Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate the amendments proposed by the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-11. This is not the first time the Bloc Québécois has spoken against this bill. The government is presenting the same content it presented in the previous Parliament as Bill C-32. There are, in fact, no changes, although we had asked for changes.
We must be clear that not everything about this bill is bad. Changes certainly were needed with respect to copyright, especially in the field of new technology. Such technology really is new and was previously quite rare. In fact, some technologies did not even exist the last time. Now we must consider copyright as it relates to iPods and even the Internet. Thus, there are changes that follow naturally from progress and current events. Still, the government has once again rushed headlong into legislation without really consulting consumers, authors, artists and creators, of course, or a lot of other people.
Some parts of the bill are good, others are not. Therefore we have to try to introduce amendments. This gives us the opportunity to talk about Bill C-11 and the amendments that should be made. As it stands, the bill clearly favours big business over artists.
As my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour is present, I would like to mention that, a little over a year ago, his initiative resulted in many artists coming to Parliament Hill—including his brother Luc Plamondon, the well-known lyricist—to meet with all the political parties. I do not know if they managed to meet with everyone, but I do know that a room was reserved in order for all the political parties to meet with these artists who came to tell us about the problems that Bill C-11 would create in terms of copyright.
When discussing copyright, we should not forget that MPs get a monthly paycheque. Factory workers get paid every week or perhaps biweekly. Everyone is compensated for their work no matter what sector they work in. Authors are compensated through copyright. When we take a look at the percentage of authors who earn a living from copyright, they are just barely surviving. By cutting this source of income, we are clearly telling the artists to work, to create and to do it for free.
A large number of creators came to Parliament Hill by bus. I do not know if it was the show business bus. However, one thing is certain: many stars were present. Artists from my area—Robert Charlebois, Dumas, Marie-Mai—were there. All these people came, not just because they are stars but also because they are often the spokespersons for other artists. All these stars are doing quite well. But there is a whole other group of artists, whom we could call emerging artists, who also deserve to be compensated for their work.
I commend this initiative by my colleague and that of former MP Carole Lavallée, who also did a tremendous amount of work on this file to help artists raise awareness among hon. members. Apparently it was not enough, because in this Parliament, after the election, the Conservatives reintroduced exactly the same bill and only changed its number. It is now Bill C-11.
It is a carbon copy of Bill C-32 and, like its predecessor, it seriously undermines creators and artists, who are the foundation of Quebec culture. Creators are not receiving their due under this bill. The Conservatives refuse to let them have royalties for the use of their works on new media: iPods, MP3s, the Internet and so on, as I was saying earlier. Internet service providers are not being held accountable under this bill, with some exceptions. As I was saying, that is why we are proposing amendments, in order to amend the bill to make servers and Internet service providers suitably accountable.
The Bloc Québécois supports copyright reform, but not what the Conservative government is proposing. If the government had wanted a serious bill, it would have consulted the stakeholders—I listed them earlier—including, chiefly, creators, consumers, the people who are specifically affected by these piecemeal measures that are likely motivated by this government's ideology and its bias for big business.
Nor is it surprising—because I was talking about Quebec culture in particular—that the Quebec National Assembly has unanimously denounced this legislation, which does not ensure that Quebec creators receive full recognition of their rights and an income that reflects the value of their creations.
It is clear that this bill will make our artists poorer and will benefit big corporations. The Conservatives did not listen to any of the legitimate criticisms and are proposing amendments that would significantly benefit the software, gaming, film and broadcasting industries, at the expense of our artists' rights. This explains why the representatives of 400 industries, 38 multinationals, 300 chambers of commerce and 150 CEOs applauded Bill C-32, while artists and even the Union des consommateurs, just to name a few, are condemning the bill, and rightly so.
Speaking of people who condemn the bill, I would like to quote Gaston Bellemare, president of the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres. In an article I read in Le Devoir some time ago, here is what he had to say about Bill C-11:
This is a direct attack on the values that have always defined Quebec...
Make no mistake, creators and cultural industries are not fighting for protections equivalent to those elsewhere in the world, despite the fact that globalization forces everyone to share the same playing field. That battle has already been lost. The United States, France, England, the giants that captured our markets quite some time ago...have increased the duration of protection to 70 years following the death of artists in order to provide an income to their descendants.
In this case, this is not even about income for creators. Of course, that is part of it, but we also need to think about the future, the people who will follow and who are family members of these artists, including both famous artists and lesser known artists. Canada obviously does not have these kinds of measures.
The battle to extend private copying levies to digital audio devices and e-readers has also been lost. The media campaign against the “iPod tax” [as the Conservative government called it] managed to convince consumers that the few extra cents collected on their mobile devices for creators would be an unacceptable hidden tax.
I just quoted Gaston Bellemare, president of the Association nationale des éditeurs de livre.
The Bloc Québécois has been accused of advocating an “iPod tax”, but this is not an iPod tax. It is a transfer based on how people are using contemporary platforms, and iPods are contemporary platforms. I apologize for using the brand name. People also talk about MP3s and other digital audio platforms.
I am old enough that I still own cassettes, which my girlfriend says is ridiculous. Not eight-tracks, but cassettes that I recorded music on. When we bought blank tapes, we paid a certain amount to cover copyright. We could not complain about that because we bought the tapes to record music, maybe music borrowed from a friend on a vinyl record. The sound quality was exceptional at the time, except for a little squeaking, but I think that was part of the listening experience, which some people find nostalgic and which can still be found today because it is still around. Obviously, we were not buying the records, so there had to be another way to compensate for copyright. I have many tapes like that, and I paid some form of copyright on all of them.
Now, I am also young enough that I have used blank CDs—that was the platform at the time—to record other CDs for personal use, not for sale in flea markets. People buying blank CDs paid a certain fee for copyright.
This is the same principle applied to digital devices. There is nothing wrong with adding a certain fee to the purchase price so that artists can be paid for their work. It is only fair.
In conclusion, there are many reasons, including this one, why we cannot agree to Bill C-11 as written.