Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Copyright Act.
I would like to start by praising the member for Timmins—James Bay. He is the first digital affairs critic in the history of Parliament, named by our leader to push the government on digital affairs. He has a background as an artist who has depended on copyright. This bill is a result of his endless efforts to try to get the government to understand, after four years of sitting on its derriere, that they had to take action on copyright. It is because of the member for Timmins—James Bay that the government has moved at all.
There are positive provisions in the bill. But as with virtually everything else the government has done, there is an element of ineptness, whether it appears in bad financial management, the treatment of veterans, or corruption inside the government. In fact, everything that the government promised four years ago it has managed to botch or deliberately mishandle.
In this case, we see provisions that we can only liken to digital torches and pitchforks. Having been thrown into the bill, these provisions diminish some of the good elements that the member for Timmins—James Bay was able to promote and put into effect.
We have been calling for a mandatory review of the Copyright Act. When we look at the history of copyright and the new technology, we see that this type of mandated review is absolutely essential.
We have new exceptions to the fair-dealing provisions of the Copyright Act. They create an exception for content creators that would enable the circumvention of DRM for the express purpose of reverse engineering. At the same time, they introduce a number of exceptions that artists have called for. But the problem is that the negative elements of the bill overshadow these positive elements.
Here we have the introduction of long-overdue copyright legislation, something the government has been sitting on for four years. But now we see that, as a result of mishandling, this copyright legislation is bringing as much bad as good.
This is a challenge for Parliament. In this corner of the House, the member for Timmins—James Bay has expressed our opinion that this legislation is long overdue. There are important elements that have to be brought forward, but at the same time, the digital torches and pitchfork of the bill have to be dealt with in committee. Though we would favour pushing this forward to committee, we recognize that the committee will have much work to do to fix this the bill.
The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about the history of copyright, about how new technologies have often been feared by those with vested interests in existing technologies. Player pianos, recordings, radios, computer access to music: all these new technologies experienced obstruction from established interests attempting to protect themselves.
Owing to the hard work of the first digital affairs critic in Canadian parliamentary history, the NDP is pushing forward with what we feel is essential, and that is a balanced approach.
This bill does not have that balance. That is the fundamental problem. The bill ignores the three key components that would give us a balanced approach: copyright maintenance, public access to artistic productions, and rewards for artists. This balance has not yet been achieved in the bill, despite the efforts of the member for Timmins—James Bay to inform the government and lead it in the right direction.
What are the key problems?
First, there are the digital locks.
Second, to provide artists with reliable revenue streams, we proposed extending the levy on materials for music-playing devices. That was an adult approach. We are saying that we need to extend the levy for new devices to ensure that artists receive the remuneration that they need to feed their families. The current government, however, has childishly challenged the adult proposals of the NDP. It has given this legislation a remedy that only large corporations could use: the so-called court remedy. If we go to court, we have to pay a lawyer. Struggling artists cannot do that. That is why there has been so much criticism of this bill.
Third, there is the whole issue of collective licensing, of fair access to educational materials. This is not in the bill. Yet it is something that New Democrats, notably the member for Timmins—James Bay, have put forward as a principle essential to all copyright legislation.
This omission is perhaps the most egregious aspect of this bill. It is one of these digital torches and pitchforks. I am going to read an excerpt from Bill C-32. This is what it says about students and educational institutes. This is the famous clause 27 that my colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, cited earlier. It contains new provisions that would add a new section to 30.01 of the Copyright Act. It says it is not an infringement of copyright for a student to receive a lesson. “However, the student shall destroy the reproduction within 30 days after the day on which the students who are enrolled in the course...have received their final course evaluations”.
That is the famous 30-day, retroactive book-burning clause of this copyright. It is absolutely absurd that those in the gallery, students across the country, would have to destroy these educational materials 30 days after they received their final course evaluation. It seems absurd. When I first heard about this, I said that the member for Timmins—James Bay could not be right. But he was right again: these provisions are clearly in the bill.
It goes on, and it gets worse. Here is the legal mandate:
The educational institution and any person acting under its authority...shall (a) destroy any fixation of the lesson within 30 days after the day on which the students who are enrolled in the course...have received their final course evaluations;
The university, the college, the educational institution has to destroy the material. The student has to destroy the material. Penalties kick in if they do not destroy the material. This is retroactive book burning. This takes us back to the Middle Ages. It is digital torches and pitchforks. It is absolutely absurd. It is laughable that the government would even bring forward such provisions, but there they are in the bill. That is why we are saying that we will not stand for it. We are going to ensure that those provisions are taken out at committee, because they would create two classes of students in this country.
It creates a class of students, largely urban, who can access educational institutions very easily. In the world's largest democracy, which at length and breadth is eight million square kilometres, we cannot have students in northern communities, rural communities and aboriginal communities destroying the material they use online to try to get to the next level of their education.
This is yet another attack by the government on rural and northern Canadians. There seems to be a lot of it. The government simply does not seem to like rural Canada. It likes to use rural Canadians, but does not seem to like rural Canada very much if it put these provisions in the bill.
It goes on to say that a library, archive or museum or a person acting under the authority of one must take measures to prevent the person who has requested it from using the digital copy for more than five business days from the day on which the person first uses it.
Libraries, archives and museums, particularly those in rural areas but also those right across the country, have to prevent people from using a digital copy for more than five business days otherwise they will be in contravention of the act. That is absolutely absurd. What was the government thinking when it put provisions such as the 30 day retroactive book burning and the 5 day retroactive library burning in the act? These are absurd provisions. It is unfortunate that these provisions overshadow some of the good provisions the NDP was able to push the government to observe.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some positive provisions in the bill. However, here is the rub and the symbol of the government's ineptness on digital issues, and that is the digital lock.
Despite all of the principles that are put into play, the positive aspects of the bill and the exemptions, we hit the digital pitchfork at clause 41.1(a). This is not a long a clause at all. It says very simply “No person shall circumvent a technological protection measure”; that is TPMs, or digital locks. This means that despite all the protections, expansions and exceptions that may be in the act, it is overridden by clause 41.1(1), which simply put says a person cannot circumvent.
What does that mean? We are talking about the government imposing penalties of $5,000. It could be less. In clauses 41.19 and 41.2, we see what the courts are directed to do. This is a court issue. We are talking about protections and exceptions. If a company decides to put a digital lock on and a person even attempts to exercise the exceptions in the act, that individual is out of luck.
Clause 41.19 states that:
A court may reduce or remit the amount of damages it awards in the circumstances described in subsection 41.1(1) if the defendant satisfies the court that the defendant was not aware, and had no reasonable grounds to believe, that the defendant’s acts constituted a contravention of that subsection.
In other words, there may be a reduction if the defendant defends himself or herself. We might be talking about young kids or teenagers. We might be talking about students. We might be talking about librarians. Who knows. In that case, the person has to defend himself or herself in court.
We have talked about the five day retroactive book burning and the thirty day retroactive student book burning. Clause 41.2 states that if a court finds the defendant that is a library, archive, museum or an educational institution has contravened these sections and the defendant satisfies the court that he or she was not aware that his or her actions constituted a contravention of that subsection, the plaintiff is not entitled to any remedy other than an injunction.
These are not small exceptions. This imposes a digital lock above and beyond anything else. Therefore, the good components of the act, which we mentioned earlier, are then subjected to digital lock, the TPM, that the government has included in its legislation in the now infamous section 41.1(a). People just simply cannot contravene or circumvent a digital lock. That is absurd.
Here is what some of the folks have said about the bill.
The Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright has said, “some parts of the legislation unfairly restrict consumer freedom and need to be revised before being passed by Parliament such as the inability to circumvent digital locks for private use”.
The Retail Council of Canada has said, “parts of the legislation unfairly restrict consumer freedom and choice and need to be revised before being passed by Parliament”.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is concerned about the overly strict prohibition against circumvention of technical measures.
The Canadian Booksellers Association would like to see the government allow the public, particularly students and educators, to circumvent digital locks on materials sought for educational and strictly non-commercial purposes.
The Canadian Library Association has said it “is disappointed that longstanding rights, the heart of copyright's balance, as well as the new rights, are all tempered by the over-reach of digital locks”. I talked about that earlier. This is what our critic on digital affairs and the NDP have brought forward, that balance.
Today, in the newspaper, Alain Pineau, national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, said that it bypassed the issue of extending copyright collectives in favour of lawsuits.
We are hearing concerns about how the legislation has been put forward from a wide variety of sources across the country. Earlier the member for Timmins—James Bay talked about the positive comments about the levy we proposed for artists. The National Post and the Edmonton Journal were two of those newspapers cited.
We very clearly have public and organizations all saying that the NDP is right to criticize aspects of the bill. That is what we have done. The member for Timmins—James Bay has pushed the government. We will ensure that the ineptitude of the government does not hurt the bill and that we can get the digital and digital pitchforks out of Bill C-32 before it comes back to Parliament for consideration.