Mr. Speaker, in a rare exception for me in this House, I am particularly pleased to speak to the second reading of Bill C-32, an act to amend the Copyright Act.
I will begin with just a little comment on the cover page. This bill was introduced by "la ministre du Patrimoine" and not "le ministre". It was the Deputy Prime Minister who was Minister of Heritage at that time. What is more, it was introduced here in the House this afternoon by another woman, "la ministre par intérim du Patrimoine", the acting heritage minister. Dare I hope that the House will take note of the difference, for in French there is a grammatical distinction made between male and female ministers.
Having said this, we and all of the artistic community have been hopefully waiting a long time for this bill, since it was promised a very long time ago. Since the start of this 35th Parliament, eight questions by six different Bloc Quebecois members have been asked between April 29, 1994 and March 28, 1996. Those eight questions have been asked, one after the other, of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, each time in order to attempt to discover whether there was any chance that this bill would be introduced soon, since it had been promised to us session after session. We had also raised a ninth question on distribution rights.
On examining the bill as a whole, there are a number of reasons to be pleased. Neighbouring rights have finally been recognized;
there are the beginnings of a system to protect private copies and to monitor them to some extent and to further protect our artists' rights and, finally, distribution rights. One note of discord, however: a highly disagreeable aspect of the bill-and I will come back to this if I have time a little later-involving the increase in the number of exceptions.
For the benefit of those watching, if anybody still is at this hour, I would first like to clarify the meaning of copyright. It is a legal framework in which the creators of literary, artistic or other works such as films, books, sound recordings, information products or computer programs to request compensation when use is made of their work.
Copyright therefore establishes the economic and moral right of the author to control the publication of his work, to be compensated and to protect the integrity of his artistic achievements.
Copyright is vital to creators. In 1994, $44 million was collected in royalties by author-composers for the public performance of their musical works. In all, the cultural world represents a $16 billion industry employing over 600,000 people. So, as we have said for a very long time, it is no small job sector in our country.
What about neighbouring rights, what do they add? Neighbouring rights add recognition of the work now done by performers and producers. For example, when a song was played on the radio, only the author and the composer were entitled to royalties. Now, the performer and the producer will be also, thanks to the neighbouring rights, be entitled to royalties, will be able to be paid for their work in a way.
When all this process is over, we will be able to join the 50 countries, which are parties to the Rome Convention, 50 countries excluding the United States. Earlier this afternoon, our colleague for Medicine Hat, speaking for the Reform Party, seemed to me not to really understand the advantage of the neighbouring rights for our artists. Culture is what defines a country, what characterizes it. It is what characterizes a people. It is what differentiates it from its neighbour. That is one definition of culture. Maybe those are not the exact terms, but it is the message given early this afternoon by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in her speech. When she gave her definition of culture, she made it clear that it was something which identified us as Canadians.
This is why we are somewhat inclined, unfortunately, we, sovereignists, Quebec separatists, to think that we recognize ourselves and define ourselves better in the Quebec culture than in the Canadian culture, because many things differentiate us from each other. However, since the whole of Canada does not seem to recognize this fundamental fact, we will skip that issue tonight because it is not the object of my speech.
Nevertheless, it is not because we have now introduced neighbouring rights that we are going to send more money to the Americans. Not at all. If Americans are now collecting a lot of money, if we are sending them money, we will no longer do so under neighbouring rights, since the U.U. did not sign the Rome Convention. Neighbouring rights cannot be exchanged between countries which are not signatory states. Accordingly, neighbouring rights are paid only to member countries, so this will not add to the wealth of Americans.
However, one thing could be very important to Canadians. Up to now, except for certain performers like Céline Dion, René Simard, Roch Voisine and a few young ones who have succeeded in making a career in the States, most Quebec artists worked mostly in Quebec. A few made a name for themselves in France, Belgium and the Francophonie, but it is very seldom that Quebec performers achieve an international career, especially singers. In the field of jazz or instrumental music, it is something else altogether. But when French culture is opposed to the English one, it is harder to reach fame.
As for English Canada, it is an excellent opportunity and a great challenge for our anglophone performers and artists to settle an agreement with the Rome Convention countries. They will be faced with an extraordinary challenge because they will have 50 countries in which to take their chance. For instance, instead of singing in the United States where there will be no exchange of neighbouring rights, they could go to England or other signatory states to try to launch a career. This could be a great opportunity for our performers to make themselves known. Introduction of neighbouring rights in this bill must be seen as a great step forward, a great success for the Canadian artistic community, something that will really change their working conditions. Undoubtedly, it will lead to a considerable increase in incomes. Studies show this is a step forward.
It is obvious that our colleague from Medecine Hat, with whom I have already sat on the heritage committee, does not agree, and I have the feeling that the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois do not see eye to eye when it comes to culture; we believe in a kind of protectionism in favour of Canadian and Quebec culture in order to prevent the American bulldozer from invading Canada and further ploughing under our culture.
Americans do not share our conception of copyright. They support copyright per se and we are in favour of neighbouring rights. Our approach is much more European, more modern. Americans want to use their money to buy rights and make more money by treating culture the same way they do shoes. They see culture as entertainment, not as something which defines and characterizes us.
Obviously, if one sees culture as they do, one will think that the government is making a mistake by recognizing neighbouring rights. But if one finds self-respect and self-definition in culture, then it is obvious that neighbouring rights were the way to go.
In this area, there is just one small hesitation on the Bloc side; we think the broadcasting lobby was too efficient with the industry minister and that Heritage did not put up sufficient resistance when they discussed the royalties that radio stations would have to pay. They set the limit for annual advertising revenues at $1,250,000. They said nothing about total annual revenues, but considered only the advertising revenues. So they decided to set the limit high enough, at $1,200,000. All those making less will only pay $100 a year in royalties. It is clear we find that amount too high and we would want it reduced considerably; we would prefer a figure in the area of one million dollars instead of $1,250,000.
Therefore, except for that reservation, the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the neighbouring right. Now, in the area of private copies, it was high time something was done. I am sure there is not one Canadian or one Quebecer who has never used a blank tape to record something. We listen to programs like La petite vie, which I find very interesting, or to the debates of the House, and we make private copies. Sometimes we hear something interesting on the radio and we quickly press a button to record the wonderful music that is playing. Meanwhile, we are not buying the original works of our artists.
So, it was high time that the government got involved in this area and decided to give a royalty for private copying. We wished it had done so also for video tapes. We know change is very difficult. There is much resistance to change, so we hope the government will be able in the near future to add a small amendment to this bill. This would not cost the government much, but it would allow our artists to make up for all the losses they may incur because of the bad habits we have acquired.
We will work very hard in the heritage committee and within the confines of parliamentary procedure to ensure that the government will consider introducing now a small royalty, even though it could take a number of years for us to get used to that kind of thing. We should come back to these royalties on video tapes and not abandon this sector.
As for the distribution right, we are particularly pleased in the Bloc Quebecois that the government did not overlook it. I remember in committee that David Peterson came to make us aware of the urgency of this problem, which is much more acute in English Canada than in Quebec. Once again, because of the language barrier and the different ways in which publishing houses operate, Quebec was much less vulnerable than English Canada to the invasion of the mega book publishers, which, if this distribution right had not been introduced, could easily have seriously jeopardized English Canada's publishing sector.
The Bloc Quebecois is therefore very pleased with this measure, which will make it possible to strengthen the Canadian book industry, and will have an extremely interesting impact on publishing.
This brings me to what is disastrous about the bill. We would really have liked to see the government for once take a strongly positive position right across the board, we would have liked to see that, but the government would have had to refrain from adding to the list of exceptions. There were even, in certain cases, agreements with organizations in the university sector, for example, that were already doing a very good job of managing the full range of use of audiovisual documents or newspaper articles, articles from scientific reviews or chapters of books. In any event, agreements had been reached. Once again, I think the government unfortunately gave in a bit too much to pressure from lobbies.
There is one curious thing, as well, and that is the liberty the government is taking in almost all areas in exempting itself from charges. We saw it this morning, in another bill, where the government is allowing the Department of National Defence not to pay user charges to the new corporation being created to manage air navigation services, and, here again, we see an exhaustive list taking up several pages in the bill-I believe it is 12 pages in the bill-that is concerned strictly with exceptions to this bill.
I think that this was really going too far. It is as though everyone wanted to see his contribution included. It is far too extensive. It is as though the government was deciding to no longer pay the electricity or telephone bills, as though it was exempting itself in all categories.
Maybe it is necessary in order to reduce the size of the budget and the deficit significantly. But they are doing it at the expense of others, at the expense of authors, composers and artists. Unfortunately, as we know, these people's average income is well below the poverty level.
The committee will work very hard, first of all to get an explanation from the government as to how all of this can be justified, and secondly to see what could be eliminated so as to reduce the exemptions to a minimum.
In conclusion, this Bill takes us a few steps forward, a couple of baby steps sideways, and then a giant step backward with all the exceptions there are in it. We are rather uncomfortable with all this, and it leaves a bit of a bad taste in our mouths. Personally, and this is a great rarity for me, I would have liked to have been totally happy with this, but I am a bit confused, torn between happiness and sadness.
The Bloc Quebecois will be working very hard, in the House, on the Heritage Committee, and elsewhere. We will call witnesses, we will take as much time as required to improve this bill. We hope
that a government which has worked so well to date will continue to have an attentive ear for the minimal changes that will have to be made if the bill is to end up being more of a forward step than it is at present. It is perfectible, and I hope that the government will be open to improvements.