Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I would like to stress how important this issue is to all creators, and particularly those in my riding, whether they be in Sutton, Magog, Bromont, Cowansville, Knowlton, or elsewhere. Moreover, I salute all those creators who are very active across all forms of art, which improves people's quality of life, whether it be through the medium of cinema, theatre, improvisation, television, writing, painting, and so on. Artists are entitled to be fairly compensated for their work. This bill will deprive artists of millions of dollars in revenue and erode their market. The long and complex list of exceptions does not adequately recognize the rights of creators.
In fact, these exceptions create new ways for consumers to access protected content without concurrently creating new avenues through which to compensate creators for the fair use of their work. Bill C-11 does not adequately protect the ability of people to post content submitted or produced by users themselves, even if it were easy to collectively authorize this. Moreover, Bill C–11 creates an artificial distinction between copying for private use and reproducing for private use in Part 8, section 80 of the Copyright Act, and section 29, paragraph 22)(1)(e) of the copyright modernization bill.
There are also direct implications for consumers. The rigid provisions assign unprecedented powers to rights holders, which trump all other rights. If passed, Bill C–11 could mean that an individual would no longer have access to the content for which he has paid, and which he has every right to use. For example, if someone is enrolled in long distance education courses, it is draconian and unacceptable to ask him to destroy his course notes within 30 days of the course concluding, as proposed under this bill.
For all these reasons, it is felt that powerful, new anti-circumvention rights must be created for content owners, as opposed to content creators and content developers. In addition to preventing access to copyrighted works, these new provisions are strengthened by fines of over $1 million and sentences of five years detention. A further provision prohibits access to protected information by way of a digital lock, such as a digital watermark.
This would lead to a situation whereby digital locks would take precedence over virtually all other rights, including the fair dealing rights of students and journalists. This is problematic for several reasons. In particular, there is a very tangible danger of consumers, in some circumstances, not being authorized to use content for which they have paid. Moreover, the digital locks trump all other rights guaranteed by the Charter, including change of format in the case of a visual disability.
Secondly, the new provisions would require, where a digital lock has been used, that copies made for educational purposes be automatically erased after five days and that course notes be destroyed within 30 days of the course concluding. That would lead to serious problems for students enrolled in long distance education courses. It is not an appropriate use of the copyright rules.
Thirdly, it would create new limited exceptions to the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act, including the exceptions for educators, and exceptions for parody and satire. The exceptions do not adequately recognize the rights of creators. In fact, the exceptions facilitate consumers' access to copyright protected content without the provision of new methods for creators to be compensated for their work.
With this bill, the Conservatives have intentionally avoided dealing with the question of the possibility of extending the exception for private copying, a measure that has been proposed by the NDP and also by a number of experts.
The private copying exception has been very effective in the past for cassettes, CDs and DVDs. The government has tried to put a populist face on its opposition to extending the exception.
The NDP believes it is high time to modernize copyright rules, but there are too many major problems with this bill. In some cases, it even creates problems were there were none before.
We are going to try to amend the bill so that it better reflects the interests of Quebec and the Canadian public. The NDP believes that copyright rules in Canada could balance the right of creators to receive fair remuneration for their work and the right of consumers to have access to content at reasonable prices. We are also going to study any potential amendment that could be made to the bill to create a fair system of royalties for artists. As it stands at present, the bill eliminates several million dollars in income for our artists.
For all these reasons, it seems that the efforts Canadians have put into reform of the Copyright Act in recent years have had very little to do with the creation of a system that strikes a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of the public. Those efforts have instead been attempts to meet the demands of the big owners of American content, the film industry, record companies, video game developers and others. When will Canadians finally have legislation that meets their needs?
In the NDP, we believe that Canadian copyright legislation can achieve a balance between creators’ right to receive fair compensation for their work and consumers’ right to have reasonable access to content. We are going to assess all of the amendments that might be made to the bill to create a system of fair royalties for artists. As it stands at present, the bill eliminates income worth several million dollars.
As a result, the copyright modernization bill gives with one hand and takes back with the other. Although the bill contains some concessions to benefit consumers, they are undermined by the government’s refusal to adopt a compromise position on the most controversial issue: copyright in Canada.
We are also proposing that the clauses that criminalize the elimination of digital locks for personal, non-commercial purposes be removed from the copyright modernization bill. We support reducing the penalties for people convicted of violating the Copyright Act, since that would prevent excessive prosecution of the public, a problem that often exists in the United States.
The Conservatives have ignored the opinion of the experts who were heard by the committee and the conclusions of their own copyright consultations in 2009. As a result, they have introduced a bill that could cause more harm than good.
The NDP believes it is high time for a modernization that will eliminate these blatant problems and we are going to work to amend the bill so that it better reflects the interests of Canadians.
In conclusion, a number of groups have stated their ideas and supported what we are calling for through their statements, such as the cultural industries and the Writers Guild of Canada. The Guild says that the only option Bill C-11 offers creators is the addition of a digital lock, the effect of which would be to block existing sources of income for creators and create a loophole in the bill by taking away from consumers the same rights as are guaranteed to them in other clauses of the bill.