Mr. Speaker, I have one preliminary remark. I simply must comment on the fact that this important debate on the future of culture in Canada and in Quebec is mostly taking place on one side of the House. No Conservative members are rising to defend the government’s bill.
The New Democrats are standing up to defend creators and artists, but the Conservatives are sitting in silence, even though it is their bill. Since they are already aware of how damaging the bill is going to be for our creators and artists, they are remaining silent, and are not bothering to explain the objective of Bill C-11. So we will do so, and we will put forward as many arguments as possible.
I also wish to say that I am very proud to rise today to speak about this important bill. I am proud for two reasons. First, I come from a family where culture is extremely important. My father is a writer and my brother is a musician. Because of this, I know just how important the five cents or so for radio airplay can be. I understand the importance of photocopies in a school. I know how important it is at the end of the year for writers, artists, singers, and musicians. We are not talking about a trivial amount. And yet, copyright—the rights of authors—is being overhauled and turned inside out by the bill under discussion today. Artists in Quebec and Canada are making a heartfelt plea, and I think it is important to listen to them.
The other reason I am proud to rise today to challenge and debate Bill C-11 is that I have the opportunity and the honour to represent Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, an extraordinary riding where artists and craftspeople abound, where folks give things a try and have ideas, and where people want to express their point of view and their vision of the world. It is for them that I rise today, to stand up for their rights including their right to a decent life. I rise to stress how important it is to truly support artists and not pull the rug out from under them by cutting off their revenue streams, which are so important to these people who contribute to the soul of the Quebec and Canadian nations. Quite the contrary, they deserve a lot more recognition and respect.
In Quebec, there is an unprecedented outcry from artists, cultural groups and copyright collectives. I shall now list the associations that previously spoke out against Bill C-32 and oppose Bill C-11, which is a carbon copy of the Conservatives' former legislation.
Here is the list: the Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec, the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres, the Association des professionnels des arts de la scène du Québec, the Société de gestion collective de l'Union des artistes, the Association québécoise des auteurs dramatiques, the Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec, Copibec, DAMIC, Artisti, the Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Québec, the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec, the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma, the Société de développement des périodiques culturels, the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada, the Société québécoise des auteurs dramatiques, the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec, the Union des artistes and the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois.
Why is this Conservative government incapable of listening to the people who are mainly targeted by this bill and who are saying that it is threatening artists' survival as well as culture in Quebec and Canada?
Why is this Conservative government incapable not only of listening, but also of speaking to artists, explaining its objectives and explaining why it is risking potential losses to creators of $75 million in Quebec alone? That is serious.
The NDP condemns the 40 new exceptions in Bill C-11 concerning the free use of works. We cannot confuse free use with access to a work. It is important to provide access, but for it to be free represents the death of the artist, who would have to find a new job. That is significant.
The Conservatives have a vision of culture, but it does not include creators. Culture is important, and they will discuss it in speeches; they will say that it is nice, it is good, but when it comes to really helping people who have good ideas, who have dreams and who want to say what is in their soul and express their vision of the world, the Conservatives slash their funding and their income. What will happen? Creators are at risk of losing at least four sources of income.
First, the new private copying system is completely obsolete.
It offers no compensation for artists. That is the first source of income that is going to disappear for artists.
Second, since 1990, there has been a levy on blank cassettes and CDs. That is because when people make a copy of a song, they download it or they make a copy of a version they get from a friend or family member or neighbour. The artist who created and recorded the song and the people at the studio do not get anything more. That is it.
That is the method everyone had agreed on so that copyright could be shared and we could ensure that the artist and the creator earned something. Now levies on cassettes and CDs have become completely outdated. Who still buys audio cassettes today to listen to music?
Why is there no adaptation to new technologies in this bill? We are told we need to modernize. Let us modernize. Why are there no levies for MP3s or iPods? That is how young people and children use their music and listen to it now. Why are artists having this taken away from them?
In 2008, $30 million in levies was distributed. In 2010 it was only $10 million. Artists lost two-thirds of transfers, and there is nothing in this bill to compensate for the copies that will be made.
Royalties are being abolished for ephemeral recordings by broadcasters. In this case they will stop paying $21 million to artists and people in the music trades. This is serious.
As well, schools and universities have to continue doing their share to support writers, the people who supply the materials found in their libraries. That represents $10 million a year. This system has existed for a long time. It works well. We do not understand why there is a need to pick it up, tear it apart and throw it on the ground and offer no support or other compensation for artists in this regard.
So we are very concerned. The Conservatives have already cut programs that enabled our artists to go on international tours, to get exposure abroad and to take Quebec, Canadian or aboriginal culture around the globe. They have already cut that support. Today, they are cutting directly. The Conservatives are directly attacking the incomes of artists, writers, singers and creators. That is unacceptable to us.
I also wanted to stress the fact that by eliminating or jeopardizing the payment of significant amounts to creators, Bill C-11 also contributes to weakening all the copyright collective societies, and yet these societies are an essential link in the administration of copyright.
UNESCO has said of copyright collective societies that they are “one of the most appropriate means of assuring respect for exploited works and a fair remuneration for creative effort of cultural wealth, while permitting rapid access by the public to a constantly enriched living culture”. That is a quote from UNESCO. Obviously, once again, the Conservative government is refusing to listen.
Creators’ incomes, and the very existence of copyright collective societies, are thus jeopardized because of this government’s determination to promote a single business model: the digital padlock, the digital lock, putting locks on works.
Artists do not want their works to be locked. Artists want it to be possible to distribute them and download them, but they want something in return. They want their songs to be listened to by as many people as possible, but they want to get something in exchange.
In Quebec, Luc Plamondon has been clear on this. We thought copyright was recognized by people in our society. But today, copyright is being hurt. And all the artists are the ones who will be hurt. Culture as a whole is also at risk.
Once again the government has given in to the siren songs of big business, which seems to be the only winner with Bill C-11, a bill that is totally out of whack. There are winners—the major movie studios and the U.S. movie studios. Contrary to its claims, the government is not protecting creators; it is attacking them directly.
I will stop here, but I have a great deal more to say. I urge our colleagues opposite to listen to artists, to hear their appeals and to support culture by accepting the NDP amendments to improve this bill and make it a real bill that will modernize copyright by moving into the future and not returning to the dark ages, as Marie-Denise Pelletier said in Quebec.