Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak at second reading of the much awaited, much anticipated and much needed Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.
Since this Parliament convened last autumn, the House has had a wide-ranging debate on this bill. In fact, the debate began even before this Parliament convened. Hon. members are aware that the provisions to modernize the Copyright Act and bring it in line with the demands of the digital age were introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-32. That bill died on the order paper, unfortunately, but not before it had gone through second reading and had been discussed thoroughly at committee.
Now we are in a new Parliament and some of the old discussion has been renewed. We have scrutinized many of the provisions of the bill. We look forward to referring it to committee.
From listening to the debates, I have concluded that everyone on both sides of the House agrees on several important points. The first is that we definitely need to modernize Canada's copyright laws. This is long overdue.
Compared to our trading partners, Canada is late in updating our copyright laws for the digital age. Members on both sides of the House have referred to Canada's obligations as a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization. We are among over 80 countries that have signed the 1996 WIPO treaties, but we have not yet implemented them. As a result, Canada's copyright law has simply not kept pace. This bill would bring Canada in line with our G8 partners and most of the major economies of the OECD.
That brings me to a second point made from both sides of the House during this debate. It is often amazing how much commonality we can find if we look for it among members on all sides. The second point is that we would not update our copyright laws simply because we want to keep abreast of our trading partners. We would also do it to send a clear message to artists and creators that we value their creativity and innovation. We want them to live here, to work here, to invest here, to create here. We want their contributions to help make our Canada a great place to work, live and raise a family.
Another theme we have heard during this debate is the importance of finding the right balance when modernizing the Copyright Act for the digital age. Anyone who is aware of this subject knows that copyright law has to balance a great many interests. On the one hand, consumers have a definite interest in being able to use different platforms and media to enjoy the products they have purchased. They want to be able to use art and music to enhance their own creative efforts, for example, by adding soundtracks to their home videos. Also, educators and researchers want to use material available online in order to promote learning and to advance knowledge, noble goals.
These interests must, on the other hand, be balanced with those of creators and artists who depend upon the financial rewards of their innovation. Creators have to be rewarded. They have a right to be rewarded for their ideas and efforts.
We must also encourage and reward those working in related creative industries. Ideas do not just simply spring into life and get distributed across the country on their own. In related creative industries from music and film to publishing and video gaming, all those people who invest heavily in creative products need to be compensated for their risks. Such stakeholders have a right to be rewarded for their investment. They have a right to protect themselves from those who want to take what they have helped create but not pay for it. In fact, if they cannot protect themselves in this fashion, they will lose motivation.
There is the challenge: to achieve a balance between the ability of Canadians to access and enjoy new technologies and the rights of Canadian creators who contribute so much to our culture and economy.
On the one hand, the bill would equip businesses with the legal framework to protect their intellectual property. Companies could use digital locks as part of their business model and they would enjoy the protection of the law. However, at the same time the bill would legitimize the everyday activities of Canadians. It would make important exceptions for teachers and students to use new technologies to impart knowledge. The bill would encourage innovation and education by encouraging the use of leading-edge platforms and technologies by teachers and students across the country.
The bill would also provide fairness and balance in the penalties available to enforce the law. The current legislation does not discriminate between violations for commercial purposes and violations for personal use. The bill before us would create two categories of infringement to which statutory damages could apply: commercial and non-commercial.
Under the new bill, Canadians who are found in violation of the law for non-commercial purposes could be fined an amount ranging anywhere from only $100 up to $5,000.
On the other hand, the bill would give the courts sharp teeth when dealing with the infringement of copyright for commercial purposes. The courts then could impose fines up to $20,000 per infringement.
It is important that this message gets out across the country.
The bill before us seeks a careful balance between the interests of creators of copyrighted material and its consumers. Achieving this balance is not easy. Previous Parliaments have tried to find the right balance, but bills have died on the order paper instead.
We hope that this time will be different and we can move ahead with a bill that would be good for both creators and consumers. The bill benefits from the careful planning that went into Bill C-32. Hon. members will recall that before tabling that bill, the government consulted widely with individual Canadians, interest groups and associations. As a result, Bill C-11 before us benefits from the input and the advice of many different points of view.
Now, some hon. members may debate that the balance tips too far to one side. Others may debate that it should go in the other direction. The bill may not be perfect; however, it is very good. We must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good by preventing the bill from passing. I believe it has found the proper balance. I am looking forward to the bill proceeding to committee.
As I always do when I rise in this House, I urge hon. members to set aside their differences and to join me in meeting the common interests and aspirations of all Canadians. Let us get together and support the bill.