Speech on Copyright Modernization Act (C-11)

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to Bill C-11, Copyright Modernization Act. The legislation seeks to bring long overdue changes that would bring Canada in line with advances in technology and current international standards.

We know copyright is a highly complex issue that features competing demands from stakeholders in the artistic, academic, business, technology and consumer rights communities. However, I would argue that the bill does not do a good job of properly balancing these competing demands.

Before delving into some of the reasons why I oppose Bill C-11, I would first like to briefly review some of the main points that the bill seeks to accomplish.

Bill C-11 would create powerful new anti-circumvention rights for content owners through the use of digital locks. The punishment for circumventing digital locks would include fines of up to $1 million and five years in jail. This is concerning as it could mean that consumers are prohibited from using content for which they already paid. It would also have implications for those enrolled in long distance education courses.

While the bill would create limited exceptions to the fair dealing provision of the copyright modernization act for people such as educators, I believe these exceptions do not adequately recognize creators' rights and in fact create new ways for consumers to circumvent compensating creators for the use of their work. What the bill would not do would be to deal with the issue of extending a private copying levy, as has been the case in the past for cassettes, DVDs and CDs.

Why do New Democrats oppose the bill? Put simply, New Democrats believe Canadian copyright laws can and should strike a proper balance between the right of creators to receive fair compensation for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to content.

As it stands, Bill C-11 means millions of dollars in lost revenues for artists. New Democrats will consider all possible amendments to the bill that would create a more fair royalty system for creators.

We propose removing sections of the copyright modernization act that make criminals out of everyday Canadians who break digital locks for personal, non-commercial use. We want to avoid the same kind of excessive lawsuits against ordinary citizens that we have heard so much about in the United States.

I have been amazed by the number of Canadians who are engaged on the issue of copyright reform. Thousands upon thousands of Canadians have written letters and emails about the copyright modernization act, and this is a wonderful thing. My office has received hundreds of letters and emails from constituents on Bill C-11. The vast majority have serious reservations about the bill, calling it flawed to the core.

I would like to take a few moments to quote directly from some of the emails that I have received, which many members in the House have also received. One email states:

As a Canadian, I am both concerned and disheartened by how easily my rights are trumped by the overriding and all encompassing protection for digital locks contained in this legislation.

The anti-circumvention provisions included in Bill C-11, unduly equip corporate copyright owners and distributors in the music, movie and video game industries with a powerful set of tools that can be utilized to exercise absolute control over Canadians' interaction with media and technology and may even undermine Canadians' constitutional rights.

I would also like to quote from an email I received from an author living in my riding in New Westminster--Coquitlam--Port Moody. Annabel writes:

I support modernizing the Copyright Act, but Bill C-11, an Act to amend the Copyright Act, proposes to cut back on rights that are the underpinning of writers' survival. There are more than 30 new exceptions affecting rightsholders. Many of these new exceptions take away or reduce the ability I currently have to control my work and to be compensated for it.

Among the most troubling of these exceptions is the extension of “fair dealing”, (which means uncompensated use) to “education”. If much more of the work of creators can be used for free and educational settings, the educational market is at risk of being legislated away. For Canadian writers and publishers, this will be devastating. At a time when the government has declared the goal of having more Canadian history taught in our classrooms, it is surely counterproductive to harm the market for the creators and publishers of that history.

I am not asking for anything new or anything more. I am asking that my longstanding property rights not be severely limited in C-11, so that I can continue to make my cultural and economic contributions.

The majority of emails I received were copied to the offices of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Based on the number of emails that my office has received from people who are opposed to Bill C-11, I would estimate that the offices of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage have each received upward of 100,000 emails from Canadians who have serious concerns about the implications of the copyright modernization act.

However, it is not just Canadians that the Conservatives are ignoring on this issue. They are also ignoring expert opinions raised in committee and the findings of their own copyright consultations in 2009. As a result, we have before us today flawed legislation that will end up doing more harm than good.

I would like to ask the government to seriously consider amendments to its copyright modernization act that would create a more fair balance between the right of creators to be fairly compensated for their work and the right of consumers to have reasonable access to copyrighted content. Amendments should also be considered that would create a more fair royalty system for creators.

Finally, I would like to thank the hundreds of constituents who have written to me about this issue, and I encourage them and all Canadians to stay engaged on this important issue.