Mr. Speaker, as you know, this is the second time that the government has introduced this bill. During the previous Parliament and for almost a year, the Copyright Modernization Act—then known as Bill C-32—was carefully examined and debated by parliamentarians and stakeholders.
We know how much time and effort members of Parliament, stakeholders and Canadians spent on this bill. The legislative committee created to examine the bill heard from more than 70 witnesses and received more than 150 submissions. All stakeholders were consulted, and the government received letters from across the country.
We fully expect that when the bill is once again referred to a House of Commons committee the work and testimony from the previous Parliament will be carefully considered and taken into account.
Over the course of the committee hearings on this bill in the last Parliament, there were two clear messages that emerged. The first message was that this bill balances the interests of the various stakeholders. The bill, a product of wide-ranging consultation and discussion, sets out a balanced approach to corporate reform in the digital age. While the government strongly believes that this bill delivers the best balance between the interests of consumers and the rights of the creative community, we are open to technical amendments that may improve the clarity and intent of certain provisions.
Second, we heard that Canada urgently needs to pass legislation to update the Copyright Act. By reintroducing this same bill, parliamentarians will be able to build on this previous work in order to enable the swift passage of these important legislative updates. Each year that Canada goes without modern copyright laws, the need for such modernization becomes more evident as technology evolves and new issues emerge.
The last time the act was changed, there were no MP3 players. Video stores were still full of VHS tapes. No one thought we would be able to take pictures with a cellphone and upload them onto computer screens around the world, or use a cellphone to download songs and movies.
The world has changed so much since then that the Copyright Act seems like a law for a different era. The time has come to modernize Canada's copyright laws and bring them in line with the demands and technologies of the digital age.
This bill must be passed in order to modernize Canada's copyright regime in accordance with the government's digital economy strategy.
Digital technology opens new markets and expands the reach of companies. It brings together people and ideas in a way that was still unimaginable only a few years ago. When individuals, companies and national economies create and adopt these new technologies, a number of important things are achieved. Productivity and innovation increase, and new products, processes and business models see the light of day.
The growth of the digital economy in Canada depends on a clear, predictable and fair copyright regime that supports creativity and innovation while protecting copyright holders.
The global economy remains fragile. This bill will help to protect existing jobs and create new ones. It will spark innovation and attract new investments in Canada. It will give creators and copyright holders the tools they need to protect their work and increase their business. The bill establishes clearer rules that will allow all Canadians to fully participate in the digital economy, both now and in the future.
One of the bill's main objectives is to balance the interests of all stakeholders in the copyright regime. Achieving this balance has become increasingly complex given the exponential growth of the Internet. Canadians can obtain protected works online, sometimes through revenue-generating platforms or services, but also through free services, both legitimate and illegitimate. Our capacity to use high-quality Web services to obtain, protect and create copyrighted works is essential to our economic success and our cultural presence in the world.
That is why, in 2009, our government turned to Canadians to get their ideas and advice on copyright reform in the digital age. Thousands of individual Canadians, companies and stakeholder organizations shared their opinions on the best way to adapt Canada's copyright regime to this new age. These consultations showed that Canadians were becoming increasingly aware of the importance of copyright in their daily lives and in our digital economy.
On the one hand, this bill seeks to reflect today's reality where the private, non-commercial use of copyrighted material is commonplace. The bill would authorize many of these uses and establish parameters for cases which, to date, were not well defined.
For example, Canadians could copy works legally obtained on their computers and mobile devices to enjoy them wherever they may be. They could store content in and retrieve it from the information cloud or use a network PVR service.
It will also be legal to integrate protected works into a work generated by a user for non-commercial purposes. That would include recording a home video of a child dancing to a song, or creating original mixes of songs and videos. This exception requires that the rights and interests of copyright holders be respected. There are many examples where copyright holders have benefited from exposure on the Internet owing to work done by users.
Finally, the bill updates the Copyright Act to reflect new technologies and uses by broadening the exceptions and creating new ones for educational and training institutions, technical procedures, the development of software, broadcasters and the disabled.
I would like to point out that great care was taken when drafting these provisions to reflect the needs and interests of copyright holders. The provisions do place limits and restrictions on the use of protected works.
For example, many of these exceptions do not apply to works protected by a technological protection measure or digital lock. Copyright holders told us that their digital and on-line business models depend on the robust protection provided by digital locks. Therefore, the bill strikes a good balance. It allows Canadians to make reasonable use of content while providing creators and businesses, whose work depends on this content, with the tools and certainty they need to launch new products and services.
While our government knows that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are law-abiding, we are concerned about the threat of major penalties that hang over Canadians who infringe copyright for non-commercial purposes. Currently, those who have been found to violate copyright can be found liable for damages from $500 to $20,000 per work.
If people illegally download five songs, for example, they could theoretically be liable for $100,000. In our view, such penalties are way out of line. As such, the bill proposes to reduce the penalties for non-commercial infringement. Under its provisions, the courts would have the flexibility to award total damages of between $100 and $5,000.
However, while the bill reduces penalties for non-commercial infringements, it still seriously punishes those who profit from copyright infringement. Penalties of $500 to $20,000 per infringement will still apply to piracy for commercial purposes. In addition, the bill proposes new tools to target those who find techniques to infringe online copyright and it sets out serious penalties for those who make money by creating and distributing devices and services designed to hack digital locks. It will be very difficult to benefit from piracy.