Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on report stage debate on Bill C-11, the copyright bill.
My hon. colleague, the member for Timmins—James Bay, was just talking about the fact that at committee everything was shut down by the Conservative members in terms of any amendments proposed by opposition members. Before that, they ensured we would have not too many witnesses. We would also have very few meetings and a very short time for clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. In effect, they put into place time allocation, or closure, so that it would all happen very quickly. This was done in spite of the fact that not all members in the committee were here in the previous Parliament to take part in the debate and of course not all members of Parliament in this chamber were here before the last election. Many are new, as we know. Many are looking at these issues for the first time.
The minister included me among those who have been on this for three years. I guess that is a compliment if it seems like I have been on this for three years. I have only been the critic for industry since last June, so I was not on the previous committee. My colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor was. However, having been here in Parliament during that period, I certainly had some awareness of the bill, as we all did.
Unfortunately, for many Canadians the process of this copyright bill has been one of futility and frustration that they were not being listened to. Despite hearing from hundreds of witnesses, and receiving 167 briefs in the last Parliament, and more this time, the Conservative government chose to use its majority to push the bill through without any major changes, and really only minor tinkering.
Opposition members on the C-11 committee reflected on the evidence that was presented by witnesses, both in person and in writing, and brought forward numerous amendments to try to improve the bill. The government did not appear to be interested in those, even the most minor, those that made innocuous changes to make a slight improvement and perhaps prevent a problem. The Conservative members obviously had orders to shut down anything coming from the opposition. That does not seem to me like a government that is interested in a good democratic process of good give and take. In fact, the Conservative majority on the committee missed a great opportunity to try to improve the bill in a number of ways.
The government pushed through a few amendments, but these technical amendments did not actually change the intent of any section of the bill. They primarily clarified the wording in a few places. This was in spite of the fact that the special legislative committee heard a wide range of views and some very deep concerns about some elements of it. The committee listened, but did it make any really substantive change? No, it simply clarified the wording. There are still technical problems and major flaws.
The government speaks about bringing forward a modern copyright law but unfortunately, what it says and what it does seldom match, as we have seen in so many other areas. Bill C-11 is a clear example.
What we see with provisions on digital locks, for example, is that the government is going backwards. It is a regressive position. The minister spoke about a balanced approach, but allowing digital locks to trump the interests of consumers is the complete opposite of a digital lock. It does not make sense at all. The Conservatives are essentially saying that people could reformat or copy a movie, or song they bought onto their iPod, as long as there were no digital lock. Of course, all the company that sells this has to do is put on a digital lock and consumers are out of luck. Is that really going forward? Is that modernization? Is that going in the right direction? If a young mother wanted to transfer a DVD on to her iPad, she could not do that because she would be faced with perhaps a $5,000 fine. How is that possibly a balanced approach? Why would the government not be open to finding some way to deal with this kind of situation? It was not at all.
Bill C-11 also fails to include a clear and strict test for fair dealing for educational purposes. That is another major problem with the bill.
It also fails to provide any transitional funding to artists. The minister speaks about how this will protect artists. There are some creators that this will certainly protect, but many artists will lose out. We do not hear any response from the government to that.
When the minister speaks again, or when he asks a question or comments, maybe he can tell us how the vast majority of artists, small-time artists and artists who do not make much money, will benefit and find compensation under this bill. Where are the revenue streams that will replace the ones they have lost? Perhaps the minister has some theories. I would certainly be interested in hearing them.
Let us look at what this bill would do.
It has significant changes. It has the new fair dealing exceptions for education, parity and satire. If we could clarify the wording on education and fair dealing, that would be okay. It has changes allowing copying for personal use, such as recording TV shows, things like using a PVR to record a show and watch it later, although I think there are provisions that could have had some minor improvements to ensure people would be able to do that.
For example, if people will be hosting, not on their PVR but on a computer at their headquarters, they see that as a problem. The way the bill is currently worded, it will create problems for them. The government was not interested in amendments to correct that problem. It is the kind of problem one would think the government would have wanted to solve for those kinds of businesses.
There are new rules making it illegal to circumvent digital locks, or as we have heard them called in the bill “technological protection measures”. I suppose that is a much nicer term. It sounds like a good thing, protecting something. It makes it sound more positive than if we call them digital locks.
It contains new responsibilities. Wherever the phrasing comes from, it does not change what the apparent intent of that kind of wording is. When words are chosen, they are chosen for a reason. We should think about what words have been chosen to describe what has happened. In fact, what it is doing is it is locking up something so there is no access to it.
There are new responsibilities in the bill for Internet service providers to notify copyright holders of possible copyright violations, and that is a good move in the right direction. There was talk about the idea of “notice to take down”, as it is called, whereby an if Internet service provider was informed by copyright owners of a problem of an infringement happening through their website, the provider would have to shut it down right away.
The bill provides, in fact, that the company has to give notice to the offending person, the person who has put something on the company's site or through its system, that is problematic. A notice is given that the owner of the copyright has objected to that. Then it is up to the copyright owner to sue.
That is not perfect because we know the costs of lawsuits these days. If the copyright owner is not a huge company but a small individual songwriter, for example, it is pretty tough to enforce that. On the other hand, at least there is not the situation where there is no recourse and where someone who has put something online is not quickly shut down without any examination of whether copyright has been infringed. That is a positive change.
The Conservatives talk about playing politics. The minister talked about that earlier. I find that a bit rich coming from that side of the House. We cannot imagine the Conservatives ever playing politics. They would never do that unless it was a day ending in Y, I suppose.