Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join in this debate on a topic that has been near and dear to my heart for many years in my role as a union representative for broadcasters and, more recently, for newspapers.
We perhaps have lost sight of what the whole purpose of this legislation ought to be. When we talk about copyright, we are talking about the right of individuals to protect their intellectual property from being reproduced without their receiving remuneration for it. In other words, it is about protecting the rights of individuals to be fairly and properly compensated when they produce a work.
Some history may be what we need to remind our friends here in the House of how Canada has dealt with this issue over the past century and perhaps before.
In the 1920s, we discovered a new technology, and this appears to be where we are going with all of this to deal with new technology. The 1920s had a new technology called radio. Immediately upon the broadcasting of the first radio programs, radio broadcasters discovered a need for content and they discovered that a cheap and easy way to get content was to play recordings made by artists. They would purchase those recordings in record stores, which was where they were coming from.
Rather than broadcasting the artists live, they would broadcast the artist on record and the artist immediately said, “Wait a minute. We got paid when we were sitting in a musical hall and actually performing for you. We're not getting paid for our work when you are merely re-broadcasting something we've recorded”. Thus began the debate, almost 100 years ago, about how artists were to be compensated for their work when that work was not live and immediate.
Over many years, the debate raged between the artists who said that broadcasters were getting the ability to sell advertising on their radio stations as a result of their good work. The radio stations replied that they were giving the artists free advertising and making them household names so they should actually pay the radio stations for the privilege of having their music played on their radio stations. That debate raged on for several years until finally we have a system in Canada and the United States today by which musicians are rewarded by royalties that are paid by these radio stations, and, ultimately, other forms of distribution, for recorded works. That system worked quite well and was a proper Canadian response to a copyright issue.
We did not go around looking to make criminals of people. We did not go around looking to punish people. We went looking for a way to make the system fair. We discovered that the distribution mechanism was the best way to pay the artists, that the artists were now receiving money as a result of the distribution of their work. It created, and held dear to Canadians' hearts, an industry that flourished.
However, we fast forward to the 1970s, and maybe the 1960s before it, when it became clear to regulators in this country that Canadian artists were suffering. Canadian artists were not flourishing the way we thought they would when they were going to get paid because there was a discovery by Canadians that the American television and radio systems were easy to receive over our close border and, therefore, because of that, artists were not getting the royalties they needed to stay alive.
Therefore, the Canadian content regulations were created in this country, that, again, did not make criminals out of anybody, but made it possible for a Canadian music industry to flourish, and not just flourish but become world-renowned as one of the best music industries in the world.
We have world-renowned performers who have been paid for their work as a result of the Canadian content regulations developed in the 1970s that forced radio stations to ensure their broadcast contained a percentage of Canadian original works. That concept flowed to television as well, and Canadian television companies were also forced to play Canadian content.
Then we had another wrinkle in this mix. It was becoming easier for consumers, the listeners, to not listen to the radio station and therefore provide royalties to the performers but, instead, to record those radio broadcasts themselves. The performers rightly said, "Wait a minute", as they did in the 1920s with radio. They said that the radio stations' works were now being copied by other people and that they needed a way in the Canadian model for that to pay them. They said that they needed a way for the Canadian system to ensure that the copyright owners would get money for this.
One reaction would have been to just ban it and say that it was illegal to copy it. However, in the good Canadian way, we do not like making criminals of law-abiding citizens. We like to find ways to compromise. So, a levy was created and administered by an arm's-length agency that would provide funding for the artists for their material that was put onto cassette tapes and, ultimately, CDs and DVDs. We found a mechanism whereby the distribution system for the artists' works paid the artists. That worked. We did not make criminals. We made artists prosper in this country. We ensured that the artists got their royalties and were fairly compensated for their works.
Those two historical events have led us now to a new system whereby the distribution mechanism has changed. People are not copying onto a cassette tape, CD or DVD. They are recording material that is available on the Internet. It is sometimes put on the Internet by the artists themselves, but it is often by other more nefarious means. I believe that we need to find a mechanism whereby that distribution system is in fact a way of providing royalties to the artists so that they can continue.
Instead, the legislation we have in front of us purports to make criminals out of ordinary citizens who might use this system to record material. It provides for locks, handcuffs, to prevent people from putting themselves in a position of being able to use and reuse Canadian artists' material in a way that pays those Canadian artists for that use. We are creating a system, which has now gone away from the traditional Canadian method of compensating artists, of making the distribution mechanism pay them. Now we are moving to a system of forbidding, a system of locks, of chains, of protection for essentially the distributors, not the artists, and preventing the free and easy use of this material. That prevention now threatens to make criminals of ordinary Canadians who, for whatever reason, want to time-shift a radio program or a television program or listen to a piece of music that they might be particularly interested in and are quite willing to pay a fee to listen to. Now they will be prevented from doing that.
The chaos that will result of lawsuits, charges and countercharges can only be imagined but it will happen and we will have a system that does not protect artists or pay them appropriately but rather chases ordinary Canadians and turns them into criminals. That is not the Canadian way.
I will also briefly comment on the notion that disabled persons, particularly blind individuals, would continue to have access. I have had representations made to me, as deputy critic for persons with disabilities, from members of the blind community who suggest that their current software would become invalid, that they would not be able to use it and that this law would prevent them from having books read to them.