Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House as a representative for the people of Scarborough—Rouge River to join this debate. The issue of copyright modernization is on the minds of many of my constituents and I am happy to bring their concerns forward today.
Copyright modernization is definitely required to bring Canada into the 21st century and to catch up with the technological advances that we have seen since the creation of the existing copyright legislation. We need to reform our copyright legislation in a way that will create a balance between the two fundamental principles that drive copyright legislation: ease of access and the right of remuneration for the creator.
Bill C-11, which is exactly the same as Bill C-32 that was brought before the previous Parliament, does not create balance between the ease of use and the right of remuneration. Instead, the bill is about corporate rights, which is different from copyrights.
The right of artists to have remuneration for their copies is under direct attack point after point in the bill. Instead, there are areas in the bill where the right of artists to be paid is taken away and replaced by a false right, the right to lock down content.
The Conservative government is very partial to locks. We know that. It really understands prisons and locks.
In the introduction to the bill, we heard the minister say that the digital lock would restore the market. I am very skeptical about that. Through my conversations with constituents and friends in the music industry, I have never met an artist who could feed his or her family on a lock. Instead, these artists feed their families on the right they have as artists to be remunerated through their mechanical royalties, television rights and book rights. Mechanical royalties provide a small amount of return for their efforts, but that return is crucial to them, especially to young aspiring new artists.
Therefore, when the government comes along and attempts to strike out, as it does in the bill, the mechanical royalty rights that have been guaranteed under the Copyright Board of Canada, it deprives artists of the millions of dollars that actually make it possible to carry on the works. How is this restoring the market? I do not understand.
The other crucial element, one which New Democrats have asked for again and again, is copyright reform that addresses the needs of Canadian consumers, artists and students in a digital realm. This element is one of huge importance to my constituents.
The bill poses a fundamental problem with its education provisions. The restrictions it would impose on students and teachers are extremely problematic.
Copyright has historically been based around the idea that creation and knowledge must be shared. Historically, copyright law has been designed to facilitate education. Actually, the first piece of copyright legislation ever adopted was Britain's act for the encouragement of learning. Canada's original copyright legislation was designed with similar intentions. The reforms in the legislation proposed by the bill do not, unfortunately, maintain the same founding principles and completely ignore the original intent of copyright legislation in Canada.
The Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto and the campuses of both Centennial College and Seneca College border my riding. The restrictions imposed by Bill C-11 are of great concern to the instructors, professors, students and administrators of these colleges and university as well as other colleges and universities across the country, as I speak to them as the official opposition's critic on post secondary education.
The legislation would require students to dispose of their digital class notes after 30 days, as well as destroy course plans and course notes by professors and instructors after 30 days of the completion of their course. Failure to do so would mean that these students would be infringing copyright legislation. This raises a number of red flags for me. How does this facilitate education?
With advances in technology, more and more students are accessing their post-secondary education in a variety of new ways. Through the use of technology, we can now offer programs in distance learning. This means that students in remote locations, or in locations where their course of choice is not available, can access courses and course material online. With the changes to the copyright legislation that are proposed in the bill, this course material will only be available for 30 days. After such point, the students will be required to dispose of the material at the end of their course.
This change would not only pose a problem to those pursuing their education online, but to virtually all students. Anyone who has been enrolled in a post-secondary education program or who knows someone who is enrolled in a post-secondary education program recently understands the shift in the digitization currently being made by professors and instructors at many institutions of post-secondary education. I recently attended three of them.
More and more instructors and professors are not only posting their notes, their course outlines and their lesson plans online, along with an array of the supplementary course materials, but they are also providing online forums that encourage the sharing of notes and the continuation of discussion once the lesson is completed for the day.
With the reforms proposed in this legislation, posts that students have put up would now have to be deleted or removed after 30 days. This would be problematic for many reasons, as many of my colleagues have mentioned.
First, this creates a modern book-burning regime, whereby countless sources of information and new thought will be lost forever.
Second, it creates a two-tired rights system between an analog and paper system versus a digital system, whereby students who keep written notes are not be forced to destroy those after 30 days and students who keep digital notes are be forced to destroy them. The mandatory destruction of course notes and material is detrimental to all students. Students routinely keep their notes to allow for them to go back and use these notes for further study and completion of related courses. Also, students keep these notes year after year to build a body of work toward getting their degree, certificate or diploma program.
I kept notes from my second and third year courses to use in my masters program and textbooks from my undergraduate degree for my masters program. Now I would not be able to do that.
Last, it creates an unfair barrier to students with different learning styles. This legislation does not allow for an exemption to organizations that provide educational resources in alternative formats to increase accessibility and success of those with learning disabilities. It discriminates against people with learning disabilities.
Related to this, many students are not capable of taking notes, for a variety of reasons, and have notes taken and provided to them by note-takers. Note-takers are of huge importance to the success of many students. Without these note-takers, post-secondary educations would not be accessible to these students. Note-taking also provides a small income to those who attend these extra courses and provide others with notes.
How would the notes of note-takers be affected by the proposed legislation? Would this not hurt them along with the students they provide the notes for if they have to be destroyed?
It is completely shocking and absurd that after 30 days students would not the right to access their own class notes that are made digitally. I have met with many people throughout the education sector and I have never once heard that the destruction of class notes after 30 days is a good idea. In fact, I have heard the complete opposite. This provision is unacceptable. It is backward thinking and it is needless. It would not protect any business model, but it would have a major detrimental effect on students and on education in our country.
Therefore, for the betterment of our society, that provision has to go. I implore the government to look at this and ensure that it is removed.
The other issue that is of great importance to me and my constituents is that of the digital lock. There is a very important right of creators to protect their work. One of the ways to protect this work is through digital locks. While the protection of a creator's work is extremely important, the anti-circumvention rights for content owners included in the legislation would create a situation in which digital locks would supersede virtually all other rights, including fair dealing rights for students and journalists. Because of this, a situation would be created where digital locks would supersede other rights guaranteed in the charter, such as changing format in case of a perceptual disability. It would also pose a very real danger that consumers would be prohibited form using content for which they had already paid. This would be problematic for many artists and many creators in my community.