Madam Speaker, it is with considerable pride that I rise to speak today as official opposition critic for heritage and culture. I am proud because this is a bill which sets politics aside and addresses copyright. It addresses the moral and economic rights of creators over their works.
I would remind members that Bill C-32 is the second stage in an effort to update a law drafted in 1924, which was amended for the first time in 1988. This bill affects creators and authors who have waited years to see their rights finally modernized and brought into
line with the economic and cultural activities of modern society, including the use of new technologies.
In 1988, phase I of the bill, the review phase, extended copyright protection to computer programs. It also gave creators additional moral rights over their works. In addition, it modernized the Copyright Appeal Board, now known as the Copyright Board.
Finally, in 1988, an extremely pivotal development took place: collective societies were recognized. There was recognition of the right of authors and creators to be represented by an organization that, through its efforts, would oversee the use of authors' and creators' works, collect royalties and levies and distribute them to artists. This recognition of collective societies is becoming important. We will see in the latest phase, Bill C-32, how this collective society was an issue when the bill was being studied.
Between 1988 and 1994, there were several amendments to the Copyright Act so that the government could meet its obligations under the free trade agreements, NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.
Finally, last April, the government, in response to pressure from the official opposition, tabled Bill C-32 in phase II of the review process and, in so doing, introduced some new and very important rights called neighbouring rights, which are granted to performers and producers. Performers' rights had not yet been recognized, although they are recognized in 50 countries which signed what is known as the Rome Convention. Canada dragged its feet but finally decided in the course of this session to table this bill and introduce neighbouring rights.
It also set up what is referred to as a private copying compensation system. When the committee held its hearings, many groups came to submit their briefs and talk to committee members. As we all know, tape-recording for personal use is common practice. Even the Consumers' Association of Canada agreed. Everyone copies music and songs on tapes. Everyone records tapes, people pass them along, and so forth. Everyone agreed this was common practice.
In its bill, the government introduced a compensation system for private copying, which finally recognizes the rights of creators and authors by collecting a levy directly from the manufacturer. This levy will be redistributed as a kind of basic salary among all creators and authors, which we think is only fair. Later on I will tell you how many millions of dollars performers lose as a result of pirating alone.
The bill also establishes book distribution rights for Canada, thereby strengthening the position of our book distributors, which is most welcome as a way to protect our culture. Finally, it improves procedures with respect to the avenues of legal recourse available to performers and to the applicable sanctions in case of fraud or if users refuse to comply with the law and pay royalties to the authors and creators who need this income to survive.
The average performer's salary is between $7,000 and $14,000, depending on whether the performer is a performing artist, a singer, a composer, an author or something else.
So this was a much needed improvement. However, there was a big black cloud hovering over this bill: the exceptions.
When copyright legislation is drafted so that authors and creators can make a living wage by collecting royalties, that is fine. But when the bill goes on to explain for pages and pages that authors and creators are not entitled to royalties in the case of cegeps, colleges, educational institutions, libraries, and many other sectors that are exempted from paying copyright, I think this is a very black cloud indeed. I will get back to this later on when we consider the amendments.
Bill C-32, phase II, is most welcome. It is welcomed by the entire artistic community, particularly in the case of neighbouring rights, by performers, including Quebec performers, whose work is played in francophone countries and who receive no royalties because Canada is not one of the 50 signatories of the Rome Convention.
With respect to neighbouring rights, let us recall that the Bloc Quebecois had called upon the government to table this bill and made a commitment to support it, provided it made specific reference to neighbouring rights.
We have respected that commitment and will continue today to support the government's bill, with its extremely important dimension for all artists: neighbouring rights.
As for private copying, and all this piracy using blank tapes, let us recall that what the government is introducing in the bill is a royalty charged directly to the manufacturer, which eventually becomes a salary for the artists.
This measure will enable artists, who are literally being robbed by illegal copying, to receive what is termed a fair share of what is owed to them.
I would like to remind you that, throughout the committee stage, the Bloc Quebecois brought in a series of amendments. I wish to congratulate my committee colleagues, for we accomplished a huge task. First of all, we received, heard and exchanged views with over 65 groups, who came to testify before the committee. I must say that all of my colleagues on the committee listened to the evidence and asked questions with a very open mind, particularly in the search to enhance the objectives of the bill. I wish to again congratulate them on their work in committee.
I would, however, like to draw the government's attention to the amendments presented by the Bloc, and to point out that it would be important to support the amendments we are presenting at the report stage, simply because they concern the interests of authors and creators, not the political interests of one party, but the interests of authors and creators.
I invite the government to support the Bloc Quebecois amendments.