Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate today on Bill C-32.
The first time I spoke in the House, on January 24, 1994, I immediately announced where I stood. I said: "Moving to the complex issue of copyright, I would like to point out that creators are currently out in the cold and that the government will have to act quickly by tabling as soon as possible a bill to correct this unfortunate situation".
I am delighted that the government has tabled this bill, that we are now at report stage and that very extensive amendments have been made. We know that we will have to keep up our efforts, because the bill is not completely finished, there will be a Phase III, but I am very pleased to see Phase II being wrapped up.
I would urge the third party to give its co-operation so that we can proceed with debate on a non-partisan basis and move quickly to give creators in Canada a bill that will help them improve their living conditions.
I think it extremely important that we leave partisan politics behind in this issue, and it is upsetting that the member for Medicine Hat spent 10 minutes telling us that he comes from a broadcasting background and forgot to mention that the bill requires a radio station to make over $1.25 million in advertising revenue before it is required to pay royalties. In other words, the station is required to pay only $100.
He spoke for 10 minutes but did not mention this fundamental fact. It is an objective piece of information contained in the bill and I think the member for Medicine Hat acted in very bad faith by failing to mention it when he spoke in the House.
The purpose of Bill C-32 is to amend the Copyright Act, which was passed in 1924. The first review of this act, in 1988, solved certain problems, notably by increasing creators' moral rights over their works and recognizing the organization of copyright holders into collective societies. The mandate of these societies is to authorize, on behalf of their members, public performances and reproductions, and to collect and distribute royalties or levies payable in exchange for these authorizations.
Society has evolved considerably since then, and there have been artistic, technological and legal developments in the cultural industry. Internationally, intellectual property has become a resource just as important as money or natural resources. New techniques have led to an explosion in artistic distribution and it is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that creators are protected by law.
The Bloc Quebecois has resolutely supported creators in all sectors of the cultural industry. Our efforts seem to have been successful because a number of amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois have been adopted by the heritage committee in one form or another, and we are pleased that we have kept a watchful eye on this bill so that there is finally something to show for creators in Canada.
The bill's amendments to the Copyright Act deal primarily with recognition of performers' and producers' neighbouring rights, the establishment of royalties for private copies and the definition of exceptions to creators' rights.
I mentioned earlier that when radio stations broadcast music or songs, authors and composers receive copyright fees, while performers, musicians and producers do not. Bill C-32 provides a remedy in this respect. Now, musicians, performers and producers will also benefit from neighbouring rights.
These rights are recognized in the 50 countries that signed the Rome Convention. Once Parliament has passed this bill, Canada will be able to sign the convention, and our performers will also be able to benefit from this protection when their work is distributed abroad, and collect royalties as well.
According to a report prepared for the Department of Canadian Heritage, neighbouring rights are an important tool for the future, especially with the advent of digital cable radio which will broadcast good music, uninterrupted by radio hosts or commercials. This type of broadcast will be a major source of income for artist-performers and record producers if the neighbouring rights system is introduced. That is why it is so important to proceed diligently with this bill.
Most payments for neighbouring rights will indeed be made by radio stations. As I said before, the bill provides that their income must be in excess of $1.25 million before they have to pay royalties. Otherwise, the fee will be only symbolic, as it will be $100.
Another interesting point is that the bill provides for a legislative review of the act in five years, which will be an opportunity to make some adjustments based on our experience with this legislation. We believe, unlike the hon. member for Medicine Hat, that the concessions made to broadcasters are a little too generous and should perhaps be reviewed downward.
However, it is rather unfortunate that the government did not recognize this right in the case of creators in the audiovisual sector. I hope that in phase III, which will come as soon as possible, the emphasis will be mainly on the audiovisual sector and photography.
As for private copies, every year, millions of audio and video cassettes are sold in this country. Many customers use these cassettes to copy the works of creators without paying copyright, thus depriving them of their living.
For instance, out of 44 million blank audio cassettes sold in this country last year, it is estimated that 39 million were used to make private copies of sound recordings of composers or performers. These copies made at home apparently cost the audio recording industry as much as $324.7 million per year.
Fortunately, the bill provides some compensation by providing for a levy that will be collected from manufacturers or importers of blank audio tapes, and subsequently distributed among authors, composers, performers and record companies.
The Bloc Quebecois supports this kind of measure which already exists in 25 countries, and it has insisted that the amount of the levy be set by the Copyright Board, which is in a position to determine what is fair compensation for the creator, while allowing for the consumer's ability to pay. We appreciate the fact that the Copyright Board has been closely involved in the preparations for this bill and the follow-up, because so far, the board has shown that it is capable of doing an outstanding job.
However, we regret the fact that these rights do not apply as well to video tapes, which leaves creators in the audiovisual sector in limbo.
The bill provides that libraries, educational institutions, museums and archival services will, to a certain extent, be exempted from paying copyright.
The Bloc Quebecois believes that these exemptions which deprive the persons concerned of their due will be difficult to administer and may lead to court cases. Although the exempt institutions are concerned with education and culture, we believe that the support they need should come from government, and that authors who already pay taxes should not have to subsidize them by forgoing income.
The Bloc Quebecois would have preferred to see the legislator leave the question of copyright to the various parties involved. The agreements currently in place between collective societies and users prove that this type of mechanism does work.
Nevertheless, the heritage committee is to be congratulated for having made great strides in tightening up the numerous exceptions in the original version of the bill.
Finally, we must point out the heritage committee's efforts to bring the bill more in line with the concerns of the interested parties. The Bloc Quebecois has presented some 75 amendments, a number of which were accepted by the government, which has finally lent an ear to the artists' legitimate demands. Let us hope that, in future, the government will accept the beneficial influence of the Bloc Quebecois in other areas.
The government must continue to modernize its legislation, and must begin right away to identify the modifications required for Canada to recognize neighbouring rights on videotapes, and the mechanisms required to protect the rights of our artists as the information highway expands.