Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-32, which is legislation to update Canada's Copyright Act. I speak as someone who has actually tried to feed my family off copyright as an artist, a writer, a broadcaster, and a publisher.
The New Democratic Party has been clear about its desire to ensure that Canada's copyright regime is updated, and New Democrats place copyright reform at the centre of what must be a much broader innovation agenda for Canada. This includes codifying protection for net neutrality, committing to national benchmarks for broadband access right across rural and northern Canada and into the urban areas, and enhancing our digital cultural programs to ensure that Canadians are able to participate as international citizens within the democratic, culturally vibrant, public commons that is the Internet.
In respect of copyright reform, New Democrats have been consistent. We told the government to bring WIPO into the House and have it ratified. If we had done that, it would have taken some of the international pressure off Canada. We have been telling the government that we fundamentally support the principle of remunerating creators for their content and oppose criminalizing consumers.
The Conservative government had five years to ratify WIPO and bring it before the House, but it stalled. The previous bill was so poorly constructed that it pretty much died the day it was brought in. The first lesson to know about copyright is that it has to be balanced, and getting it balanced requires broad-based consultations with every stakeholder.
Bill C-61 was pretty much ditched as soon as it was brought in and that sent the Conservatives back to the drawing board. Here we are two years later and five years into the government's term.
Unfortunately, I do not think the government has yet gotten the message. We will be more than willing to work with it on addressing problems, but we want a clear understanding from the government that it is willing to work with the other parties to fix this bill.
Many international observers are looking to Canada. They think this is a country that can actually get it right when it comes to copyright. Like every other nation in the world, we are in the midst of unprecedented technological change. What we have seen over the last dozen years is a cultural copyright war that has been played out internationally, and some jurisdictions have gotten the mix wrong.
If we look at the history of copyright, we can see that the push for copyright has always come from technological threat. There are certainly those who are threatened. Some older business models would use copyright to make sure that new, potentially difficult platforms for distribution are stopped from going forward.
What we have learned in Canada from watching other countries trying to bring forward copyright is that no amount of legislation or legal action will force consumers to return to dead business models. Nowhere is this folly more clear than in the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the DMCA.
The U.S. entertainment industry has used both the courts and legislation to try to criminalize consumers, and the result has been a scorched-earth policy that was waged by the Recording Industry Association of America against its own consumer base. After 35,000-plus lawsuits against kids, single moms, and even dead people, the so-called digital genie has not gone back in the bottle, and it is not going to go back in the bottle.
The one thing I would say to the Conservative government is that, for all of its dumbed-down approach to social policy, it seems to understand that suing kids is not going to be a constructive, long-term solution. That might be one of the only positive results coming from what we have witnessed south of the border.
Does this mean that digital technology has simply trumped the principle of copyright, and endless downloading can simply erase the rights of creators? Certainly not. We need to look at the Internet and digital innovation for what it is. This is an exciting new distribution platform and new models are emerging.
We have the opportunity in Canada to come forward with something that is forward-looking rather than backward-looking. I found it unfortunate this summer when the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages denounced citizens who questioned the bill as digital extremists. If copyright reform is to succeed, we have to move beyond this self-defeating culture war, because the choice in the end is whether we support regressive or progressive copyright.
Regressive copyright is based on attempting to limit, control, or punish users of creative works. Regressive copyright is ultimately self-defeating, because the public will find ways to access those works.
Progressive copyright, on the other hand, is based on two time-honoured principles: remuneration and access.
The digital age has shown us that consumers of artistic works want to be able to access them how and when they please, and they will do so. To them the Internet is not a threat; it is an amazing vehicle for participation in exciting cultural exchange. The question is, how do we monetize it?
The balanced approach represents the mainstream of Canadian copyright opinion. I refer to the judgment in the case of Théberge v. Galerie d'Art du Petit Champlain inc. The Supreme Court said that the purpose of copyright was to strike “a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator”.
So the role of copyright is not simply the enforcement of property rights. It is, however, a public construct. That is what copyright is. It ensures that there is public access to artistic works and a public interest in remunerating the creator.
Unfortunately, I do not think Bill C-32 manages to strike this balance. It offers the public a series of rights in the same way a roadside carny offers good odds in a shell game. Attempting to access those rights under the digital lock provisions will prove that none of these rights actually exists. That is fundamentally problematic, because all the rights that are guaranteed in this bill can be erased by a corporate piece of software saying that consumers cannot access the works they have legally purchased.
Support for digital locks exists internationally. I think everyone in this house would agree that digital locks exist to protect a piece of copyrighted material from being stolen, or, as the Minister of Heritage said, from someone ripping it off and putting it on BitTorrent. However, it is another matter to use those digital locks to prevent access for educators or consumers who actually bought a product that they would normally be able to time-shift or format-shift.
As for the remuneration of artists, the other fundamental principle in copyright, this bill consistently undermines the revenue streams that artists have relied on. We can see this in the government's full-on political assault on the private copying levy. The government's attack on the levy is emblematic of its attempt to turn copyright into a political battle in which it gets to rant about taxes and go after them. The government, however, is really going after one of the time-honoured principles that Canadian copyright is based on, which is the remuneration of artists.
Before we get into the fundamental problems of this bill, let us put it in context. Technological change has always driven copyright reform. Music is a very good example. In 1906, John Philip Sousa denounced the threat of mechanical music, which was actually the roller piano. He felt that if people started buying roller pianos they would not need live musicians anymore. I do not know how many people bought a roller piano, but it was not quite the threat they made it out to be.
The Association of American Publishers picked up the threat of technology when the record player appeared. They thought that if there were record players nobody would buy sheet music. Sheet music was actually one of the great copyright-drivers for artists. If people listened to records, they would not have to play the piano in their parlours. This was clearly a case of a new business model threatening an older one.
In 1923, record companies, which had been considered a threat a few years before, suddenly found that they were being threatened themselves, because the radio appeared. The record industry thought that if people listened to music on the radio for free, they would not buy records.
By 1928 it appears their fears may have been realized. Record sales dropped off by about 80%. By 1931, they had dropped off over 90%. I would argue that perhaps some of that had to do with the Depression, but the argument could have been made by record company lobbyists that the appearance of radio had also had an effect.
Were the radio listeners criminalized? Did they put locks on access to radio? No, they learned to monetize radio revenue, and the record industry never looked back until it came across a kid who invented Napster.
Napster was enormously successful, not because the music was free, but because it offered a young generation almost unlimited access and the ability to choose what they wanted when they wanted it.
That was a phenomenal change in how music was accessed. Steve Knopper wrote an excellent book Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.The recording industry made a fundamental and colossal error when it decided to try to shut down the technology through losses rather than monetizing. At that point, digital music went underground for a number of years, and the market has never quite recovered. I went through this history because I believe it is important to put the issues of digital monetizing and technological change in perspective.
These are some of the fundamental problems with the bill and how it works. We believe that the government has declared war on one of the principles of Canadian copyright, which is collective licensing. To demonstrate this, one does not have to look any further than the government's attack on the levy. The levy was a made in Canada solution that allowed for format-shifting while providing a badly needed stream of revenue to the artists. The levy worked on consensus. It worked on writable CDs. However, when we tried to update it to the MP3, we saw the Conservatives misrepresenting the levy, misrepresenting the costs. They have used it as a straw man in numerous political mailings.
Let us see what the national media had to say about this Tory attack on remuneration of artists. The Edmonton Journal said that the New Democratic Party's support for the levy seemed to be a “perfectly reasonable compromise” and that the industry minister misrepresented the contents of what was actually a “thoughtful compromise that upholds basic Canadian values of straight dealing”.
The National Post was even blunter. It said that the government's nonsensical boo, hiss, no new taxes response is just plain dumb.
Bill C-32, as long as there are no digital locks, will allow for all manner of copying and backing-up on the pretense that it is technologically neutral. But it is clearly not technologically neutral, because it is going after one of the few revenue streams that exists for artists.
The government is saying it has all these fair-dealing exemptions for education, but let us look at some of the glaring irregularities of the bill. Under Bill C-32, students who are taking long-distance courses will be forced to destroy their class notes after 30 days. Teachers will be forced to destroy their on-line classes. This is the digital equivalent of telling universities they have to burn their textbooks at the end of every session. What kind of government would force students to burn their class notes in the name of protecting copyright? No writer benefits from this, and no student benefits. This provision shows how badly out of whack the government is when it comes to understanding the potential for digital education.
We see these same punitive measures brought to bear against librarians. They will be forced to destroy inter-library loans after five days. We saw the government's full-on assault against the long form census and its opposition to knowledge and data. But to go after students and librarians with such dumbed-down, regressive approaches is something the New Democratic Party will not support in any way.
Let us look at the issue of the digital lock provision. The digital locks make a mockery of any claim of giving fair rights. The government says that we will get fair dealing rights for education and for reproduction for private purposes. People can make back-up copies; there will be copying rights for the print disabled; there is the so-called YouTube mash-up provision. But if there is a digital lock in place, all those rights are erased.
Clause 41.1 lays out very clear technological protection measures, which supersede the rights that citizens would otherwise enjoy. Thus Bill C-32 offers citizens' rights that they will not actually be able to access. What the government is doing is creating a two-tiered set of rights between digital and non-digital products. Instead of legal certainty, Canadian citizens will face arbitrary limitations on what should be their legal right of access.
It is simply not credible to say that this is WIPO-compliant. If we look at the WIPO treaties, digital locks are not guaranteed copyright rights. They are simply enforcement measures. At most, technological protection measures may be thought of as an adjunct to exclusive rights, but they cannot trump the rights that exist by law. In fact, if we look at how other countries have implemented WIPO, we see that there is no reason the government and this Parliament cannot set up a made-in-Canada provision that represents a balance on the digital locks provision.
In article 10 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, it says that limitations such as the TPMs may be supported as long as they “do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work”. That is exactly what the bill would do. It would override the normal exploitations of this work.
The other problem with this jailhouse approach to digital locks and digital issues is the question of whether it will even be able to pass a constitutional challenge. Dr. Jeremy de Beer raised this issue when he looked at the previous bill, Bill C-61. He said that the digital rights provisions were a:
—poorly veiled attempt by the Government to strengthen the contractual rights available to copyright owners, in the guise of copyright reform and the implementation of Canada’s international obligations.
He said that further iterations of Bill C-61 that did not take the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act into account could fail constitutional scrutiny. In fact, there are questions whether the bill with the digital locks provision will actually be able to succeed in a charter challenge.
Fundamentally, we can make the digital locks provisions work in order to protect copyright data, but if the government thinks those locks can simply override the existing rights that are guaranteed in the rest of the bill, it will have problems. The New Democratic Party certainly has problems with that.
At this point in going forward, the New Democratic Party is willing to work with all members of the House, all four parties, because we believe we must update Canada's copyright laws. We need to find a way to do it and we think it can be done.
We are looking for a sense from the government that it is willing to work with us. If it is willing to address some of the fundamental problems, we can deal with this in committee. However, if it takes the approach that any suggestions or implementations slightly different than the government's are somehow a threat and that it will not work with us, then we will not support Bill C-32 at third reading.
The New Democratic Party is willing to take this to committee. We are willing to work on these issues. We believe we can make very good made in Canada copyright legislation that will not only stand the test of this year and next year, but that will be looked at in other jurisdictions around the world as a way to find the balance that has so far been elusive in the digital copyright wars of the 15 years.