Madam Speaker, the debate in which I am taking part today is of the utmost interest for the entire Canadian artistic community. If the government were to show some open-mindedness, it could give a great deal of hope to creators working in the cultural industry.
On November 16, 1993, exactly two weeks after the federal election, the Coalition of Creators and Copyright Owners published an open letter in Le Devoir addressed to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
It pointed out, and I quote:
Honourable Sir, the books, recordings, films, radio and television broadcasts, paintings, sculpture, photographs, choreography and works of entertainment produced by the 30,000 creators, artists and other eligible Quebecers belonging to the Coalition of Creators and Copyright Owners are everywhere. Both the creators and the public are happy with this situation. However, in the absence of adequate legislation, creators' fundamental rights are still not being recognized and new reproduction and distribution technologies are depriving them of the revenues that the use of their works should generate.
You undoubtedly realize, Sir, that in order to be able to create new works, creators must earn their living from what they produce. Only the Copyright Act can ensure the legal basis for fair remuneration for the work of creators.
The Minister of Heritage had promised to take prompt action. But one year later, creators are still waiting for legislation that would recognize their right over their work. Why is this? There are those who tell us that the answer to this question lies in the fact that two departments share the responsibility for the question of copyright. These departments are the Department of Industry to be established under Bill C-46 and the Department of Canadian Heritage that will eventually be established under Bill C-53.
We now come to the heart of the debate. According to Clause 5 of Bill C-46, one of the duties assigned to the Minister of Industry will be to defend consumers and large corporations. The rights of artists and workers in general are not even mentioned in this bill. As a result, this department would have a hard time recognizing the rights of creators on their works, as these rights are in direct conflict with those of consumers and large corporations.
The heritage department has a moral right to look into the matter. It is, after all, recognized as the primary stakeholder in cultural matters. About 10 people work on these issues on its behalf. However, these officials have no powers; they can only try to influence their colleagues from Industry. That can be a very frustrating experience.
We now come to the second issue, copyright, which comes under two departments defending diametrically opposed interests and is stuck in its turn-of-the-century version.
The review of the act, announced with great pomp on many occasions, is getting nowhere, simply because of differences of opinion between the departments involved. The Union des artistes, for one, wrote in its December 23, 1993 letter to the Prime Minister that dividing responsibilities between the heritage department and Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada, which had jurisdiction over copyright before reorganization, "stood in the way of harmonious legislative reform -This division of responsibilities has led to a dual vision, which more often than not results in conflicting objectives".
What the creative artists ask for is a strengthening of their first claim on their rights to their work and thus their right to negotiate the use made of these works. For example, the coalition of creative artists and copyright holders says that their rights should be protected as much as those of drug patent holders. In a press release from the coalition, Jean-Claude Germain said that the least a healthy society which is proud of its culture could do would be to protect its creative artists as well as it protects its drug manufacturers.
Briefly, this is what the creative artists are asking for. They want recognition of neighbouring rights, that is, the rights of performers to reproduce and present their works. They want recognition of consequential rights, namely the visual artist's right to a percentage of any profit made on his or her work. They want recognition of equal duration of protection, that is, for all types of works, copyright would be recognized for at least 50 years after the artist's death. They also want a law that is technologically neutral, that is, one that will apply regardless of technological developments.
They want fees to be paid on their private copies, that is, royalties on media which can be privately copied such as diskettes, tapes, videocassettes and cassettes. They want rental rights, that is, a royalty on all works protected by law. Finally, they want appropriate recourse and adequate penalties for those who break the law.
For ten years, the cultural communities in Canada and Quebec have been demanding these straightforward changes to the Copyright Act. They are unanimous on this, but have been unsuccessful. It is therefore urgent to act; the survival of Canadian and Quebec culture is at stake. It is urgent to give our artists the ability to earn a living from what they produce, because without culture, a country has no life, no colour and no future.
The purpose of the amendment moved today by my colleague from Richmond-Wolfe is to make Canada and Quebec full-fledged players in this new global economy, which is no longer based on trade in goods but rather on quality of thinking, artistic value, imagination and open-mindedness. Our artists are ready and able to meet the challenge. Denying them the means to do so is not the way to ensure their survival.