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Canada must modernize its copyright legislation, now

By Liberal MP Marc Garneau      

The time has come to ensure that our artists and creators receive fair compensation for their work and that, in this digital era, our entrepreneurs' innovations are compensated.

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The following is an edited excerpt from Liberal MP Marc Garneau’s speech on second reading of Bill C-32, the Modernization Copyright Bill, in the House on Nov. 2.


ARLIAMENT HILL—No other proposed legislation [Canada’s proposed new copyright law, Bill C-32] has occupied my time as the industry critic for my party as much as this bill has, nor have I received more visitors knocking on my door to discuss proposed legislation than for the case of Bill C-32. Suffice it to say there is a very large number of stakeholders watching very closely as Bill C-32 moves forward in the House.

I would like to go over the context in which we are undertaking this important task. Canada is right in the thick of its transition to the digital economy, which is having a major impact on our artists, writers, musicians, software developers, filmmakers, photographers and others who create material protected by copyright.

We all recognize that the creators who inform and entertain us are major economic drivers. In Canada, according to a 2007 Conference Board of Canada study, culture generates over $80-billion in direct and indirect economic spinoffs every year. That accounts for more than seven per cent of our gross domestic product and creates about 1.1 million jobs in this country.

The digital economy is changing culture in this country. It is also changing our society and our economy. The information and communications technology sector employs some 600,000 Canadians and spends $6-billion a year on research and development. The digital economy is flourishing around the world. Last year, OECD countries invested nearly $3-trillion in hardware, software, communications and IT.

I know that Canada can play a leading role if it positions itself to exploit its full potential in this key sector. That would really boost the country’s economic growth.

Among other innovations, the last decade brought us Facebook, the iPad, and YouTube, which have given Canadians unprecedented access to myriad choices. They have also presented a challenge to creators in terms of protecting the integrity of their work.

Unfortunately, when it comes to copyright, Canada has, for too long now, been way behind in terms of global best practices. Our outdated copyright legislation has been the subject of international criticism.

A 2005 OECD study found that Canada had the greatest per capita number of offenders engaging in illegal file-sharing. In May 2009, the United States put Canada on its blacklist of countries designated as being especially lax in protecting intellectual property, a list that includes Algeria, China, Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia and Venezuela.

Copyright and intellectual property protection have become a crucial component of trade talks with the European Union.

The time has come to ensure that our artists and creators receive fair compensation for their work and that, in this digital era, our entrepreneurs are compensated for their innovations. Canada must modernize its copyright legislation.

In short, the time has come for Canada to adopt a fair and balanced copyright law, one that takes the needs of both creators and consumers into account.

The Liberal Party of Canada is taking the following position with respect to the proposed copyright legislation. Bill C-32 takes a number of important steps to modernize copyright law, and at this time the Liberal Party will support sending the bill to committee. However, we believe serious challenges remain that must be addressed at committee.

Specifically, the Liberal Party has problems with digital locks and technological protection measures, or TPMs. The Liberal Party has concerns with the application of new TPM circumvention amendments in Bill C-32.

Specifically as it applies to music, video and other digital media, the Liberal Party believes the Copyright Act must allow Canadians who have legitimately purchased a CD, DVD or other product the ability to transfer their purchase onto other personal devices, such as an iPod, or make a personal backup copy on their computers so long as they are not doing so for the purposes of sale or transfer to others.

We do not believe that Bill C-32 achieves that principle at this time. There are various ways in which a solution could be found and we look forward to examining the different options in committee.

Let us talk about the exemption for the education sector. The Liberal Party agrees that educators need flexibility in order to ensure that education is as enriching as possible. However, we must see to it that authors and creators are paid fairly for their work. The education sector is in the best position to convey the message that copyright is important, and we must ensure that Canadians understand that it is important for our creators to be compensated fairly for their work.

With regard to the exemption for the education sector, the Liberal Party will attempt to amend the bill by proposing to clarify what exactly constitutes “fair dealing.” Naturally, the secret of a good policy always resides in the right balance. By defining what is fair, we will ensure that the law gives educators the necessary flexibility while offering artists, authors, and creators a better guarantee that their works will be protected.

Another issue is mash-ups. Bill C-32 creates a new exemption for user-generated content. However, it is broadly written and can create a potential opening for abuse. We will seek amendments to tighten the language to ensure that the mash-up exemption can only be used for its intended purposes and not unexpectedly create a loophole for further copyright infringement.

On the subject of statutory damages, Bill C-32 defines new statutory damages for infringement of copyright. Many stakeholders have expressed deep concerns about this section. The Liberal Party believes applied statutory damages must be commensurate with the severity of the infringement.

With regard to the exhibition in public of works of art, the present Copyright Act defines the right to be compensated when a work created after June 7, 1988, is exhibited in public. The Liberal Party believes that this provision discriminates against artists who created works before 1988.

As for the resale of works of art, throughout Europe artists are compensated when their works are sold and then resold. The value of an original work may increase over the years and artists believe that a portion of the difference between the original price and the resale price should be paid to them. The Liberal Party proposes studying European practices in order to find a better way to compensate Canadian artists for their works.

Furthermore, the Liberal Party would also like to look at other technical issues surrounding, among other things, the collective responsibilities for neighbouring rights and the definition of exemptions with regard to hosting, information location tools and network services.

Modernizing Canadian copyright legislation is vital for our economy, job creation and appropriate compensation for our artists and creators. We believe that this modernization can best be achieved through dialogue and collaboration and we hope that all parties will work together to achieve this objective and to ensure that Canada continues to make a cultural contribution to the world.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau, who represents Westmount-Ville-Marie, Que., is his party’s industry, science and technology critic.

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