Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House and speak to this important bill.
Many of us in the NDP know that our party has been at the forefront of r pushing for innovative and effective legislation through the work of colleague from Timmins—James Bay and others who have painstakingly committed to extensive consultations, both in the confines of Parliament and out across the country. They and are our team have reached out to all stakeholders, artists, academics, students, producers and all people in the industry.
Our goal all along has been to produce the most innovative and effective copyright legislation we can. Unfortunately, the government seems to have issue with the concept of innovation, not just in this area but, frankly, all across the board. While it makes reference to wanting modern legislation, we know, and many stakeholders have indicated, that the legislation has gaping problems.
What we have suggested is that we sit down and go through these gaps, that we close the gaps, that we solve the problems and that we retract the problems created as a result of the legislation, problems that were not there before. That is something we have been very consistently saying. We want to work at this and are continuing to work at this.
We are very disappointed that the government pressed for closure of the debate, a habit that it has shown on many critical debates in this House. it is an action that limits not only the voices of Canadians in deciding their future on various issues, but makes for legislation that does not work, legislation that will cause greater problems, certainly in terms of copyright within the artistic community and the academic community. It might benefit some but most Canadians will face some real challenges as a result of the legislation.
We believe that copyright modernization is long overdue but this bill has too many glaring problems. In certain cases it even creates problems where none existed.
New Democrats believe that copyright laws in Canada can balance the right of creators to be compensated fairly for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to copyright content. We have made it clear all along that the way we would consider possible amendments to the bill would be to create a fair royalty system for creators. However, as it stands, Bill C-11 wipes away millions of dollars in revenue for artists.
When we look closer at the issue, it appears that all Canadian attempts at copyright reform in recent years have had very little to do with creating a regime that would balance the rights of creators and the public, but rather have been an attempt to satisfy the demands of American large content owners, such as movie studios, music labels, video game developers and others.
What we are asking as New Democrats is: When will Canadians have copyright legislation that works for them? We believe that copyright laws in Canada can balance the right of creators to be compensated fairly for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to content. The bill would grant s a range of new access privileges but would not increase opportunities for artists' remuneration.
This new playing field will profoundly affect the ability of artists to survive. The copyright modernization act essentially gives with one hand while it takes away with the other. While the bill contains a few concessions for consumers, they are, unfortunately, undermined by the government's refusal to compromise on the single most controversial copyright issue in this country, that being the digital lock provisions.
In the case of long distance education, for example, people in a remote, isolated community would have to burn their school notes after 30 days. That is hardly an improvement or an appropriate use of copyright law.
People in remote communities across northern Manitoba depend on access to education and accessibility to materials. This is a clear necessity, as we New Democrats have said. The government claims to be on the side of training and education. However, the legislation would hinder that access, particularly for people who already face so many obstacles in accessing education and materials they need. The legislation would set them and our regions back.
We have proposed removing sections of the copyright modernization act that would make criminals out of everyday Canadians who would break digital locks for personal and non-commercial use.
We do support the lessening of penalties for those who are responsible for breaking copyright law. This would prevent the excessive use of problematic lawsuits against ordinary citizens, like what we have seen in the U.S.
The Conservatives unfortunately have ignored expert opinions raised in committee and the findings of their own copyright consultations in 2009. As a result, they have arrived at flawed legislation that may end up doing more harm than good.
New Democrats believe that copyright modernization is overdue, but this bill has too many glaring problems. We will be at the forefront of proposing positive changes and of being part of developing modernized copyright law that is in the best interests of Canadians.
I would also like to share the words of many respected people in their fields, people who know the legislation is flawed and that it will harm producers and users of so many materials that involve the copyright legislation.
Michael Geist, the renowned technology commentator, put it succinctly:
The foundational principle of the new bill remains that anytime a digital lock is used -- whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices -- the lock trumps virtually all other rights...This...means that the existing fair dealing rights [and Bill C-11 rights]...all cease to function effectively so long as the rights holder places a digital lock on their content or device.
The cultural industry has made a statement. It represents over 80 arts and culture organizations across Quebec and nationwide. It argues that the bill may be toxic to Canada's digital economy. It warns that failure to amend the copyright modernization act to ensure fair compensation for Canadian content owners can only lead to a decline in the production of Canadian content and its dissemination domestically and abroad.
Instead of moving forward, instead of being at the cutting edge of innovation, instead of ensuring that our artists, researchers, academics and Canadian industries are able to be part of the future of the digital economy, the government's approach is setting us back.
Unfortunately this is an overall trend with the Conservative government, whether it is on the environment, economic development, education or in an area that I am involved with, women's rights. The government's approach is not to look forward, but rather to look at how we can pull away. In the case of Bill C-11, when so many hours and so much effort has been made to shape the best legislation, the government has unfortunately not produced that.
Finally, I would like to share the message of so many of my colleagues in the NDP. The legislation would set artists back. Artists are the backbone of our country. They are the people who shape our communities, who tell our stories, who bring us together from coast to coast in a country as broad and as wealthy in talent as ours. The reality is we need real legislation that will allow artists to do their work and that allows Canadians to move forward. Unfortunately Bill C-11 is not that legislation.
We hope the government will listen to New Democrats and allow us to do that work.