The last time we significantly amended the Copyright Act was in 1997. Like other countries, Canada continues to transition to a digital economy. This transition has had a profound effect on our artists, writers, musicians, software developers, filmmakers, photographers and other creators of copyright material.
For years, file sharing of music and video and large media storage in general has been possible, yet still a difficult task for most Canadians to accomplish. Today, transferring gigabytes is as easy as opening up the Internet browser. The world has changed and it is obvious Canada needs to keep pace to modernize its copyright legislation.
What has changed? Not long ago we were listening to eight-track tapes, cassettes and Sony Walkmans. We communicated through voice mail, not email, and fax, not instant messaging.
Today it is difficult to find children or adults alike who do not own an iPod or portable musical device. BlackBerrys, iPhones, laptops, iPads are seen everywhere and society has become dependent on them. Checking email and Facebook, sharing pictures and video, listening to music through one means or another have become integral parts of everyday life. Digital media is pervasive and omnipresent.
At one time Canada was a leader in the digital economy. In recent years though, our laws have fallen behind and we lag in global best practices. Our copyright laws are dated and we have received international criticism because of it. On this side of the House, we welcome modernization, but we want to do it right. We will agree to send the bill to committee at second reading. However, let me be clear. The bill needs work. It has numerous flaws and requires revisions and amendments at committee stage. The Liberal Party wants to make sure this work gets done.
Record labels, libraries, students, artists, authors, publishers, photographers, collective societies, video game creators, professors, consumers, film producers, educational resource centres to name a few have all come forward to show their discontent with the current status and structure of the bill. I have met with numerous stakeholders on this matter, and as my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie mentioned earlier, I have never had more requests for meetings and discussions than for Bill C-32.
In summarizing the complaints, I heard the following: “The bill tries to deal with piracy, but instead, it strips the industries of millions”. Also, “Intellectual property is not only a legal right, it is a human right”.
According to Jim Fleck, chairman of Business for the Arts:
Hill Strategies reports that Canadian consumers spent $25.1 billion on culture goods and services in 2005, more than consumer spending on household furniture, appliances and tools ($24 billion)....The output by the culture sector totalled: $46 billion in 2007, which was 3.8% of Canada's real GDP. If we were to include the induced and indirect impact, the value-added climbs to $84.6 billion.... The Conference Board estimates that 1,000,000 jobs are created by the cultural sector, representing 7.1 per cent of Canada's total employment in 2007.
Liberals understand that the rights of creators need to be protected and maintained, yet the fundamental rights of Canadians to access digital media must also be respected. Our goal is to find that middle ground.
Today I will be addressing some key flaws of the bill, primarily: one, a ratified collective licensing regime; two, technological protection measures, TPMs; three, file sharing; and four, statutory damages.
First is collective licensing and fair dealing. In 2004 a Liberal government legislated to allow for institutions such as libraries, museums, schools, their teachers and students to have access to materials under a collective licensing regime for fair dealing. These institutions have rights to materials for studying purposes. Unfortunately, these rights can be taken for granted and misused.
While students are expected to use materials for a finite period of time, sometimes the temptation to keep music or video is too great and many times simply overlooked.
The bill as it stands lacks a clear definition of “fair dealing”. This is a key component for our party and we will seek that definition in committee. Our goals are to offer materials for educational purposes, eliminate abuse and allow authors, artists and creators of the materials fair compensation, but at the same time give our students fair and affordable ways to obtain that information.
Two is technological protection measures, or TPMs. The exact amount of losses due to piracy is anyone's guess. Some report it is a $5 billion loss to the music and video industries. For years, the solution was thought to be digital rights management, DRM. Billions of dollars have been spent on the creation of software embedded into digital files which monitor the purchase method, the date and the amount of times a file has been used and/or transferred. Although this practice appears foolproof for combatting piracy, arguments can easily be made about the anti-constitutional measures.
Bill C-32 does not address the fact that when consumers purchase digital files for personal use, consumers assume, and expect to have, complete usage of those files without limitations and without restrictions.
Digital locking, or TPM, in Bill C-32 seeks to go even further than DRM by using file lock mechanisms. The circumvention of TPM in this bill requires extensive review.
We believe the Copyright Act must allow Canadians who have legitimately purchased media files the ability to transfer their purchase onto personal devices for their own personal use or to format or time shift or to make personal backup copies on their computer as long as they are not doing so for the purposes of sale or transfer to others.
There has been a common ground between balancing the rights of the creator and satisfying the consumer. We do not believe that Bill C-32 does either one. We look forward to examining these options further and finding that common ground.
Three is file sharing. A fundamental right in the digital age is the ability to share files. The whole concept of the Internet at its inception was to do just that. Peer-to-peer, or P2P, connection is a standard business practice. It allows for large file sharing among co-workers, clients, developers and anyone with an Internet connection. P2P has become the single most effective way of sharing large digital media. Unfortunately, it has also become a means for piracy. When two computers can communicate with each other and allow for file sharing, there are no restrictions on what can be shared.
Do members remember Napster? The case was supposed to set the precedent in the world to combat abusive and illegal digital file sharing. Napster was forced to pay $100 million for its P2P methods and infringing practices. What followed was the birth of penalties for those who share copyrighted files over the Internet without paying for them, but as we know, the piracy continued.
As a way to disguise P2P connections, Bit torrents have become a common piracy technique. Torrents were designed to track multiple share points of files and help for fast and steady download. Torrents are easily found through any Google search.
How do we stop P2P? How do we stop bit torrents? Quite frankly, we cannot, but appropriate penalties are a start. Copyright laws are only as good as the enforcement that accompanies them. Certainly in the age of the Internet, until some of this is sorted out, it remains, as we say, the wild west.
Four is statutory damages. Bill C-32 defines new statutory damages for infringement of copyright, but once again it is regressive.
We have many concerns with this section. How effective can it be to decrease the statutory damages? The government is proposing to reduce infringement damages from $500 up to a maximum of $20,000, to as low as $100 up to a maximum of $5,000. A main focus of the damage is to target individuals who download music from a peer-to-peer file sharing service.
I have already made the argument that P2P cannot be stopped. If peer-to-peer cannot be stopped and it is being used for piracy, then damages must be commensurate with the severity of the infringement.
In conclusion, there is no easy solution for modernizing Canada's copyright laws. I will not pretend to have all the answers. However, I can commit to working with all stakeholders on one hand and looking after the fundamental rights of Canadians on the other.
Listening to music while on the bus, walking or jogging, or watching videos on a two-inch screen or hearing last night's news from a podcast have become a way of life.
At the end of the day, my colleagues and I on this side of the House understand that the rights of the creators need to be maintained and protected, yet the fundamental rights of Canadians must also be respected. Our goal is to find that happy middle ground.