MASSE IN THE HOUSE: On Copyright Bill C-11
October 18th, 2011 - 1:08pm
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak on Bill C-11. Copyright is a very important issue and New Democrats have been talking about having a digital strategy in general, with some specifics. I will get into the specifics later.
It is interesting that the Conservatives hoisted up a former Liberal, John Manley, as the benchmark of where they should be. I served in the House of Commons with John Manley. He was up front in terms of discussing issues, but when we think of the advice the Conservatives are following, it is kind of interesting because John Manley was the person who wanted to deregulate our banks and make them like U.S. banks. The government very often talks about how we have a strong financial system right now and it is because we did not do what the U.S. did.
I was in the House of Commons when the Conservatives joined with John Manley to try to change our banks to be more like U.S. banks. We had those debates in the House of Commons and I would give credit to the Bloc Québécois for this. Bloc members were very staunchly against this, as were New Democrats, and we were able to defeat that. Judy Wasylycia-Leis was a key NDP member opposing that. We had made counter proposals to John Manley that were seen as hostile, left wing, socialist and crazy. Finally, after many months of pressure, we were able to defeat the movement by John Manley and the Conservatives at that time to deregulate our banks and make them more like American banks. That was the argument at that particular point in time.
It is very important—
What we often heard was that the Hollywood movie industry was very upset that Canadian films were allowed to be filmed in our studios or in our theatres. It was true. It was a grey part of the actual law and we had a problem with the filming and distribution of pirated movies. That seemed to be ratcheted up through the U.S. system. It gave us a black eye in many respects. To be fair, there was good evidence that in some specific places, in Montreal and other theatres, we were seeing these pirated versions emerge. They were being sold on the streets of New York and other places like that, just as easily as in Canada, but it became a problem.
I know the good work that the member for Edmonton—Leduc did as a representative. We were able to work in a group and pass legal changes here in Canada to remove that problem. There was a lot of effort that went to reversing the reputation that Canada had at that particular time with the United States. Therefore, I really find it difficult when the former minister, the second removed minister, would suggest that we would leak a copy to the United States and then lastly, the aid for the previous minister, the member for Muskoka, would want Canada to be on this list.
The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about some of the countries that are on that list. They are not countries like Canada. When we are actually working so hard together for international relationships and trading partner issues, why would we want to subject ourselves to that type of behaviour? I think that shows the pressure that the government has felt for some reason, or that it has buckled to, like many other times in U.S.-Canada government relations. It has subsequently cost Canadians. This is the digital lock one that could cost Canadians. That is why we think it is important to have a digital strategy.
I would like to get into a bit of the digital strategy because it does affect us. The devices that we are using today that have changed so dramatically will change so much in the future as well. It is also not only about the types of devices and how they are used, it is also about how the content is shuffled from one device to another and how they are used in many ways.
I have a Sony PlayStation. When I download a song I can finally use it on my PS3, but having it on my Playbook is a different problem altogether. I think when I buy that particular song that I should have the right to use it on both of those things. It is also going to involve the mechanics of moving the information around.
One of the things we have often talked about is net neutrality. Canada really does need to take a defining moment for net neutrality. It is important not only in regard to consumers and the use of different entertainment and other devices out there, it is very important for business, especially small businesses. We have had testimony in the past with regard to net neutrality itself in terms of throttling that some of the smaller companies could have bigger challenges with regard to the streaming that they are getting, the access to the streaming and the value of the streaming. We believe that net neutrality is very important for consumers and for business in the country.
We want a national strategy on broadband. It is very important. We have seen many times where the interests of the company just focus on specific areas of development. There are the large urban areas where the costs are much more beneficial than going out into the suburbs and then to the rural areas. We believe the situation in Canada should be similar to our highway systems, similar to our other physical infrastructure that connects Canadians from coast to coast to coast, where we actually have that ability to communicate. That is why it is so important and we believe in it so strongly.
For example, in the CBC, living in Windsor where we are so dominated by U.S. content and material, it is nice to be able to hear stories from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the Yukon, or out to British Columbia. We get that through the national broadcast structure that is very important in keeping our national identity.
We also talk about having a strategy on the spectrum auction. We saw in the last spectrum auction the government ended up in court over it. It is an important asset that we have. The type of spectrum that we are getting is going to be significant and it is going to offer some great advantages for us to be able to build out this national infrastructure if we want to. However, we need to look at where the resources come from. When the spectrum auction assets came in the last time they got dumped into the central fund. What we would prefer to see is some type of national strategy so that if we are going to take advantage of it and get some assets for it, we can determine how we use that as an opportunity to put our broadband and our society, in general, into a better position.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I was, but that is a type of Liberal infighting, obviously a Chrétienite versus a Martinite and Manley with regards to the history. However, it is clear that this has been used as an example to validate the legislation.
I was getting around to raising other third-party concerns that have been voiced in the debate that Canadians should hear. One of them is from Dr. Michael Geist, a renowned technology commentary. He has been quoted on Bill C-11 as saying:
The foundation principle of the new bill remains that any time a digital lock is used, whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices, the lock trumps virtually all other rights. This means that both the existing fair dealing rights and Bill C-11's new rights all cease to function effectively so long as the rights holder places a digital lock on the content or device.
We have a significant problem with the digital lock and we believe that having this type of testimony makes things more balanced as it is not just from the users. Later on we will hear some quotes from the artists as well.
Cultural Industries represents over 80 arts and cultural organizations across Quebec and nation-wide. It argues that the bill would be toxic to the digital economy and warns that it would be a failure of the entire act itself. It suggests that the bill is actually toxic to artists.
The Writers Guild of Canada has a different take regarding its interest on the bill. It is a very complex bill and issue. I quote:
...neither forward looking, nor in consumers' or creators' best interest. Digital locks at their best will simply freeze current revenue streams for creators.
There are other experts in the field, such as: Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, or CIPPIC. This is what it has to say on digital locks:
Overall these digital lock provisions are some of the most restrictive in the world. To achieve a fair balance between users and copyright owners, the government needs to fix the digital lock provisions before this bill passes into law.
There we have another counter to the one extreme case being used regarding Mr. Manley and his interests that are represented.
This is what the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, SOCAN for short, has to say:
Without this balance, the creation of a creative content will eventually decrease as Canadian creators will be unable to make a living.
We know that the average wage of a Canadian creator and artist is approximately $12,000 a year. That is not sufficient. We also know that the bill would take away some of their actual earnings forthright. This is a very important issue for artists. Certainly in this economy they are suffering quite significantly. On top of that, they have a history in Canada of not being the most compensated in the workforce despite the fact that billions of dollars are generated from this industry; I believe around 7% of the GDP in overall impact.
From Mr. Howard Knopf , a copyright lawyer:
The digital lock TPM measures continue to divide Canadians and to defy consensus. They are stronger than required by the WIPO treaties and stronger than necessary.
There we have it again. Why is it that this appears to be going overboard regarding the digital locks?
Something that can be brought to bear on this is pressure from the United States. It was interesting to see the former minister of industry suggest that we should actually leak an advance copy of our bill to the United States. I thought that was intriguing in itself. Instead of sharing with Canadians, the people he represented as the minister, he would leak a document to the United States in advance to get their opinion or blessing I suppose.
Later on, it was the former minister's, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, ministerial aide who suggested that Canada be put on the piracy watch list from the United States. This was also intriguing because I worked with member from Edmonton—Leduc to improve Canada's international representation with regards to piracy. We had a number of different visits on the Canada-U.S. Parliamentary Association over the years. This is a group that works in a bipartisan spirit. We worked in the group to meet senators and Congress people in the United States. We had bilateral meetings and went to different conferences across the United States to meet with Governors and different legislatures on a state-wide and national-wide scale.
The U.S. is approximately two years ahead of us on this. This is an important point.
We do not know when the government will have the spectrum auction and the final terms, but we are already two years behind the United States. It is critical, as it is affecting business decisions right now because there is uncertainty about how we would be able to use and implement the different research, technology, communication, all those things, because we do not know exactly what will take place next and we need to catch up to the United States.
Once again, when we are behind that much, it does not offer the same type of opportunities for investment, because we are looking at those things when we actually make a decision. It is similar to the physical infrastructure, as in my community, where we are finally working toward the border. If we can get the legislation passed in Michigan and get a new border crossing, better decisions would be made for investment in Canada, because we will see the physical asset at the end of the day and will be developed and rolled out and predictability will take place.
We also need to deal with the issue of e-commerce. We are actually having very good testimony at industry committee right now, looking at Canada's e-commerce. Right now it is really a dog's breakfast.
The testimony we heard the other day was that Canada is very much behind on our e-commerce, and it is a disadvantage. We also heard testimony that we are not being treated the same as the United States, that Canadian companies are paying higher fees, higher charges, all those things we should be looking at.
These are the elements we have for looking at the new age, because what we are dealing with today will change a lot.
Going back to Bill C-11. We are interested in getting it to committee to hear more testimony, and we are hoping the government will look at a couple of things.
I want to touch on a couple of the things I think are important. There is a five year review of the bill., which I think is important. I have moved on other bills, some of which have passed through the House of Commons, having a three year review of a bill. The reason is that we have technology changing so quickly, the fact that artists are caught in this and there is a number of different testimonies I have read which concern not only the commerce people, but also the artists, that there is to be a diminishment of Canadian content and community remuneration back to the artists themselves, that we should not be leaving them in the lurch for five years and that perhaps we should be looking at a three year review.
One of the things that is very important about that review, and I am sure we will hear this debated, is whether or not the legislation can get out the door, get working and can actually give a proper analysis after five years. We need to research that, but I think three years or some other provision for artists in there. If we are to have the five year review, it needs to be made, because we are hearing enough testimony that there are problems.
I want to talk a little bit about the long distance education. It has been made up in terms of the discussion for the most part of being rural, but long distance education is also taking place in cities, because people are looking at specific degrees, specific information and specific types of improvements. That is important, because we have heard that as we are a competitive society, Canadian education needs to get better and we need to be stronger.
I have a problem with the 30 day provision where, poof, the material would dissolve or we would get to the old fashioned book burning type scenario where we have to destroy the product. I do not understand that. When we buy a product, an education or a book, we have that property.
I remember the days in University when we would try to sell our books because the next edition came out and it was a little bit different. That is an important point to make, because I think there is some overcalculation. Every single year the edition would be changed just a little bit, but we were made to buy the new edition. I remember the days when we would have only a little bit of the content was different, but we were forced to buy the text book with the little bit changed.
I do not understand how we would want people to lose their education and training that they would receive through their own pocket, their own wallet, from a 30 day cycle. It is very important. I know all kinds of professionals, doctors and other types of individuals who go back and look at the material they learned on a regular basis.
I even do that for my own research that I do in the House of Commons. If we research something or have something done through the Library of Parliament, whatever it might be, I often review that material a number of times, at different points in time. I do not know where the advantage would be if an individual took a college course through long distance, that they could not review that material whenever they want and however they want.
We can research that some more to determine the exact veracity of that, and how the definitions are going to be defined and who is going to control that. That would be interesting to see and get from the committee hearing testimony.
I am a little bit cautious on that, because I have seen in the past, whether it be with fibromyalgia or other types of disabilities, where people have been denied certain support systems because the disability was not as so-called obvious as others, or there was no burden of proof, or there would be an extra expense to get doctor's notes or other types of learning support documents at different times. I am a little bit concerned about that.
With regard to royalty rights, that is a really important issue that I will wrap up on. The royalty rights are at least a stabilizing fund for our artists. There have been a lot of changes over the years to the types of materials that we have had and the way that they get remuneration. It is a new world. It is a new age.
That is why we have gone through several machinations of this bill and it has always created a problem, because we are trying to find the right balance at the end of the day between the consumers and making sure that our artists are compensated.
It is tough. We all want to have stuff out there, but having it for free is just not fair if someone has actually been a creator and has spent their time, energy, money and investment to do so.
We want to have that balance in there. Stripping away the fund is something that I cannot accept. We need to have a solution for it. As I said, the annual average for an artist in Canada is around $12,000 with regard to their income stream. That is not sufficient to live on in this day and age in our communities. We need to make sure that we are going to compete.
It is very common to have great relations with the States. I go over to the States all the time. However, we are as fiercely proud because we have Canadian content and we have that Canadian identity. It is not only recognized by the United States but is celebrated by them, too. We push back into their content with the great artists, the men and women we have in Canada.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I did not mention the visual display. I think it was the member from Halifax who mentioned it earlier.
I was thinking more of the work that I had done with persons with developmental disabilities or learning disabilities, where it has taken longer or there have been specific strategies employed for the learning to take place. They also sometimes get learning supports in our colleges and our universities.
I would even say for myself, people can see the failure of my taking long distance French lessons back in the early 1990s. It did not work out too well for me. I tried it at that time. I know it is hard to believe, but I am trying again. I did take long distance learning with regard to that. I actually passed the first course, but it is all gone now.
I worry more about those people who have those types of challenges who cannot go back and reference those materials again that gave them the strength of learning at that time, and that they have paid for. I just fail to see the logic of why we would take away something that we are encouraging Canadians to do. They are investing and growing as a person, and they would only benefit from that review if they wanted it in the future. There are lots of times when people read a book a second time.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member from Sudbury for his question and for his previous work on getting the pressure going on digital locks on phones. The member from Thunder Bay was active in pushing Canadians.
Often, we as consumers have been behind for so many years. Here on the Hill, we would go to a reception for an event related to another country and people there would show us the cellphone they had with multiple cards, all unlocked, all bought in their country, for the last five to seven years. Meanwhile, they were locked here.
So I am hoping we can move forward to the balanced approach, improve the bill, get it done and modernize the act to ensure our consumers and our cultural industry are protected. Digital locks is a big issue in this.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, it is an important question to clarify because once again the onus then goes onto the person with the disability and I do not really get the logic of this. When we think about it, if we take a course or class and do not do very well, when I went to high school we had to take summer school, as I did. I was not forced to. I passed by just enough but I wanted to do better so I went back and took the material again over the summer.
So if people take an on-line course and earn a B or C or something like that, a lot of people would enjoy going back to learn it a second time when they have time. A lot of people taking these courses are single mothers, people living in challenging times in terms of their schedule. Why would they not have the right to go back and improve themselves since they have already paid for it? They are not asking for more effort from the provider of the service that does not have to invest in more. What they are doing is going over the material a second time to improve themselves their capabilities in the Canadian economy.
I do not understand the logic of it, let alone why we would have the interest in doing it, because it defies the reasons why people are bettering themselves which is to improve themselves by making available content, be it book material or through visual or audio learning.
Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, the Writers Guild of Canada talked about digital locks as being neither forward looking nor in consumers' or creators' best interests. Digital locks at their best will simply freeze current revenue streams for creators.
The balance has not been struck in this legislation. I went through testimony after testimony to counter the one example that the government was using and that was the person who wanted to deregulate our banks. We are still not seeing that balance.
We want to stop the theft that is happening. We on this side of the House are willing to work to see if we can achieve that. We tried to do that in the past. The bill is significantly different. This is the third incarnation of this particular strategy. The government was not right before and it is not right this time either. We are willing to try to find a solution.
I look forward to hearing the testimony at committee and moving forward on this. I look forward to working with that member on the very important e-commerce work we are doing on the House of Commons industry committee. Canadian consumers are being treated unfairly compared to consumers in the United States.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising to see the parliamentary secretary trying to resurrect an old myth with regard to an iPod tax. We actually proposed that the Copyright Board would set a rate that would be good for the artists and fair for the consumer and to have that independent assessment done. We know the Conservatives have concerns over that. We have seen what they have done with other appointed officials in different departments, but there certainly was no $75 tax. The parliamentary secretary knows that.
It is unfortunate because we have been trying to have a good debate about this issue in the House today and we have been participating in that. I know the parliamentary secretary was excluded from some of the unfortunate things that took place in the House, but we have been trying to press on having some compromise here.
Again, to my colleague, there was no $75 tax that was ever provided in terms of a suggestion.