Madam Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to this debate. What we are dealing with in the House at this moment is an amendment to Bill C-11 suggesting that what we should be doing is essentially striking the bill. The amendment says that the House would decline to give a second reading. I believe part of the reason for the amendment is that this piece of legislation fails to deal with the concerns raised in connection with previous versions of the bill; this is not the first time that the House has seen some attempt to amend the Copyright Act.
With regard to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, I know listeners are interested in why we are talking about complex issues. The legislative summary discusses copyright law in Canada. It says:
Copyright is a legal term describing rights given to creators for their literary and artistic works. Copyright attaches to an original work that is fixed in some material form. In other words, copyright protects the expression of an idea or intellectual creation; it does not protect the idea itself.
It also says:
The Act affords the author of a work the right to authorize or prohibit certain uses of his or her work and to receive compensation for its use. The purpose of the Act, like that of other pieces of intellectual property legislation, is to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas.
New Democrats, the member for Timmins—James Bay and the member for Jeanne-Le Ber, have very ably raised the point that we absolutely need an amendment to the copyright laws we currently have in Canada. Everyone agrees that we need an amendment, but as other members have pointed out, the devil is in the details.
New Democrats have consistently proposed that copyright laws in Canada can balance the right of the creators to be compensated fairly for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to content. We have proposed amendments to the bill that would create a fair royalty system for artists, because as it stands right now, the proposed legislation will actually wipe away millions of dollars in revenue for artists. This has a profound effect not only on the artists' ability to continue to create and contribute, but also on our communities and our economic well-being. I will touch on that in a minute.
The proposed Copyright Modernization Act essentially gives with one hand while it takes away with the other. While the bill contains a few concessions for consumers, they are unfortunately undermined by the government's refusal to compromise on the single most controversial copyright issue in this country, digital lock provisions.
In the case of long-distance education, for example, people in remote, isolated communities would have to burn their school notes after 30 days; this is hardly an improvement or an appropriate use of copyright laws. I was formerly the aboriginal affairs critic, and we understand that the only way for many aboriginal communities to have access to a more balanced education system is through the Internet. Students simply need a reasonable parity of time to access material that is so essential toward their becoming important and productive members of the future labour force.
New Democrats have proposed removing the sections of the copyright modernization bill that would make criminals out of everyday Canadians who break digital locks for personal noncommercial use. We support the lessening of penalties for those who are responsible for breaking copyright laws; this would prevent the excessive use of lawsuits against ordinary citizens, which has been problematic in the United States. There were extensive copyright consultations in 2009, and the bill that has been reintroduced from the former bill simply has disregarded that extensive consultation.
I want to turn for a moment to the economics around copyright. This is the reason it is so essential for us get this piece of legislation right. Many of our communities have a vibrant community of writers, singer-songwriters, theatrical producers, cinematographers, and producers of Internet media, and many communities derive a substantial benefit from these creative activities.
A couple of years ago, the Conference Board of Canada did an extensive report on the contribution that arts and culture make to our communities. I want to quote from the report, because it illustrates why it is important that we get it right and why New Democrats have been so very adamant that what the Conservatives have proposed simply does not fix some of the problems before us.
Chapter 1 is entitled “Valuing Arts and Culture as Cornerstones of the Creative Economy”.
The chapter summary says in part:
In a dynamic environment of global competition, demographic change, and migration, Canada’s culture sector plays a critical role in attracting people, businesses, and investment; stimulating creativity and innovation; and distinguishing Canada as an exciting place where people can celebrate their heritage and achieve personal and professional fulfillment.
The first chapter of the report goes on to discuss:
...the value to Canada of the culture sector as an economic engine, a magnet for talent, and a catalyst for prosperity.
We often hear in this House about how important it is for what we do here to contribute toward overall economic growth. What the Conference Board of Canada is laying out is a framework describing how the culture sector, beyond just the very fact of culture, is part of what is creating that innovation and that prosperity.
The report goes on to state:
Traditionally, the culture sector has been recognized for its multi-faceted role in contributing to individual and community development, social cohesion, and quality of life; however, in recent decades there has been growing understanding and examination of the substantial economic contributions of arts and culture industries and of their central role in the creative economy.
The report goes on on to talk about what the creative economy is, and since I only have 10 minutes, I cannot get into the details of that. However, I know, for example, from talking with some of major software developers that it has been very important for the software development industry to be able to tap into that creative community to enhance their product. That is another sideline that the creative community often plays.
Now we can talk about dollars and cents. This is an overview of the economic contribution. I am only going to read a small part of it. It says:
The economic footprint of the culture sector is much larger, when accounting for combined direct, indirect, and induced effects. The Conference Board calculates this full contribution as valued at $84.6 billion, about 7.4 per cent of total real GDP, in 2007.
It goes on to say:
Considering the effect of culture industries on other sectors of the economy, including direct, indirect, and induced effects combined, culture and related industries employed over 1.1 million people in 2007.
However, there is a discrepancy in this, and the Conference Board of Canada goes on to point this out. Many people feel that sometimes people in these creative industries make big bucks. Contrary to that, it specifically cites artists. The report states:
In the case of artists, for example, despite the fact that 41 per cent of artists have a university degree, a certificate, or a diploma--almost double the rate of 22 per cent for the overall labour force--average earnings remain relatively low at $23,500 per year.
It is important to raise that point because of the complexity of the copyright legislation. One of the goals of copyright is to ensure that artists are adequately compensated for the work they do. If we fail to do that, we already have some components of the culture sector who are seriously underpaid for what they do, so we want to ensure they are compensated.
Many of us could get up in this House and talk about the importance of culture at the local level in our ridings. My riding is a great example. A number of years ago, the town of Chemainus was struggling because its major employer, the sawmill, shut down. The town of Chemainus reinvented itself and became known as the town of murals. Chemainus is now a vibrant artistic community that not only has these magnificent murals on the walls but has also generated a whole series of other activities. In addition, the town of Chemainus has a very good theatre company, and people come from all over the island to attend its productions.
In the town of Duncan, every July we have a folk festival that brings in singers and songwriters. This provides a venue for, particularly, new and emerging Canadian artists to perform and engage in other creative activities with other artists from across the country, and sometimes from afar as well.
The city of Nanaimo has a very vibrant theatre culture, and of course Gabriola is awash with world-renowned songwriters and performers. Bob Bossin is only one of many. A recent arts tour on Thanksgiving weekend highlighted the diversity of the arts culture on Gabriola.
I will conclude by saying that this is a very important piece of legislation that we need to get right in order to protect not only consumers but also producers of arts and culture in our country. I would strongly urge all members to take this bill back to some basics and get it right.