Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about an important aspect of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act.
Copyright is not only about creators and users; it is also about the companies that act as mediators and intermediaries to connect users and creators across the globe. Never has this been as true as it is today, given the proliferation of new services on the Internet. They have quite simply changed all of our lives. Canadians are now accustomed to having a wealth of information at their fingertips.
The marvel of the 19th century was Alexander Graham Bell's electrical speech machine. The Internet will be looked on as the marvel of the 20th century. Information is becoming accessible everywhere, connecting everyone. Not only is the Internet changing the way people communicate, it is also enhancing the global economy.
The importance of the people who connect others through technology has long been recognized in Canada. Bill C-11 follows this theme, while reflecting the evolution of technology. It delivers safe harbour or shelter from liability under copyright law to those who merely provide the platform and tools that let people use and find things on the Internet. Bill C-11 recognizes the absolutely vital role played in realizing the potential of the Internet by mutual intermediaries such as Internet service providers and search engines.
Safe harbours are also formally recognized by Canada's trading partners that signed the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty. All agreed that the mere provision of physical facilities did not in itself amount to a violation of copyright.
In the digital environment, it is crucial that neutral intermediaries are not held liable for the activities of their customers. So long as they are simply providing a connection, caching, hosting or helping to locate information, they should be exempt from copyright liability. Bill C-11, by providing clear limitations on their liability, would ensure that these services would continue to provide users with open access to the dynamic online environment.
At the same time, ISPs are in a unique position to facilitate the enforcement of copyright on the Internet. Because ISPs are often the only parties able to identify and warn subscribers accused of infringing copyright, the bill would require all of them to participate in the fight against piracy. The bill would bring into law what is sometimes called the “notice and notice” regime. This system is currently used on a voluntary basis within Canada's Internet service industry.
Under this system, when an ISP receives notice from a copyright holder that a subscriber might be infringing copyright, the ISP forwards the notice to the subscriber. I am proud to say that notice and notice is a uniquely Canadian solution to this problem. It would ensure that we would not view a truly neutral Internet service provider in the same light that we would an actual copyright pirate.
An amendment made at committee stage has clarified the safe harbour provisions so that the strongest efforts are made to catch only the true Internet pirates. At the same time, the bill clearly would not allow us to tolerate negligence.
During the clause-by-clause review of the bill, the legislative committee adopted technical amendments that would ensure that the notice-and-notice regime would be appropriately implemented. These amendments clarify that an ISP must send the notice “as soon as feasible”, rather than the previous language, “without delay”.
The committee did its jobs in this case and improved on the proposal it had before it. All of this would ensure that delays in forwarding notices due to circumstances beyond the ISP's control would be taken into account by any court.
Only ISPs that fail to live up to the notice and notice requirement would be liable for civil damages. Again, this approach to addressing online infringement is unique to Canada. It provides copyright owners with the tools to enforce their rights while respecting due process and protecting users.
Another amendment made at committee clarifies the responsibilities of Internet service providers and search engines to not interfere with monitoring software on websites, such as those that generate data sometimes used to monetize web traffic.
The bill requires ISPs and search engines to comply with instructions on websites relating to caching and indexing, as long as those practices are in line with industry standards. To avoid imposing an overly onerous burden on Internet intermediaries, amendments were adopted to clarify that ISPs and search engines must comply with these instructions, but only when they are specified in a manner consistent with industry practice.
We strongly believe that the bill, as amended, would encourage even greater participation of Canadians in the digital economy and would deliver incentives to Canadian businesses and creators to invest in digital technologies.
Copyright modernization is an important element of a strengthened economy and with other initiatives will position Canada for leadership in the global digital environment.
One of the other initiatives, for example, is the Minister of Industry's recent decision to open up the 700 megahertz spectrum to auction. That announcement also included a focus on tower sharing and stronger rural deployment, meaning greater coverage for people everywhere in Canada. It also included opening up our telecom sector to increased global investment, a measure that we see in the budget implementation bill, which also needs to be passed swiftly by Parliament.
Further, we have put a priority on ensuring wider broadband deployment. We intend to reach a target where 98% of Canadians will have access to broadband infrastructure. That is 98%. We are investing in programs to help students, communities and businesses adapt to the digital economy. We are moving forward with consumer protection measures, such as anti-spam and do-not-call measures.
Through these steps and, most critically, steps being taken by Canada's private sector digital economy leaders, we are becoming an increasingly digital nation. As I have mentioned, copyright reform and the broader protection of intellectual property is an important element of Canada's digital economic shift. In passing this bill, we would enhance Canada's capacity to innovate using digital technologies, help build a world-class digital infrastructure, provide the best conditions for the growth of our information and communications technology industry, and foster Canadian creativity.
With a riding like Kitchener Centre in Waterloo region which is home to the offices of Canadian digital giants like Desire2Learn, OpenText, Google, RIM, and others, I am keenly aware of the benefits of these new copyright provisions for all Canadians. I urge all hon. members to join me in supporting this bill so that the copyright modernization act can lead the way toward even newer digital marvels in the 21st century for all Canadians.