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Copyright needs to be amended to do justice to artists, copyright holders, says Bloc MP Lavallée

By Bloc MP Carole Lavallée      

Bloc MP Carole Lavallée says without amendments, the Modernization Copyright Act will be unbalanced and will favour large corporations at artists' expense.

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The following is an edited excerpt from Bloc Québécois MP Carole Lavallée’s speech in the House on Nov. 2 at second reading of Bill C-32, the Modernization Copyright Act.

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ARLIAMENT HILL—The Bloc Québécois believes that Bill C-32, whose goal is apparently—I repeat, “apparently”—to update the Copyright Act, does not achieve that objective. The Bloc also believes that it needs to be amended in committee in order to do justice to artists, copyright holders and copyright in the truest sense of the word. Without amendments, this bill will be unbalanced and will favour large corporations at artists’ expense. I will explain this.

The approach in this bill is disheartening. The government says it is helping artists, but it is not putting its words into action.

It is all well for them to keep saying that they are helping artists, the fact remains that the approach in this bill is totally unbalanced. In fact, what this bill does is help major U.S. companies.

This bill is totally unbalanced because it benefits major U.S. companies and major computer gaming software companies to the detriment of artists. There are two totally disheartening approaches in this bill and seven deadly sins, if I can put it that way.

The first approach is using digital locks. Sure, we can say that digital locks are necessary, and that they must be respected, but to base an entire bill on them is a bit much. With this bill, the government is telling artists that if they want to make money, all they have to do is put digital locks on their musical works to prevent anyone from copying them. If people want to make a copy for themselves, or to transfer the music to another format, it would be absurd to make them buy the original work again. That makes no sense, and it will not work. We are talking about the survival of artists and their art here, and this is important for many reasons. An approach based on digital locks is completely ludicrous.

This bill was developed for the big American film and video game companies, and digital locks meet most of their needs. For these big American and European film and video game companies, the government did a good job.

But the bill does not address the needs of artists. Artists do not want to put locks on their musical works. They do not want to restrict the distribution of their works; they want people to be able to enjoy them. But for that to happen, we need to modernize the Copyright Act and maintain the royalties and levies in the existing act. But that is what the government does not understand.

I spoke about seven deadly sins. The first should come as no surprise, since I was the one who moved a motion in the House to modernize the current Copyright Act in order to maintain the levy on digital music recorders, a motion that was adopted by a majority in this House.

Not having these royalties is like depriving artistic creativity of oxygen. Not having these royalties means that artists will no longer earn enough to continue doing what they do. I am not making this up. Earlier, the minister of Industry and the minister of Canadian Heritage spoke about taxes. It is incredible that ministers who should be sensible and should understand the meaning of words are using the wrong words and giving disinformation in order to reach their goal, which is to help American companies.

The system of copying for personal use needs to be updated. This system exists already; it is already in the law. We just need to add “digital audio recording equipment” to “cassette” and “CD.”

The exception known as the “YouTube exception” allows a mother to post her son’s first steps on YouTube along with music, used in good faith. That seems nice enough but it opens the door to a whole slew of music piracy. The scope of this clause needs to be reduced, and these so-called works created from other works should be banned. That is exactly what it means to respect artists’ rights.

In addition, Bill C-32 should require broadcasters to pay for ephemeral copies. Again, this clause is poorly written, unbalanced. It benefits broadcasters and, again, takes money from artists. It takes away royalties that would come to them.

And the damages that a copyright owner could be paid should definitely not be capped at $20,000. That is like saying that any pirate can put $20,000 on the table and can make millions of dollars with a copy they have made. It makes absolutely no sense to cap damages for a work that has been copied.

We must also make internet service providers more accountable. There are two ways of doing so. On the one hand, they could contribute to content costs, as called for by AGAMM, an association that maintains that free music is a myth. This Quebec artists’ association wants internet service providers to pay them royalties. On the other hand, we must also make internet service providers more accountable by forcing them to be proactive to stop piracy. I am not convinced that the notice and notice system—as it is commonly known—is working. That is, when people realize their work has been copied, they inform the internet service provider, which simply sends a letter. I am not convinced that this works. It would be very interesting to examine this aspect in committee and look at the consequences of an escalating response. We definitely need to examine this aspect very seriously. However, it is clear that the status quo is not enough.

As I said earlier, the seventh deadly sin of this bill is the digital lock, which cannot be the cornerstone of a bill to protect copyright. This would mean that consumers could no longer make copies for their own use on their MP3 players. The minister said earlier that everyone supports digital locks. That is false. Consumers’ associations do not support digital locks. The following quotation is from a news release dated June 4, 2010: “The Canadian Consumer Initiative or CCI [an umbrella group of consumer protection agencies] deplores the fact that, with this bill to reform the Copyright Act introduced earlier this week [on June 2], the federal government is once again abandoning consumers and giving in to the demands of corporations.”

The members can read it. It was dated June 4 and can be found on the Canadian Consumer Initiative website and the Union des consommateurs du Québec website. It is quite interesting and explains why this will not help consumers. When the minister of Canadian Heritage and the minister of Industry say that no one opposes protection measures, they have it all wrong, because, in fact, many people object to these digital locks. Once again, the Conservatives are denying reality.

The Bloc Québécois wants to amend this bill in committee. We think it needs to be amended according to four basic principles. First, we have to find a way to compensate artists and copyright owners. Musical works are not free. Music is not free.

Music belongs to artists, and artists have the right to be compensated when people listen to their music in different formats. We have to encourage creation and dissemination. That is the Bloc Québécois’s second principle: supporting dissemination.

New technologies improve access to the things people create, and consumers should be able to benefit from that. I doubt that digital locks will support that. We have to promote the dissemination of artistic works on all existing platforms. Through its subsidy programs, the government must support dissemination via new media without negatively affecting conventional media, which are often where new works appear in the first place.

As I said earlier, music is not free. That is why the government must launch an information and awareness campaign for large, medium-sized and small consumers, who need to understand that music belongs to artists. People can buy CDs, they can buy music online and they can listen to it on rhapsody.com, but they must respect artists when listening to music. If they do not, creation, production and design will suffer, and we will be overtaken by culture from other countries, especially by American music.

We also have to crack down on what I call professional piracy. We know there are websites where piracy professionals make multiple copies or allow point-to-point or peer-to-peer transfers. This allows people to download and listen to music online for free. We have to crack down on this. We cannot just tell these pirates that it will cost them only $20,000 in damages every time they use a work of music. The bill, as written, may not be harsh enough. As far as damages are concerned, it is quite clear that we cannot limit the price of a work of music to $20,000.

In the upcoming debates on the so-called Copyright Modernization Act, it is clear that the Bloc Québécois will defend its principles any way that it can. We saw [recently] in the House with regard to the TradeRoutes and PromArt programs that this government does not defend artists and does not help them. In fact, the government does more harm than good. Bill C-32 will do more harm to artists than good. A number of groups are going to lose a lot, particularly in the publishing community. With the addition of a fair dealing exemption, some francophone publishers will end up closing their doors. What textbooks will we find in schools? They will be textbooks from other countries that have protected their culture and the copyright of their creators.

This government does not protect artists. It does not protect copyright and it does not protect copyright owners, which is consistent with its long “anti-artist” history. The Bloc Québécois truly hopes that, throughout Quebec, the jurisdiction of arts and culture will be transferred to the Government of Quebec. There is an overwhelming consensus on this. Quebec takes care of its artists, and one way it does that is by helping them tour internationally.

The Government of Quebec helps artists and copyright owners. The education sector is treated very well by the Government of Quebec, which pays royalties to publishing companies and artists when schools use their artistic works.

For the Bloc Québécois, the transfer of responsibility for arts and culture to the Government of Quebec would be a step towards what we really desire—our own country. Not only do we want to manage all our areas of activity, but we also want to support and help our artists.

Bloc Québécois MP Carole Lavallée, who represents Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert, Que., is her party’s culture critic.

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