Madam Speaker, I am glad to speak this evening to the motion by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, which the committee has already adopted, as has been mentioned several times. As my NDP colleague said, half the Liberals on the committee voted in favour of the motion, as did the chair, who is a Conservative. So this is not a motion that some members on this side of the House just came up with. It comes directly from the committee and has the committee's support on the whole.
A well-known American author, Buckminster Fuller, who wrote Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth—a book that was famous in its day—and designed the geodesic dome that served as the U.S. pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, once said that if you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top.
What our friend Buckminster meant—and it applies perfectly to our debate today—is that in an emergency, we do not always have time to fuss over details and we sometimes have to take the most expedient course of action instead of waiting for the best course of action. Perfect is quite often the enemy of good.
Our singers, our musicians, our authors, our songwriters and composers and all those who support them are in a state of emergency. Day after day, they are watching their copyright revenue melt away like snow in the sun. Paradoxically, consumption of their work is growing fast, and because of this gap, many of them have an annual income that puts them at the poverty level. This is unfair to them. Not every artist is a Luc Plamondon, a Céline Dion or a member of Cirque du Soleil who has made it big. Many artists are just starting out and still have far to go before they reach their goals.
It is simply a stalling tactic to claim in this House, as many members have, that before taking action we must wait for a comprehensive digital strategy and the modernization of the Copyright Act in keeping with this new strategy and what is being done internationally. This reasoning seeks to justify inaction, which is unwarranted at present and harms the artists concerned as well as their creations. In this sector, the creation is the goose that lays the golden egg for the entire system. If there is no creation, there will be no product for distribution. If there is no product for distribution, there will be no income to share.
Therefore we must ensure, and quickly, that our artists receive their share of the pie. They are entitled to it and we owe it to them. We hope they will continue to create, as their success assures us of ours. If the income of our creators nosedives when the income of all the others in the chain increases, it is simply because new technologies, such as MP3s and iPods, are not covered by the current Copyright Act.
The motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which we are asking the House to adopt, will solve this problem, albeit temporarily. The motion reads as follows:
That the Committee recommends that the government amend Part VIII of the Copyright Act so that the definition of “audio recording medium” extends to devices with internal memory, so that the levy on copying music will apply to digital music recorders as well, thereby entitling music creators to some compensation for the copies made of their work.
This is, in fact, a declaration of principle.
My colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, was very careful to specify the following in her remarks a few weeks ago:
We are asking to update the legislation to include MP3s.
I said in my speech that the measure would apply only to MP3 digital audio recorders. We are seeing the usual scare tactics from people who say that the measure will apply to smartphones such as the BlackBerry, but that is false.
That is what my colleague said.
We consider this a temporary solution to the problem because we are well aware that we will soon need a much more comprehensive framework to deal with the issues. Canadian regulations do not apply to broadcasting in new media. The CRTC has stated that many of the issues surrounding new media do not fall within its current mandate. That is why we will have to review its mandate, a process that will be neither quick nor easy.
There are many issues related to new media, including taxation, copyright, privacy, spectrum management and the convergence of the broadcasting and telecommunications industries, which fall within the purview of several federal departments, thus complicating matters. The CRTC asked the Government of Canada to coordinate its approach to these intersecting issues by developing a national digital strategy, but that is not going to happen overnight.
This is all the more pressing because we are talking about a major economic sector in which Canada's 2,300 digital media companies employ 18,000 workers and generate some $3.5 billion in revenue per year. That is not peanuts.
I should also point out that people are adopting these new technologies at an ever-increasing rate.
For example, a group of Harvard students set up the social networking site Facebook in 2004. Just five years later—not 50—in September 2009, the site had 300 million active users worldwide, including 12 million in Canada. That is an example of how fast things are changing.
In the same vein, Google Inc. is only 12 years old. The company was founded in 1998 by two students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The initial search engine quickly became the most powerful in the world and it currently processes roughly 70% of all online requests for information. Google is now the most popular Internet search engine and has generated astronomical revenues for its creators who have sold advertising space on the search pages.
Would the creators of Google have agreed to invest so much talent, time, energy and money if there had been no chance of being paid one day for their investment and creativity? I doubt it and, in my opinion, my colleagues do not think so either.
Our music creators are currently in a situation where their creative efforts might not be compensated because everyone can use their property without paying for it. We have to help them. It is urgent.
At the scene of an accident, we do not engage the multi-trauma victim in a discussion on medical philosophy or the future of health. We first ensure that the injured person is breathing, that the bleeding has stopped and that the person will survive long enough to receive the right treatment in order to recover.
That is exactly what the motion from my colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, is trying to do.
I have read the questions and comments from government members that opposition members have been hearing in recent weeks, at least all the ones that were about this motion. A number of these questions and comments seemed to be trying to pass opposition members off as amateurs and government members, as usual, as professionals.
I would like to remind members opposite about something that is often forgotten: amateurs built Noah's ark, and professionals built the Titanic.