Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-32. I listened to a lot of very good presentations today regarding this very important bill.
At the outset I would like to say, following up on the previous member who spoke and the NDP critic who spoke to the bill this morning, that members of the NDP will certainly be supporting this bill going to committee. We support it in principle. It is a outstanding issue that has to be dealt with by Parliament.
In many ways, I hope it follows the route of Bill C-11, the immigration bill, which basically proved to be successful at the end of the day with the help of all four parties in the House. We have the potential to follow that route with this bill. Some of the concerns that were raised today by the NDP critic in debate were responded to by the minister of the government.
It appears to me that there certainly seems to be an interest on the government's part in working with the NDP critic and our party, and I believe, the other parties as well, to try to work out perhaps even an all-party agreement on this legislation. I really do not feel that we are that far apart.
Speaker after speaker has concentrated on really, more or less, the same issues. Some issues were not addressed, but by and large, the same issues came up over and over again. So it is incumbent upon the government in committee to resolve those issues, and perhaps before Christmas, Parliament will have a second successful bill as opposed to having it end up not going anywhere.
The government has certainly had ample experience over the last five years with bills it proposed going nowhere because it is in a minority situation and knows that all it takes is for it to bring forward a bill that the opposition does not agree with and the bill will not be successful. That is really the end of its effort.
I recognize that we have only 20 minutes to discuss this matter and I do not know that it will be sufficient. Nevertheless I want to deal with some of the issues involving Bill C-32.
Canada's technological community has long been calling for a major overhaul of the Copyright Act to bring fair and balanced copyright legislation to this country. The act has not been reviewed since 1997. I think back to those days 13 years ago and realize how the technologies have changed during that period. It is tremendous.
John Manley was the minister and Jean Chrétien was the prime minister in a majority government. How and why the Liberal government of the day, a sort of command style government with an absolute majority, could not get this job done seems a bit surprising to me. Nevertheless it did not do it. That might be indicative of how controversial it actually is and how many players are involved.
I recall a number of years ago, in 2000, when I was involved in putting together Bill 31 in Manitoba, the province's Electronic Commerce and Information Act. That was internal to the government. We had to sit down with four or five government departments that were dealing with electronic issues. The Uniform Law Conference had a template that we could follow. Just trying to get those silos, those departments within a provincial government, onside proved to be fairly difficult, although we did get the job done.
In this case, it goes way beyond the government, because we are dealing with many competing forces within the country itself. The Liberal critic pointed out this morning how substantial this area is in Canada in terms of jobs and employment and the large part of the economy that is involved.
The Conservatives' copyright modernization act seeks to enact long overdue changes that would bring Canada in line with advances in technology and current international standards. At the rate we are going and with the technology changing, we are never going to catch up unless we get this job done now.
The issue is highly complex. It features competing demands from stakeholders and the artistic, academic, business, technology, consumer rights and communities. We have heard conflicting views from a number of them even today. However, it is a top priority and a multi-faceted issue that the government must take on if it wants Canada to be a competitive player in our increasingly technology-reliant world.
When Canada signed onto the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, Internet treaties in 1997, 13 years ago, it committed then to modernize its copyright legislation. Before Bill C-32, two other attempts were made to enact legislation that would achieve the goal, most notably in 2008 when the Conservative government brought forward Bill C-61 and that bill was met with widespread opposition. It died when Parliament prorogued in 2008.
Bill C-32 is designed to be technology neutral, which is a very good way to deal with it, because if we do not do that we will be dealing with technology referencing typewriters or old technology from many years past. Taken forward to the future, 20 years from now people will not be understanding the type of technology that we are dealing with in the bill right now. So we have gone to a technology-neutral position that applies across a broad range of devices and technologies with a view of ensuring adaptability to a constantly evolving technology environment.
During the summer of 2009, as the minister referenced, Industry Canada held a series of nationwide consultations on copyrights, soliciting input from Canadian consumers, industry experts and content developers. During the consultations, the most discussed and most contentious issue was digital rights management, including the digital locks, which has been talked about by many speakers today, anti-circumvention measures and TPMs, or technological protection measures.
User rights advocates made it clear that they wanted to see the government expand the fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act and provide more exceptions for consumers. In Canada, fair dealing as defined by the Copyright Act is more restrictive than the fair use provisions in the United States, particularly with regard to education and teaching. It refers to uses of content that are considered valid defences to copyright infringement, such as for purposes of criticism and review, news reporting or educational use.
While user rights appear to have been taken into some consideration in drafting the bill, Bill C-32 is fairly heavily weighted in favour of the rights of content owners. I reference Sony, Hollywood studios and so on and have asked the question about the influence of the Hollywood lobby, the American political lobby on the Canadian government to come up with a solution that they basically approve of.
The Conservatives laugh and say it has taken six years and obviously they are not responding to any pressure because had they responded to pressure they would have done this a long time ago. What matters here is that the American government and American business interests want to see a piece of legislation that fits in with their legislation, because they see this as a continental market. I have explained before that of the 88 countries that have approved the WIPO Internet agreements, only half of them follow the American model. The other half have a lesser approach than the American system of supporting digital locks.
The government tries to bamboozle us by telling us that we have to give industry the digital lock provisions because we are following the United States, following WIPO.
However, half the countries that have approved and ratified these agreements are not following the digital lock procedures the way the Americans are. Let us understand that from the beginning. We do not have to go holus-bolus, cap in hand, following on the trail of the Americans, contrary to what the government would like us to believe.
The government has stated that its aim in updating the Copyright Act is not to punish individual users, but rather to focus its deterrence and enforcement efforts on distributors and large websites that illegally host copyrighted content. Of course we agree with that. No party in this House wants to be causing grief to the citizens of Canada. There is no question about that at all.
The copyright modernization bill contains three broad categories of changes that Internet and e-commerce law expert Michael Geist termed sector-specific reforms, compromise provisions, and no-compromise rules regarding the DRMs.
The sector-specific reforms are designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of Canadians and include measures that extend the term of copyright for performers and producers to 50 years from the time of publication of a musical performance. They also create a new "making available" right in accordance with the WIPO treaties. This measure will give copyright owners exclusive control over how their content is made available on the Internet.
It also introduces a mandatory review of the Copyright Act, to take place every five years. It is important to have a mandatory review every five years. Even though the bill itself is technologically neutral, things may change in five years, and it is important that we have the ability to require the government to do a review after that point.
Bill C-32's compromise provisions will formally enshrine commonplace grey-area practices that enable users to record TV programs for later viewing, as long as they do not compile a library of recorded content. That is called time-shifting. I know that some people are not going to be happy with this. There are people who like to use their PVRs to copy programs and want to be able to make copies of those and record them. But they are not going to allow people to compile a library of recorded content.
The provisions regarding transferring songs from CDs to MP3 players, called format-shifting, and making backup copies create new limited exceptions to the fair- dealing provision of the Copyright Act. These include exceptions for educators and exceptions for parody and satire, which Canadian artists have been asking for. Bill C-32's compromise provisions will create an exception for content creators that would enable the circumvention of DRMs for the express purpose of reverse engineering for encryption research, security testing, perceptual disability, and software interoperability.
It would also introduce a new YouTube exception that would allow Canadian users to compile clips of copyrighted works into a remix work, as long as it is not created for commercial purposes.
I also want to point out that no one here today has mentioned that this legislation will also give photographers, for the first time, the same rights as other creators. I listened for that all day long and I did not hear anyone mention it. Photographers should be happy, because for the very first time in the history in Canada they will be given the same rights as other creators.
Bill C-32 also creates a new exception for broadcasters to allow them to copy music for their operations.
In addition, it creates a carve-out for network locks on cellphones. This is another one that I think is going to be popular. One of our members actually introduced a bill regarding cellphones, but understand that we are talking about network locks on cellphones. Right now we are stuck with a network when we buy a cellphone. The locks are going to be taken away, and Canadians are going to have the right to unlock their phones. I think people are going to be happy with that if they want to switch carriers, as long as they abide by the providers' contract terms when they make the switch.
There is also a reduction of statutory damages from a maximum fine of $20,000 per copyrighted work to a one-time maximum penalty of $5,000 in situations where copyrighted works have been illegally accessed for non-commercial purposes.
The government touts this reduction of penalties as a progressive, positive change. However, if we read Michael Geist's work, he argues that this is not going to be the effect, that it is not going to work, that we are creating legislation that is going to produce a lot of litigation.
Our critic mentioned that artists have better things to do with their time than hire lawyers. Therefore, the bill is going to be good for lawyers. But if we are talking about little artists who are trying to practise their trade, the last thing they are going to want to do is hire lawyers to track down people who are infringing on their copyrights.
Perhaps we have to take another look at the whole issue of the fines. Perhaps we ought not to think that, because we are reducing fines from $20,000 to $5,000, we have solved the problem. Michael Geist, who is a recognized expert in this area, has made a convincing argument that this is not the case.
Finally, the copyright modernization act contains no-compromise provisions that are likely to have a huge impact on the way Canadians obtain, use, and share copyrighted content. These include measures that create powerful new anti-circumvention rights for content owners like Sony and other big companies, as distinct from the creators and the developers, that prevent access to copyrighted works on pain of fines of up to $1 million, or five years in jail. This measure is based directly on the United States' controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the DMCA, and that is one of our criticisms of the bill. The government is slavishly following the American model as opposed to following the 88 countries in the world that are not following the American model, that have separated from the American model, and have gone easier on the digital lock issue.
An immediate result of this provision would be to convince the United States, and particularly its powerful entertainment lobby, that this country is in line with U.S. regulations and is an attractive and secure place to conduct business.
I think that is what it is all about with the Conservative government. It wants to convince the Americans that we are a good, safe market, with the same standards that they have, so that they can come and do business with us. Instead of this, the government should be looking out for our citizens.
The foundational principle of the new bill remains that any time a digital lock is used, whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices, the lock trumps all rights. So what is the point of giving people all these rights if we simply take them away by making sure that the digital lock trumps all these new rights?
This means that both the existing fair-dealing rights and Bill C-32's new rights all cease to function effectively so long as rights-holders place a digital lock on their content or device. It would also require that, where a digital lock exists, digital copies made for the purposes of self-study self-destruct within five days, and that course materials be destroyed no later than 30 days after the conclusion of a course. What good is that?
We have had speaker after speaker criticize that provision of the bill.
Perhaps I can deal with the remaining points in the question-and-comments period.