40 a.m.


Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Lawford, I think you were suggesting, though, the need to perhaps put some fence posts around or more definition into this act in some of these areas. This is a starting point, but there are some areas, such as those we just talked about, that we should avoid allowing to happen, or protect against.

Could you add a little more to that?

11:40 a.m.

Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre

John Lawford

I was referring in those somewhat disjointed remarks at the end to the interoperability, because interoperability means different things. It's interoperable to the extent of doing what? I'm saying “interoperable” to the extent of making repairs. I hear the corporate side saying they don't want people to modify their equipment and that this might affect innovation. I don't know; it might spur innovation.

In any case, all we're here asking for is the ability of consumers of mass market products to be able to fix them at third party, not necessarily authorized, shops. This is because most consumer items are low value and high volume, and for something like a cracked screen of an iPhone, there's no reason why that has to be done at the Apple Store for $580. It can be done much more cheaply with parts that are just as good somewhere else.

The other parameters that we're talking about.... There's another model. You could go with a whole, full framework, send this back to the department and say, “Give us a full framework and see what other acts it affects”.

At the moment, our experience has been that when you get an opportunity to discuss this software lock, if you will, you should take it off when you can. We had this debate when the Copyright Act was passed last time. There were comments then from consumer groups that we'd be back for the right to repair, and here we are.

11:40 a.m.


Rick Perkins Conservative South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Mr. Chair, do I have any time left?

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Joël Lightbound

I'm sorry, Mr. Perkins. That's all the time you had.

We'll turn to Mr. Dong for six minutes.

11:40 a.m.


Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

I want to thank all of the witnesses for coming today virtually and in person.

I'm going to start my questions with Mr. Lawford and then Mr. Hatfield. The Competition Bureau has noted that the Competition Act enforcement could complement a right to repair exception under the Copyright Act as proposed by Bill C-244 in promoting competition in product repair markets.

To your knowledge, has the Competition Bureau conducted any investigation related to the right to repair? If so, what was the outcome?

I'll start with Mr. Lawford.

11:45 a.m.

Executive Director and General Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre

John Lawford

I'll start, because I don't know, and I'll pass it to Matt. I hope he knows.