Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.
As my colleague said earlier, we believe that changes to the Copyright Act are long overdue and we need to bring Canada up to current standards in the tech industries and to meet industrial standards in other countries.
As we can tell from the debate in the House today, this is an extremely complex issue. There are many interests to be considered and it should not be rushed through. That is why we are saying that the overwhelming message from this side of the House is that we have to take in the interests of all groups when we are moving ahead with such a complex piece of legislation.
The key word that we should focus on is balance. We need to find the right mix between the different interests in Canada and to ensure the bill strikes the right balance and that one group is not favoured too much over another group. We, on this side of the House, believe that the bill does not actually hit the right mix and does not actually provide the right balance.
For example, we have heard a lot of talk today about digital locks. We are saying that the provisions on digital locks are too stringent. They tip the balance too far in favour of the very big corporations and do not really look after the interests of a number of consumers and, in fact, may actually hurt artists, not the large corporate artists but the smaller artists.
There is a real danger that consumers will be unable to access content they have already purchased, for example. This tips the balance toward protecting large corporations and not really allowing consumers full access to something they purchased. In some sense, it will actually be more like renting the information than owning it.
We think the bill is tipped too far in favour of industry and needs to be rethought. This whole debate reminds me of the same debate we had in the 1990s concerning drug patents. There again, the balance was not achieved between consumers and businesses. Consumers and one part of the drug industry ended up on the short side of the stick, where the giant pharmaceutical companies ended up with most of the benefits.
I will take hon. members back to that time. In 1992, Brian Mulroney's Conservative government modified the Patent Act under Bill C-91, the Patent Act Amendment Act. The bill eliminated compulsory licences for pharmaceutical products and the law tipped the balance to patented drugs manufacturers and greatly injured mostly Canadian-based genetic drug industry. There was a huge controversy.
The number of responses that my colleague from Surrey has mentioned and that we have all received on this all say that there is huge controversy on the proposed bill, that we are just rushing through it and that again we are tipping the balance too much toward industry.
In this case, in the reform of the Patent Act in 1992, we really hurt the generic drug industry. Drugs are now more expensive and the R and D that was promised by the giant pharmaceutical companies was not actually invested in Canada as was promised. Bill C-91 was viewed by many as a major victory for giant pharma. It offered greater patent protection to those big companies, it abolished compulsory licensing and it created regulations to ensure generic drugs did not infringe upon the patent.
As we argued in that case and we will argue in this case, we need to look at all the people who would be affected by the bill, and we are not feeling that the current bill, Bill C-11, hits the right mix.
We do think, however, that modernization is long overdue, as we have stood up and said many times in the House. However, the bill has too many glaring problems and, unfortunately, it even creates problems where none currently exists. The ultimate test of bad policy is when we actually cause more problems than we are fixing.
We have suggested and will continue to suggest a system to create a fairer royalty system for creators. These industries generate a lot of profits but we want to ensure they are shared evenly among creators.
I find it troubling how Bill C-11 would wipe away millions of dollars in revenue for artists, local artists, artists from the Canadian Independent Musical Artists. It would hurt this community and it really would not provide any new opportunities for artists' remuneration. It would give with one hand and take away with the other.
Many people share our fears. We on this side of the House are not making this up. We have had plenty of people say that they are against this. For example, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, which is a group I used to be part of when I was a professional musician, say that these:
...copyright law amendments should facilitate access to creative content on new media and ensure that creators are fairly compensated for the use of their creative content on new media. Access must go hand in hand with compensation. Without this balance, the creation of creative content will eventually decrease, as Canadian creators will be unable to make a living.
As a former independent artist, we all know that local artists do not make any money from selling albums. They make money from playing live. We are not talking about Céline Dion or Bryan Adams or any of the large, multinational corporate type of entertainers. We are talking about local entertainers. For example, we are talking about Joel Plaskett Emergency, Stars, The Weakerthans, Said The Whale, Caribou, D.O.A., Arkells, City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Valentines and Billy the Kid, just to name a few artists who are working to produce material to entertain and bring joy to people's lives. They are being left aside under this copyright legislation.
The government tends to favour the big corporations, but does not look after the smaller producers. I will give a sense of what independent artists make. They make about $12,000 a year. I know this having been one of those artists in the past, I know that members from Toronto and northern Ontario have performed in independent Canadian bands and have travelled in what I deem to be stinky bands, driving from venue to venue. However, artists are not making a lot of money off their album sales. They use their albums to promote themselves and try to draw people to their live gigs where they make their modest living.
The bill should look at the majority of artists in this country who are independent artists eking out a living and make sure that we strike a balance with the laws we are putting in place, not only to protect large corporate interests but also to make life easier for the artists and all the people they entertain.
Other validators of our position on this bill include Michael Geist, a well-known technological commentator. He says:
The foundational principle of the new bill remains that anytime a digital lock is used--whether on books, movies, music or electronic devices--the lock trumps virtually all other rights.
Again, this is where balance has not come into play in the bill. In fact, it is a bit of overkill that we have seen time and time again from the government. It is tipping things too far to one side and not really taking the interests of all Canadians into consideration.
Mr. Geist says that the new digital lock means that “both the existing fair dealing rights and...new rights all cease to function effectively so long as the rights holder places a digital lock on their content or device”.
I will switch as an educator again and speak about the textbooks that I have authored. It is a shame that, under the bill, students, in some cases, would be penalized from keeping those textbooks and using them later in life. They would essentially, as my colleague says, need to burn them because they are digital, which would limit education in this country. Everyone knows that we do not absorb all the information from a textbook. We go back and refer to it as we go through life.
The legislation misses the mark. We need more balance and we are hoping to work with the government to achieve that.