Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that I have to rise in the House once again to condemn this excessive and unbalanced Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act. The people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, consumers and many creators alike, will not be happy to see that the Conservatives did not take advantage of the study in committee to make the necessary changes to this bill in order to take into account their rights and concerns.
As the New Democrats have been saying from the outset, Bill C-11 does not really protect creators' rights, since it will take millions of dollars in revenue away from them and erode their market.
We are not the only ones to say so. Over 80 arts and culture organizations have said that this bill is “toxic to Canada's digital economy”.
One of them, the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada, states that:
The desired balance between the interests of creators and those of consumers and users is, in our opinion, completely absent.
The people in my riding are concerned about this bill. I have received a hundred or so emails and phone calls from constituents who simply do not trust this bill or this government.
To these concerned citizens, I responded that, although changes to the act are necessary, those set out in Bill C-11 were harmful to artists, teachers and consumers. We need legislative changes that protect artist royalties, while making sure that distance education is not hampered and that young people are not exposed to unfair and costly fines.
That is what the people of my riding, what Quebeckers and what all Canadians want.
A person in my riding, from the municipality of Lac-Simon, wrote:
Thank you very much, Mylène.
Copyright is an issue that is close to my heart, and I fully agree with its renewal… but I do not have faith in the majority government in place…
In a few words, that sums up this government's problem. Its majority is going to its head and is preventing all intelligent discussion. We need a bill to modernize copyright, and the opposition wants to discuss and work constructively with the government. Unfortunately, the government's response is to muzzle debate. It is limiting the debate and, in the end, taking measures that will do nothing to improve the situation of artists and consumers.
This government's lack of subtlety and judgment is perfectly illustrated in one measure in this bill.
Bill C-11 proposes to block the use of content for which people have paid and which they are therefore entitled to use. For example, if you take a distance training course, you have an obligation to destroy the course notes 30 days after completing it. That is absurd and unfair. What happens if you take another course and are asked to use the concepts from the first course? What happens if you fail the course and have to take it again? This is really absurd and unfair.
Here is another example of improvisation: the only protection measure that can be taken by content owners—who are often not the creators themselves—is to lock their works, which will really hurt consumers. Rights owners do not like it either, because it often benefits only the big companies.
This bill is also not good for consumers because digital locks make criminals of Canadian users who are entitled to access those works. The bill criminalizes the act of circumventing digital locks, regardless of the reasons for doing so, even for legal purposes.
This bill ultimately gives consumers rights with one hand and, with the digital lock, takes them away with the other.
Another nonsensical aspect of this bill is more technical but illustrates the way this government makes things up as it goes along.
This bill creates an artificial and inconsistent legal distinction between "copying for private use" and "reproduction…for…private purposes". I just compared section 80 of part VIII of the Copyright Act and paragraph 29.22(2)(e) of the proposed Copyright Modernization Act.
The government is indiscriminately tackling complex legal provisions and imposing disproportionate penalties such as the possibility of a fine of more than $1 million and five years in prison.
As in other matters, the Conservatives are self-styled experts, drawing inspiration from their retrograde ideology and, in this case, the controversial American legislation, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
This bill creates legal uncertainty that will result in many costly court cases. In short, artists and creators, as well as consumers, archivists, teachers and students are opposed to this unbalanced bill. That is why, with the support of many stakeholders, the New Democrats, at committee stage, proposed 17 amendments that would have made it possible to have a more balanced bill that was fairer to artists and consumers.
In a nutshell, here are a few of those amendments: eliminate the loophole that the Conservatives included in the bill and that takes $21 million away from music creators; protect the moral rights of artists for new forms of content produced by users, such as mashups and YouTube videos; link the ban on circumventing digital locks to acts of violating copyright, thus allowing the circumvention of digital locks for legal purposes, which also involves ensuring that people with visual or hearing impairments have the explicit right to circumvent digital locks to gain access to a work; remove the "book-burning" provisions that the Conservatives are imposing on students and educational institutions by requiring them to destroy their educational material once the course is over.
These proposed amendments, which would balance this bill, were rejected by the Conservatives, despite the broad consensus of creators of culture in Quebec and in Canada. Instead of protecting creators by protecting their rights and ensuring that they will be paid for their work, instead of protecting Canadians and Quebeckers by giving them access to content, this bill aims to protect foreign interests. The Conservatives' priority is not to create a balanced system between the rights of creators and the rights of the public, but to respond to the demands of big U.S. content owners.
If the Conservatives had really wanted to create a balanced system, they would have listened to the witnesses in committee. The brief submitted by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges clearly condemned digital locks:
The digital-locks amendment will, in effect, severely limit how one can access and use digital information. In practice, this would mean that educational institutions, teachers, and students would lose their rights under fair dealing, educational and library exceptions, or other users' rights in copyright law to copy, perform, or share electronically a digital work that has been locked by a “technological measure”.
The Canadian Library Association also strongly criticized this measure: “The prohibitions on the circumvention of digital locks in Bill C-11 exceed Canada's obligations under WIPO copyright treaties.”
I am going to wrap things up now because I have just one minute left. Copyright modernization is long past due, but this bill has too many major problems. Canada has an opportunity to become a leader by implementing copyright regulations and taking a balanced approach between the right of creators to be compensated fairly for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to content. It is clear that the NDP is the only party that truly stands up for the rights of artists and consumers.