Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, because this is an important bill whose purpose is to make changes that have been needed for a long time. Certainly this is a somewhat complex issue, since the last version of this act dates from 1997, and the technology has changed a lot since then.
Copyright is a sensitive thing, especially in the electronic age when file sharing and a plethora of content are available on the Internet. Consumers should not be able to download from illicit sources on line without having to pay. Reform of the Copyright Act was needed in order to provide greater protection for our creators. It is also essential to update the Canadian legislation, which is several years behind what is provided in international agreements.
While the government’s intention to focus the battle against piracy on the big offenders is laudable, unfortunately, as my colleague said, Bill C-11 does not take into account the needs of the creators. With this bill, the Conservatives have intentionally avoided addressing the question of a possible expansion of the private copying exception, a measure that has been proposed by the NDP and a number of experts.
In Bill C-11 the Conservative government has brought us back exactly the same content as Bill C-32, which had already been severely criticized by the arts community. Bill C-11, unfortunately, does not achieve the balance that is needed between the rights of creators and the rights of the public. In spite of the fact that a number of artists, experts and spokespeople have addressed the parliamentary committee on this in recent months, the government is once again proposing a bill on which there is no unanimity.
And so the Conservatives have ignored the opinion of the experts heard in committee and the conclusions from their own copyright consultations in 2009. The result is that they have brought in a bill that could do more harm than good, and that is why we need to understand it clearly. We can therefore say that although a number of worthwhile proposals have been made and although there is a will on the part of politicians to work together to achieve a fair bill, the government has continued to turn a deaf ear to those proposals.
The National Assembly of Quebec has unanimously denounced this legislation, which does not ensure that Quebec creators receive full recognition of their rights and an income that reflects the value of their creations. In addition, on November 30 of last year, 100 Quebec artists, including Luc Plamondon, Robert Charlebois, Michel Rivard and Richard Séguin, travelled to Ottawa to tell the Minister of Heritage and Official Languages, the Minister of Industry and the entire Conservative caucus that they did not want the copyright bill in the form the government is stubbornly presenting.
Bill C-11 favours the big players in the creative world. Unfortunately, the small artists and artisans are not as lucky. What Bill C-11 does is to attack artisans’ copyright directly, and in so doing it contributes to destabilizing the low incomes of Canadian artists. An example of the revenue that minor creators will soon have to forego is the tens of millions of dollars now paid to authors annually by the education system. From now on, the education system will be able to use our authors’ works without having to pay compensation. Certainly the NDP supports the use of these works for educational purposes, but it believes that this should not be done at the expense of the creators.
Nor does Bill C-11 provide for any compensation for downloading to an iPod. A solution suggested by many, to impose a $2 to $5 levy on iPods and other portable digital players has been dismissed by the government, once again at the expense of creators. Nor does this bill contain any provision in relation to Internet service providers obligating them to pay fees for music downloaded through their networks. The government is simply calling on providers to be partners in the fight against piracy by forcing them to take receipt of copyright violation notices issued by creators and the organizations that manage their rights.
Another controversial point in this bill has to do with digital locks. Under this provision, it will be illegal, for example, for a consumer to break the digital lock installed on a DVD that the consumer has purchased, just to copy it onto a personal computer. That could become particularly problematic when locks are installed on educational material.
Artists do not benefit because they are deprived of millions of dollars in levies, and students do not benefit because they will have trouble accessing the educational materials they need. Certain copyright owners, the big companies, will benefit.
The Copyright Modernization Act gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Even though the bill contains certain concessions for consumers, these are undermined by the government's refusal to compromise when it comes to the most controversial copyright issue in this country, the digital lock.
When it comes to distance education, for example, the provisions in the new bill mean that people living in a remote community will have to burn their class notes 30 days after downloading them. That is not an improvement on the current situation and it is not an appropriate use of the copyright regulations.
In summary, it appears that all efforts to reform the Copyright Act in Canada in recent years have had very little impact on the creation of a balanced system between the rights of creators and those of the public. One only need look at the demands made by the big content owners in the U.S. to see whom this bill will really benefit. It is a valid question: have the Conservatives forsaken Canadians at the expense of copyright interests in the United States?
Recent documents published by WikiLeaks clearly show that the Conservatives have acted against Canada's interests. The documents paint a dismal picture of the Conservatives who have conspired with the Americans in order to force the adoption of copyright legislation similar to that in the United States.
New documents reveal that the government encouraged the United States to put Canada on their piracy watch list in order to pressure Parliament to pass new legislation that would weaken the rights of Canadian consumers.
In the words of the NDP critic for copyright and digital issues, Charlie Angus, “The U.S. Piracy List is supposed to be reserved for—”