Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to speak to Bill C-11, because I have a special interest in it. I spent nearly 20 years in the recording industry, which has seen some hard times. In our opinion, there can be no objection to reviewing the Copyright Act. Obviously, today, in 2011, we are lagging behind at the international level in terms of modernizing the law. It is high time it was done. The other major western countries have done it and it is our turn. It is really past time.
We deplore the fact that the bill is a little like Swiss cheese: there are a lot of bubbles, a lot of holes, in terms of protecting rights holders and creators. We are talking about this bill in theoretical terms but, in concrete terms, as my colleague was saying, the way we consume cultural products today is different. Before, we bought a record for $15 or $20, we took it home and we listened to it. While the recording industry has kept up its production rate and budgets have declined slightly—since with technological progress we can now record music more cheaply—it is still a cultural industry. Investors, industrialists and consultants who support a creator invest large amounts of money to make a product that will sell.
We are not talking about a minstrel strumming a lute on the church steps. These are people who have created songs, and other people who saw a business opportunity there and said that everyone is going to want that song or that album and will be prepared to pay a price to buy it and listen to it. What the recording industry has experienced is unparalleled in terms of plummeting revenues.
I will give you a brief overview. The complete operation of producing an album, which includes recording, promotion, video clips, launches and so on, calls for a budget of about $100,000. That is a very ordinary budget in an ordinary recording industry. We are not talking about a huge operation like a Michael Jackson album made before his death, that might have cost $1.5 million to produce. We are talking about an album that would have cost $20,000 or $30,000 or $40,000 and all the associated expenses.
To recover that investment, the companies, the recording industry—and that means jobs for people who work in this field, as I was lucky enough to do—would sell the record for between $15 and $20. Today, with modernization, the Internet, digitization of music and the incredible capacity to create master quality copies, this is no longer the same generation as when we were young. Then, we copied music onto cassettes and there was often more background noise than music. That is no longer the case today, and that is the issue.
If a digital version of a song exists, thousands of copies can be made in a few hours and the rights holder will have been deprived of his due. When people today buy music on the Internet, they sometimes buy the complete album but usually they buy the CD in a store. Those who buy their CDs and their music on the Internet very often take a piecemeal approach, by downloading one, two or three songs at a time. The retail price is $1 or $1.49. That means that the recording industry, as it attempts to recoup its production and marketing costs of approximately $100,000, did so based on a price of $15 to $20 per CD. Nowadays it has to make do with $2 or $3.
I sincerely believe that no other industry has experienced such a drop in revenue in such a short time. We are talking about huge percentages, from $15 or $20 to $3. This is unprecedented. The industry is already on its knees. We must enact legislation now on behalf of the rights holders, so that the situation can be corrected.
Copyright is essential. Allow me to quote the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages who, referring to Canada, stated that the cultural sector contributes twice as much as the forestry industry to our GDP.
The arts and culture sector generates spinoffs of over $46 billion and provides work for over 600,000 people. This is an industry, a sector of the economy, that is extremely important.
There are problems with Bill C-11 in relation to YouTube, the education system and other related areas. The biggest problem, however, has to do with the collective copyright collection system, commonly called private copying.
Earlier, I gave an overview of how we used to consume music. We all know that a decade or so ago, the CD-R hit the marketplace. Using an ordinary home computer, it was possible to copy a disc—ideally, one that had been purchased—and immediately make a copy of it that would be identical from a quality standpoint, with only the graphics missing. This craze led to creators, the rights holders, feeling like they were missing out, and they successfully went about putting in place a compensation system. Compensation is the right word here. The private copying system is a form of compensation for losses incurred as a result of the development of a new technology.
This system, which initially applied to audio cassettes, CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, generated significant amounts of money. In 2008, for instance, the figure was $27.6 million. The following year, the amount raised through this private copying compensation system dropped to $10.8 million and it continues to decline. Why? Certainly there are those among you who have purchased CD-Rs at one time or another, and very few people buy them these days. As far as music consumption is concerned—I am talking about legal consumption in a suitable format—people now copy their music onto a portable digital player, an iPod or an MP3. The format the royalty was based on, in other words the CD-R, has become completely obsolete by the current changes.
That is why the copyright owner lobbies have asked that this private copying compensation system be extended to include portable digital players or iPods. As the hon. member was saying earlier, the members opposite reacted by wearing t-shirts that said No iPod tax. This is great. It is a very good response to the creators who were feeling forgotten, cheated and abandoned.
What can we offer those creators today when Bill C-11 does not address the problem of the private copying system? This is certainly the most important aspect of all. We could talk about exemptions for the likes of YouTube, which is increasingly becoming a competitive alternative to the way music has traditionally been distributed. I keep talking about music because it is an area I am familiar with and also because music was the first victim of this digitization and this new accessibility. In a few years we will have the technology to download feature films very quickly. Some may say that is already possible, but it is still not very common.
The thing about music is that the video for the song being copied takes much longer to download. The problem that music is currently experiencing will very quickly spread to the other cultural media we find on the Internet.
I will stop there for now.