Madam Speaker, the Conservatives have once again introduced a bill to modernize the Copyright Act.
Bill C-11 is identical to the previous copyright legislation introduced by the Conservative government in the last Parliament. Copyright modernization has been needed for a long time, especially with the advent of new technologies. The new legislative amendments would adapt Canadian rules to take into account new technologies and would also harmonize them with current international standards. This is a very complex issue because it involves the demands of stakeholders in artistic communities, universities, the technology sector, business and consumer protection groups.
This bill will create powerful new anti-circumvention rights for content owners, preventing access to copyrighted works. This will result in a situation where digital locks will practically trump all other rights, including fair dealing for students and journalists.
This gives rise to a number of problems that I would like to highlight. First, there is the danger of creating situations where consumers will not be allowed to use content for which they have already paid. Although the bill contains some concessions for consumers, they are undermined by the government's refusal to reach a compromise on the most contentious copyright issue in Canada: the provisions regarding digital locks. Many stakeholders from the areas concerned believe that digital locks are completely obsolete and that only a few industries, such as the video game and computer software industries, still use such protection.
Although the Conservative government continues to say that the proposed changes to the Copyright Act will protect the best interests of Canadian consumers, the reality is that the Conservatives have based their policy on the concerns of large copyright holders, especially those in the United States. The real winners with Bill C-11 are the major movie studios and record labels, and not Canadian consumers.
Recent information published by WikiLeaks also demonstrates that the main copyright owners in the United States conspired with the Conservatives regarding Canada's Copyright Act. One of the most worrying WikiLeaks revelations is that a key staff member under the industry minister at the time encouraged the United States to put Canada on their piracy watch list in order to pressure Parliament to pass new legislation that would weaken the rights of Canadian consumers.
I would also like to point out that digital locks supersede all other rights set out in the act. That includes changing the format for someone who is visually impaired, for example. The goal is to allow recording companies and movie studios to protect their declining capacity to generate profit.
These new provisions would require that, if a digital lock has been used, copies made for education purposes must automatically be erased in five days and class notes be destroyed within 30 days of the course ending. That will have serious consequences for students who take distance-education courses. When it comes to distance education, for example, the provisions in the new bill mean that people living in a remote community will have to burn their class notes 30 days after downloading them. That is not an improvement on the current situation and it is not an appropriate use of the copyright regulations.
I should point out that the Conservatives talk about fair dealing for purposes of education, but this is not defined in the legislation. Anyone can make a claim for this kind of use. For example, in Quebec, an agreement signed in 1982 between the educational sector and the collectives such as Copibec allows for certain products from authors and artists to be copied, in exchange for compensation. However, the Conservatives' Bill C-11 would encroach upon this agreement. This would lead to an estimated loss of $10 million. There is a lot of uncertainty about what teachers can do with these works. I should point out that a society that wants to expand its knowledge must regularly quote authors who are well educated and who are behind the creation of new knowledge that allows our society to advance and develop.
The compromise provisions in Bill C-11 would officially include current grey area practices, for example, practices that allow users to record television shows to watch later, provided that they do not create a library of recorded content, as well as practices that allow a user to transfer musical works from a CD to an MP3 player and make backups. The bill will also create new exceptions to the Copyright Act for fair dealing, including exceptions for teachers and for parody and satire. The exceptions in Bill C-11 are among the most controversial elements of the new bill. The long and complex list of exceptions does not adequately recognize the rights of creators. In fact, these exceptions create new means for consumers to access protected content without also creating new ways to compensate creators for the use of their work.
With this bill, the Conservatives have intentionally avoided addressing the question of a possible extension of the private copying exception. An exception for private copying has been very effective in the past concerning cassettes, DVDs and CDs. The NDP agrees that the Copyright Act needs to be modernized, but we feel that this bill has too many glaring problems. In some cases, it even creates new problems where there were none before.
The NDP wants to and is willing to amend the bill so that it betters reflects the interests of Canadian authors and consumers. We in the NDP strongly believe that changes to copyright in Canada can strike a balance between creators' rights to be fairly compensated for their work and consumers' rights to have reasonable access to content. For the benefit of the various stakeholders, we need to create a fair system of royalties for artists. This bill grants several new privileges concerning access to content, but it does not provide any new ways to pay artists. In its current state, this bill deprives artists of several million dollars in revenue. The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists estimates that Canada's arts and culture industries contribute $85 billion per year to our economy, which represents 7.4% of Canada's GNI, and support some 1.1 million jobs, or about 6% of the Canadian labour force. These industries and the jobs that depend on them can only survive in an environment where intellectual property is protected.
Despite the important contribution made by these industries, according to the figures for 2009-10, the average income of an artist in Canada is $12,900 a year. The money the artist invests in production must also be subtracted from this amount. As a result, artists make an average annual income of approximately $8,000.
It appears that all efforts to reform the Copyright Act in Canada in recent years have had very little to do with creating a system that balances the rights of creators and those of the public. Rather, these efforts seem to be attempts to meet the demands of large content owners in the United States, such as movie studios, recording companies and video game developers.
We are therefore proposing to delete from the copyright modernization bill the clauses that criminalize the removal of digital locks for personal, non-commercial purposes. We support shorter sentences for those found guilty of violating the Copyright Act because this would prevent excessive recourse to litigation against individuals, a situation that is problematic in the United States.
Furthermore, the legal uncertainty surrounding the terms “fair dealing for the purpose of education” and “reasonable grounds” will lead creators to take legal action against users. A court decision can take years and such procedures will be extremely costly for both creators and users, and will result in costs that are higher than the penalties set out in the bill. The Conservatives have ignored the opinions of the experts heard in committee and the findings of their own copyright consultations in 2009.
As a result, they have introduced a bill that could do more harm than good. This bill will violate creators' rights and compromise our ability to compete in the digital realm of the world economy. Losses for all Canadian creators are estimated at $126 million.
That is why, although the NDP firmly believes that it is high time to update the Copyright Act, we cannot support this bill, which has too many obvious problems. Contrary to the Conservatives, we in the NDP will work hard to amend the bill—