Madam Speaker, I have a stack of emails about Bill C-11, sent to me by my constituents in Saint-Lambert. They told me about their concerns with Bill C-11 on copyright modernization. The large number of email messages supports my belief that Bill C-11 deals with an important issue which, unfortunately, is not being given its due because the government has moved time allocation.
Here is an example of what the people of Saint-Lambert have to say:
Although the bill [C-11] seems more flexible than previous attempts to reform copyright, this bill is, by definition, inadequate because of the very strict anti-circumvention provisions it contains. As a Canadian, I am both worried and disappointed to see the extent to which my rights are easily violated by means of the universal and absolute protection of digital locks envisaged by the legislation.
Copyright involves the competing interests of a particularly broad range of Canadians.
One of the issues raised by Bill C-11 on copyright modernization is knowing how to ensure that the interests at stake are balanced: the interests of the artistic community, business community, consumers, universities and scientific research entities, new technology and media communities, and the public, generally referred to as the general interest.
I would like to remind the House that one of the objectives of Bill C-11 on copyright modernization is to ensure that Canada can ratify the WIPO Internet treaties and strengthen protection for works and other aspects of copyright by recognizing technical protection measures.
We should remember that the WIPO copyright treaty and world performances and phonograms treaty, collectively known as the WIPO Internet treaties, were signed by Canada in 1997. However, to date, these treaties have not become part of Canada's legal system because they have not been ratified. The treaty rules adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization to deal with ongoing technological advances have never been integrated into Canadian law. From this perspective, Bill C-11 is a decisive step towards integrating Internet treaty law into Canadian law. This integration will come with the ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties.
The government says that it introduced Bill C-11 to change current copyright legislation to adapt some of the rules to keep up with technological advances and harmonize them with standards adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Before getting into the problems with Bill C-11, I would like to reiterate a number of facts that demonstrate the imbalance within our society between the significant contribution of the arts and culture sector to the national economy and the paltry earnings of artists, the driving force behind our arts sector.
I will show how Bill C-11 is not a solution to that imbalance and will do nothing to improve our artists' standard of living. This bill confirms what the NDP feared: this government is more interested in pleasing big U.S. content owners than in improving our artists' standard of living.
The facts speak volumes. The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists estimates that the arts and culture industries in Canada contribute $85 billion a year to our economy and provide 1.1 million jobs, employing approximately 6% of Canadian workers. These industries and the jobs that depend on them can survive only in an environment in which intellectual property is protected.
Despite the major contribution of these industries, the average income of an artist in Canada is just $12,900 per year according to 2009-10 figures. A 2008 Conference Board of Canada report found that the cultural sector generated some $25 billion in tax revenue in 2007. That is three times more than the $7.9 billion invested in culture by all levels of government in 2007.
The federal government invested $3.7 billion in arts and culture in 2007-08, just 1.6% of the government's total spending.
Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending found that, in 2008, Canadians spent $1.4 billion on attending live artistic performances, or more than twice as much as on attending sporting events, spending $0.65 billion on those.
The least we can expect from the copyright modernization bill is that it not jeopardize the contribution that our arts and culture industry makes to the Canadian economy. Members of the NDP are of the opinion that Bill C-11 hurts the interests of creators and consumers. The bill will take millions of dollars in revenue away from creators and erode the market. The long and complex list of exceptions does not adequately recognize creators' rights. In fact, these exceptions create new ways for consumers to access protected content without simultaneously creating new avenues through which to compensate creators for the 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.
Bill C-11 creates an artificial distinction between copying for private use and reproducing for private use.
For consumers, the "no compromise" provisions grant unprecedented powers to rights owners, which supersede all other rights. If Bill C-11 is enacted, it could mean that consumers will no longer have access to content for which they have already paid, and which they have every right to use. For example, in the case of distance education, it is draconian and unacceptable to ask students to destroy course notes within 30 days of when the courses end, as this bill proposes.
Even if the Conservative government continues to say that the proposed changes to the Copyright Act are in the best interests of Canadian consumers, the reality is that the Conservatives have the concerns of major copyright holders in mind. The real winners with Bill C-11 are the major film studios and record companies, and not Canadian consumers. That is why the digital lock provision in the bill trumps almost all the other rights, enabling record companies and film studios to protect their dwindling ability to generate huge profits.
Recent information published by WikiLeaks also demonstrates that the main copyright owners in the United States conspired with the Conservatives regarding Canada's Copyright Act. Bill C-11 does not propose adding new digital storage media to the existing private copying system, but rather protects this system in its current form. However, the Conservatives strongly opposed the NDP's proposal to extend the private copying exception to include digital audio recorders. The Conservatives repeatedly described this as an iPod tax that could cost Canadian consumers up to $75 per device. Nothing could be further from the truth, since the scope of the levies would be determined by the Canadian Copyright Board, a government agency under the supervision of the industry minister.
Here is another thing: the Conservatives' copyright bill, Bill C-11, would ultimately increase the existing levies on cassettes, CDs and DVDs. In the words of the Conservatives, we might say this is a tax on these items. There are other causes for concern in Bill C-11. The bill indeed proposes, in uncompromising provisions, new anti-circumvention rights that seem especially powerful for owners of content, who are not necessarily the creators or developers of the content. These anti-circumvention rights prevent access to copyright protected works.
These new provisions are strengthened by fines of over $1 million and sentences of five years in prison. A further provision prohibits access to information protected by 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.
Internet law experts who have read the bill under review say that some of the exceptions in the bill do not seem to adequately recognize the rights of creators in that they make it easy for consumers to access copyright protected content.
In closing, NDP members agree with the people from Saint-Lambert who wrote:
...it is in the best interest of Canadian consumers and creators alike to amend Bill C-11 to clearly link the act of circumvention to infringement, remove the all-encompassing ban on circumvention tools and establish a new TPM labelling provision.