Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to the bill before the House today. According to the government and as we can read for ourselves, this bill amends the Copyright Act in order to update people's ability and capacity to access great works.
Over the next 15 minutes, I will try to make the government understand that the real way to update the current legislation involves first acknowledging that certain rights exist for the creators, authors, writers and artists who agree to share their gifts with the rest of society for education and research purposes. However, the government needs to acknowledge that royalties must be associated with this and that it is not true that institutions, individuals and corporations can use these works—whether books, movies or plays—without recognizing that royalties must be associated with that use.
I listened to the government members who spoke earlier and who would have us believe that these royalties are essentially a consumption tax. Nothing could be further from the truth. Basically, there are two important things to understand and which, we believe, are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One possibility is recognizing rights while ensuring that new players in new technology can have access to the works available. A compromise can be reached as long as the government agrees not to play into the hands of the major players. For example, Internet service providers come to mind. These providers offer public access through an open market using new technology.
What the government is trying to achieve and the consequences Bill C-32 will have are two different things. First, with regard to permission fees and licence fees, the bill does not ensure that the author is necessarily consulted, and thus, Bill C-32 puts an end to the right to decide whether or not to authorize use of a work. It puts and end to remuneration for use. That is what is of concern in terms of the principle and the concept behind fairness, because clause 29 of the bill talks about a concept of use related to a notion of fairness and fair dealing. This was defined back in 2004 by the Supreme Court. What have the consequences of that Supreme Court ruling been? It has given a great advantage to the users at the expense of our creators, our authors, our writers and our artists.
We must not forget this 2004 ruling because it laid the groundwork for unfair dealing, in our opinion, when it comes to our artists and creators. What does clause 29 of the bill say? It says that a work used for the purpose of private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright. Accordingly, a work may be used as long as it is for private educational purposes, education or parody.
This notion of fairness is not defined in the bill. The first step was taken in 2004 by a Supreme Court ruling that gave a great advantage to the users at the expense of the creators and our artists.
My colleague the Canadian heritage critic pinpointed the problem with the bill and that is that it contains exceptions, which she calls the deadly sins. There are 17 exceptions in total. We on this side of the House are not saying there should be no exceptions. International conventions state that there may be exceptions, but they apply in certain special cases. It is important to remember that. This bill has 17 exceptions that flout Canada's international obligations, specifically the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This convention stipulates in article 9 that exceptions made for users must be reserved for certain special cases where reproduction does not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.
With these 17 exceptions, the government is flouting its international obligations. This bill ignores Canada's commitments and is unfair to authors and creators.
There are a lot of exceptions in this bill. One particularly problematic exception stands in opposition to what should, in theory, be a positive principle. It concerns educational institutions. Teachers will be able to use protected materials in their courses without obtaining permission to reproduce them. This applies to movies and plays, among other things. The problem is not that people will be disseminating these cultural and artistic works, but that schools, for example, will not be required to pay royalties if they reproduce works. That is the problem.
We have to ensure that everyone in our society has access to culture. Our young people need rapid access to our literary works and their authors, but we must not forget that these are artists whose livelihoods depend on this.
I was reading the latest statistics. In the education sector alone, there are 175 million copies of parts of copyrighted works in schools, CEGEPs and universities. The education sector alone provides $9 million per year to 23 Quebec authors and 1,000 Quebec publishers. People's economic livelihood depends on publishing and culture. Of course we want our young people to have access to culture, but we must also recognize that our creators have the right to fair compensation.
This exception, therefore, is pernicious, the more so because the term “education” is not defined in this bill. It could therefore be defined quite broadly and have a broad scope. Given that the term “education” is not defined in this bill, this exception for the education sector, which allows teachers to use literary works, reproduce them and distribute them to their students, will leave it up to the courts to determine whether this use complies with the law.
Of course, this will force artists and creators, many of whom already have relatively low incomes, to take their cases to court.
We will further impoverish our artists, who are only asking for recognition of their work. Royalties are a measure of fairness. Unfortunately, the Canadian government, with this exemption for education, is not doing any favours for Quebec's artists and publishers that provide works, books and educational materials to our schools.
There is another exemption, the one I call the YouTube exemption. It refers to the creation of a new work by using, free of charge, part or all of a work on condition that it is to be used for non-commercial purposes. In addition, there is no requirement to name the source unless it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so. Thus, another exception is created, and one that is unique in the world, found only in Canadian legislation.
It means that someone could very well use a work, song or music—for which the rights are protected in principle—without asking the author's permission and without paying the associated royalties. This could be the end of private rights for these authors. I will say it again. We must provide greater access to Quebec and Canadian culture, but we must recognize the work of our artists. Even though new gateways and platforms make the use of their work possible, this broader distribution must not exempt us from honouring our commitments and ensuring fairness for our artists.
There is also an exemption for private purposes. An individual may reproduce a legally obtained work on a medium he or she owns and provide access for private purposes.
Once again, there is a refusal to create a new category, and that affects the levies. The government thinks that this levy is a tax on consumers, but on this side of the House, we see it more as fair recognition for our artists' work—nothing more, nothing less. For the Conservative government, “levy for artists” equals “consumer tax”. That is not how we read it.
Other exceptions are created, such as communicating a work by telecommunication. The bill introduces a vague, flexible and inadequate notion. It says that the institution must take measures that can be reasonably expected to limit dissemination of the work. What are these measures? Again “that can reasonably be expected” is not defined, just like those fairness principles, even though the Supreme Court provided some direction on this in 2004. It is up to the courts to later determine the scope of the concepts presented in the bill, and therefore the artists will have to appear in court. With this bill, the government is deliberately impoverishing our artists.
The concept of “that can reasonably be expected” is also used in the exceptions covering visual presentations, examinations and inter-library loans.
The other exceptions cover works on the Internet, extending photocopy licence and backup copies.
This is no longer in line with the Berne convention, which authorized states to create exceptions in special cases. The government is creating systematic exceptions, at the expense of our authors and artists.
It would have been better to stop creating exceptions and to recognize that artists are entitled to a fair shake and to fair royalties. The government should have recognized that the author's permission is required before his works can be reproduced and distributed on new platforms.
What is wrong here is that with the locking approach, artists and artisans are responsible for controlling access to their products on the Internet, while the major Internet service providers are responsible for ensuring that these artists and artisans are appropriately acknowledged. Permission must be given for works to be issued on new digital platforms. We must ensure that our artists, who spend their time creating and making us dream, do not end up caught up in expensive legal battles. The federal government must take responsibility and amend the bill to better protect our creators and our artists.