Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on the Copyright Act.
First, I will congratulate my good friend and colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, who has been working on copyright legislation for, I think, the last three Parliaments, and trying to find a way to find a balance.
It truly is a balance between those of us who are consumers and those who are creators. I must admit that I am only a consumer of materials not a creator. I can neither write songs nor do I write poetry. The members who have been in the House when I sing “O Canada” probably recognize that I do not sing that well either, at least not well enough that someone would pay for it.
However, there are many folks across our great land who are indeed creators. They write, make movies, create music and do it wonderfully well and want to engage in it as a career. They want it to be their life's work and deserve to be remunerated by that life's work. I think all hon. members would agree that they deserve that. The difficulty with the act is that it does not address those Canadian creators in a significant way that would help compensate them for all of the hard work that they do, because, indeed, it is hard work.
I do have the good fortune of having a younger brother who is a creator. He writes music and does it very well. He deserves to be compensated if that work is put on the market and sold or copyrighted. He deserves some sense of remuneration for that.
We saw in the past, levies on cassettes. I betray my age when I talk about cassettes because they are what one might consider to be the dinosaurs of the technology age, let alone eight-tracks and reel-to-reel. That would really betray our age for those of us who had a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
We have been copyrighting other folks' work for a long time. That is how we give remuneration back to those individuals who create it. It is important because we want them to continue to do the things they have done in the past, which is create new works to entertain us, because that is really what they do when we buy that material, whether it be music, a book, a movie or whatever form it happens to be. The reason we want to consume it is for personal enjoyment. If those creators are not remunerated, we will not be the beneficiaries of that entertainment because it will stop. We will lose that creative class.
That reminds me of professor Richard Florida, who is an American but who has been in Toronto for a number of years now. He wrote a report about seven years ago about the creative class and what it meant to the economy and how we could have creative class clusters. He actually used my old hometown of Glasgow as being one of the new European creative class enterprises. He talked about literally hundreds of billions of dollars of economic spinoff from the creative class. When I thought about it, it dawned on me that it was more. In Glasgow, it was the opera house. We had all these wonderful performers from around the world who sang tremendously well. Looking at the stage, one would think maybe there were 40 performers. That is probably a high number. We might wonder what the economic spinoff of that would be until we think about set design, which carpenters needed to do; lighting, which electricians needed to do; costume design required designers and the folks who make the costumes; and it goes on and on. Therefore, when we look at that creative class and the opportunities for economic development from that, it is one of the key things the government continues to talk about.
There is no question that this world has a fragile economy. Members understand that on that side, as this side does as well. One would think that we would not want to impinge upon a piece of society that can generate economic activity for us.
Denying creators an opportunity to make a living is clearly what will happen. I heard that in the previous Parliament when I had artists coming to me and talking to me about the previous bill, which was very much like this one. They talked about how the bill did not address the needs of Canadian creators.
Our legislation should be written for us, Canadian consumers and the creators of that particular piece of work, whatever it happens to be. However, it would seem that there are pieces in this legislation that are being driven by large movie producers in the United States. That does not benefit Canadian creators. That is not helping our folks who are actually engaged in this work.
Why do I say that? Well, it really hinges on one piece of the legislation, and that is what is called a “digital lock”. For some of us, digital locks seem like an odd thing. We understand the idea of a padlock. I think those of us in the 40th Parliament understood padlocks well. There was one on the front door here when the government prorogued on numerous occasions. I remember the Parliament being prorogued and the padlock being on that door more than once.
If we are equating the digital lock to prorogation in this House, where we padlocked the people's House, that is not a good thing. If we are equating digital locks to what we have seen in Parliament with time allocation and closure, that is not a good thing.
The creators are telling us that the digital lock is not for their protection and is not for ensuring they can go forward in creating new works and making a living at it.
Are we asking the creators to get a second or third job instead of simply doing the work that is in their very soul? When they create works, when they write songs or poetry or novels, it comes from deep within them. Are we going to send them off to work three shifts some place and tell them to write the book at some other time or in their spare time at night, because we will not be helping them to protect their work and get remunerated?
If we are headed down that road, I do not know why we do not just take patents off medicines. We could say that it is for the general public good and we should all get them without having to give compensation to the folks who actually have the patent. That is what we are saying about creators, that they are not allowed to patent their music. Creators ought to be able to keep it copyrighted and find a way to make a living at it because that is really what they are trying to do.
The digital locks are insidious. Young folks today, as many of us know, are extremely adept at using the digital world. Some would argue that they are better at it than us. When I say us, I mean folks who look more like me, who are somewhat mature and who do not necessarily know how the digital world works. I will freely admit that I could not transfer music from the computer to an iPod or from an iPod to an MP3. I could not do that in four months of Sundays. I do not have the faintest idea of how to do that.
I am sure I could probably learn but it is not something that I necessarily want to do. My goodness, if I were to sit down with my young nephew, who I think is about nine now, he would certainly know. It is amazing how young folks know how to do work in this digital world in such a fashion that it betrays the actual age that they are.
Ultimately, we need copyright legislation that balances us as consumers and those who are creators. We on this side of the House want to help the government with amendments to make that happen. Our copyright legislation, as it stands today, is archaic and it needs to be changed. We. on this side of the House. are willing to help the government. Many times the Prime Minister has said that if we have good ideas we should put them on the table. What we are saying to the government is that we have some brilliant ideas and all it needs to do is listen to those ideas and then put them in the legislation. We would then have a copyright act that acts on behalf of creators and consumers, and that would help Canadians across the board from coast to coast to coast.