Madam Speaker, I come to this discussion on the proposed changes to the copyright law from the position of someone who had been in the classroom at one time in his life as a teacher always looking for opportunities to make the learning process relevant to those who were eager to get out of his class. In so doing, I and many of my colleagues used all the resources available to us. That meant going to those who make it their life's work to create new experiences. In the creation of those experiences, they have the right to profit from their genius, creativity and, indeed, the efforts of many who commercialize that creativity.
As a classroom teacher, I availed myself of many with that creativity. It was not always somebody who had the greatest piece of art or the greatest creation of an artifact or even someone who had written the greatest book. Sometimes it went so far, believe it or not, as picking a column out of a newspaper and giving people an opportunity to address all of the issues raised, how they were raised and how they should be addressed. In so doing, we actually photocopied some of these things and distributed them.
Now we are talking about an archaic age in communication. The consumption is still the same. Today we are in a digital age and Bill C-32 is an attempt for Canada to catch up to the digital age, not to enter into it. If one were to speak with young people, such as the pages in the House, they are experts and maybe we should have them stand up here and address these issues. We would learn a lot more from them than we are going to learn from members of Parliament.
We are good at identifying what the problems are, but they will give us the solutions. Why will they give us the solutions? It is because they have grown up and lived with the technology that we say is the new digital age. They are addressing the same problems that I addressed when I was a classroom teacher. High school students were always looking for a way to do something else because it is the nature of the age in that chronological part of our lives to be inquisitive, to look for solutions, to look for ways out, to look for alternatives.
When someone is a creator, the first thing we do is ask what we learn from that. Whether one admits it or not, that is really what one does. Teachers used to do that and maybe some university professors still do that. What we try to do is avail ourselves of the creativity of others. We do that in the classroom. We also do it in the arts industries, primarily music and the graphic arts industries.
Today, the digital age in which we find ourselves has made it much more easy and speedier to avail ourselves of somebody else's creativity. That is good, but in so doing we have been running the risk of eliminating the creator's right to profit from that creativity.
We know that modernizing Canada's copyright law is an absolute necessity. We have to catch up. Changes to the copyright legislation may also have to protect the rights of consumers. If we think for a moment about the example I gave, which is a personal example and I hope everyone will forgive me for it, the cost to educate the next generation of Canadians will be astronomical if every one of the classroom practitioners were to respect the letter of the law that prohibits a photocopy, or in this case, a file share. The cost would be horrendous. It is a question of balancing the commercial cost and commercial benefits.
Bill C-32 appears to meet some of these challenges. One should not always say that an initiative is negative simply because the Conservatives raised it. That would be the safe thing to do, but the bill risks being undermined due to some of the provisions dealing with digital locks and the technological protection measures, which some of my other colleagues have referred to as TPMs.
It seems a contradiction to say that a person could fairly use copyrighted items for certain purposes, but that the manner used to obtain them would be illegal. That is true. We need to clarify what we mean by that, otherwise we will be spinning around in circles over and over again. The moment we put the legislation in place, someone will find a vehicle, an avenue or a way to get out.
If Canadians have legitimately purchased a CD, DVD or other product, they should have the right to use that medium or any other device as long as it is not for commercial gain, because the commercial gain is resident in the person, persons or company that actually created whatever it is that is going to be used or shared.
It would be a waste of taxpayers' money and a betrayal of the public trust if Canadians, and I am now specifically talking about young Canadians, were fined or charged because they wanted to watch a movie they purchased on a DVD. We get into a situation where we are going to criminalize many people who are taking some things for granted because we have never really said that such activities are or are not legitimate. We have not identified that we would infringe on the legitimization of those items.
Other groups have expressed these concerns too. It is not just those of us who have been teachers, are teachers, or who are parents of a teenager, whose hair will grow my colour; other groups have expressed concerns as well.
The Quebec bar association, for example, in a letter to the ministers of heritage and industry states that the bill is severely flawed. I do not know why it is that we as parliamentarians constantly conjure up solutions that are so deeply flawed that people who deal with this every day see the holes in it immediately. We do not come here and extol the virtues of actually doing something. Specifically regarding Bill C-32 bar association officials say first of all that it does not meet Canada's international obligations as it goes against the three-step test before granting exceptions without remuneration to rights holders.
Think what that means for a moment. It really suggests that people have not done their homework in terms of what it is that has to be done. International bodies have a particular test and we do not meet it. We have not done that elementary homework. They also say it raises problems of coherence with international and provincial legal text and is ambiguous in the treatment of the responsibility of Internet service providers.
Now we have the medium, but those who activate the medium or who make it possible for all of the creators to get on the medium are also liable. This legislation does not address their liability and their responsibilities accurately, currently and effectively enough. That is from a bar association. I am assuming its officials had to talk to some consumers and experts in the use of the Internet either for file sharing, for pleasure, for education, or for the conduct of business. As I said, they probably did not talk to some of the young people who are in this House.
It introduces legal uncertainty, and whenever we introduce legal uncertainty, we are encouraging litigation. As a piece of legislation, this body representing lawyers is saying that it is good for the lawyers because if this bill is passed, there will be more people knocking on lawyers' doors. We will hear the sound of cash registers. Well, nobody uses cash registers any more; that is another archaic reference.
It reminds me of my own dad who wanted me to become a lawyer. There were at that time 4,000 lawyers in the province of Ontario. I think there are now 26,000, so my dad would have been right. He would have said, “Even if my son is not very good, look at all the market that is out there looking for bad lawyers”. It has increased from 4,000 to 26,000. Everybody is going to keep going ka-ching, as my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso said.
Those lawyers are honest enough. I realize some people would like to play with that, but those lawyers and those law associations are honest enough to say, “Pass the bill as it is and make us richer”, because that is what we will encourage, litigation. It creates exemptions, they go on to say, that depend on conditions that are either unrealistic or impossible to verify. They speak about the amounts of moneys and energies that will have to be consumed in order to bring some of these items to a forum where litigation is the order of the day. Can we avoid that? They are telling us to.
It introduces a dangerously imprecise concept of education that I talked about a few moments ago, and fair dealing, because according to the bar association, one can expect several cases of litigation, given the way the bill is written, on education alone. My principal, before I became one, said to me, “Do not go copying any of this stuff. Do not go distributing it to students. Do not do this. Do not do that”. “I have got a piece of chalk and a blackboard. Is that the way you want me to conduct my teaching?” “Well, we cannot afford to get sued.” I would not get sued if I referred to a book. However, if I copy a page out of the book, I am in trouble. If I want my students to have something physically in front of them, how do I overcome this liability that I will incur the moment I stand up in front of the class and say, “Hey, isn't this really great? You know that guy; he had great ideas, and let us take a look at it” and go on from there. I am not going into pedagogy, because it was boring then and it is boring today.
My point is that education is still the same process. It is still the same. The media and the techniques may vary, and we cannot expose today's teachers to litigation or potential for same. That same bar association says it negates the collective exercise of copyright and favours individual litigation through impractical and unrealistic remedies. So thank goodness we have members of Parliament who can read, because we actually read this material. Now we are looking at this proposed legislation in the context of some expertise from the legal side, but not from the technical side just yet.
The legal side says here is the ultimate test of unfairness. It removes remuneration from rights holders, thereby ruining the existing equilibrium between creators and users of protected material, contrary to the very objectives of the law. Certainly, if we want to make good legislation, we have to think that the legislation we propose and pass in this House has to meet that first test of balance so that it is fair for you, Madam Speaker, it is fair for me and it is fair for all those who come in between or who depend on us. It may not be the absolute thing, but at least it has to be a balance. It cannot be too much of one or too much of the other.
One can see that the bill tries to fix a problem introduced in and by the digital age, but we have been in this age for decades. As I said, these young pages were born in the digital age; they know no other. Yet here we are. We are trying to find a system that adequately compensates artists, because that is a word we have not used often in our debate so far. We have talked about creators, but really, they are artists, because that is the difference between a creator and someone who practises what has already been created. If somebody is artistic, it goes beyond the genius of a simple mathematical or scientific solution.
If we are going to find a system that adequately compensates these artists while recognizing the realities of the current world, this bill cannot be judged to work, and it will not work in the long term because that balance is gone.
The bill ignores the fact that people share files all the time. Ask any high school student, any university student, and we will receive a lesson, as I do all the time, on the latest file sharing techniques. There is always somebody out there who is smarter than the next person, and the moment one solution is imposed, somebody finds a different way to get around it.
The Conservative government aided in the creation of this file sharing culture. We might think this is good. Sure. But by not stepping in at the outset, the Conservatives implied that while file sharing might not necessarily be legal, there is no consequence to file sharing illegally. In other words, there is no consequence. No law is being broken if no law is being enforced.
There are people who are obviously interested. We have the advantage of these new technologies. A constituent of mine is following the debate today and says that it would be like a Brink's truck crashing and having all the cash fall out. At first nobody does anything, but eventually someone goes and picks up a bundle of cash, looks around, and there are no police officers. Other people show up. They pick up another bundle of cash. What do you do? You call the police. Of course that is the right thing to do, to try to enforce something. Meanwhile, a lot of people have walked away with a lot of cash.
That is why the government is implicitly culpable in the circumstances it is trying to address today. It has done very little to address the problems of the digital age when it comes to protecting the rights of artists and creators and balancing the rights of consumers and learners.
We need to create new business models not only as a government, but we need to engage industry so that it can provide those new models for us. Government needs to work with them as we move in a satisfactory direction.
Is there any example out there that we might use? The Apple iTunes that some people engage in, the 99¢ songs, is one example of the industry reacting in a positive way. I note that there are a lot of others. These ideas must also be encouraged.
Some of my colleagues have talked about mashups, statutory damages, public exhibition of arts, resale of arts, recordings, et cetera. These are the items that some of the stakeholders raised, some who have visited me in my riding office and some who have lobbied. There is a word that is not always a legitimate word to use in anything, but they have lobbied members of Parliament from all parties to give them a sense of what is involved, to give them an education about the best way to handle these problems as proposed by Bill C-32.
As a member who has been here for some time, I am constantly impressed by individuals who come with the infusion of a new idea and want to be able to resolve this. I listen to them as all members in this House of Commons tend to do and should do. I often wonder why it is that the government does not follow the same thing. It is a tried and true road to success. The government needs to listen to the people who are creators, listen to the people who are artist creators, listen to the distributors, listen to those who commercialize and manufacture, listen to the consumers, listen to the experts on the material and listen, as I have tried to do, to those who have a legal framework into which we place all of it.
All of this is to say that if we are going to have to support an initiative of this nature we need to give it more careful study, and we are going to study this more carefully.