Statement made on 29 June 2012 by Senator Terry Mercer
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Bill C-11, another of those bills that come from the Harper government with racing stripes on the side to indicate how quickly they want this legislation passed but always come at the last minute. I also speak on an issue. I cannot claim any artistic talent, but I was smart enough 40 years ago to marry into a family of very talented people. I have two brothers-in-law who are artists and a sister-in-law who is also an artist, so I claim my right through them.
This bill is complicated, but so is the digital world we live in. Like it or not, we must ensure that proper safeguards exist that protect artists, educators and writers from unlawful use or distribution of their materials. I think we are all in favour of that. However, how this government has approached this is the same way it approaches all bills: "My way or the highway."
This is not the first time we have seen this bill. Bill C-11 is in fact an exact duplicate of Bill C-32. Even though the house committee heard from hundreds of witnesses and received hundreds of submissions on Bill C-32, the Harper Reformists still did not even try to amend the bill.
While we all agree we need to update our copyright laws, why not do it right? Why not listen to the experts who tell you that a certain section of the legislation should be amended to better protect educators or a certain section should be deleted because it may actually harm a writer's ability to maintain control over his or her work?
Bill C-11 includes measures that add new fair dealing exceptions for education, parody and satire; allow copying for personal uses, such as recording TV shows or transferring music onto an iPod; add new rules making it illegal to circumvent digital locks; and add new responsibilities for Internet service providers to notify copyright holders of violations. Big brother is watching again.
Honourable senators, this bill should bring us in line with the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties. These treaties were put in place to combat piracy. Again, I believe we are all in favour of doing that and protecting Canadians, but at what cost and at whose provocation? I will get to that later.
There are too many things in this bill to comment on, but I would like to concentrate on the digital lock provisions. These harsh and American-influenced digital lock provisions are most likely the toughest and most restrictive in the world. Digital locks, of course, protect content, whether it is on a DVD or the Internet.
How often have you put a CD into your computer, copied the music onto iTunes, and then transferred them onto your iPod or BlackBerry? In doing so, did you think you were stealing someone's work? If not, you better start believing it because now, if you do just that, you could face fines of up to thousands of dollars because the government says you are stealing.
The true question is this: Who owns the material you are transferring? Do you? Does the musician? Do you both? Bill C-11 is supposed to provide a balanced approach to such issues, but I do not believe this is accomplished at all. This is where property law and copyright law collide, but I will leave that legal discussion to the lawyers; God knows there are enough of them.
The Harper Reformers say that format shifting provisions exist in the bill that allow the transfer of the music to your iPod, but there is a catch. If it has a digital lock, you cannot do it. One hand giveth and the other hand taketh away. Is it not preventing me from enjoying something I legally purchased and should be able to enjoy in whatever way I see fit? Interesting questions, honourable senators.
Canadians who have legitimately purchased CDs or DVDs should have the ability to transfer this legally owned material to something they own, as long as, of course, they are not going to resell it or transfer it to someone else.
Under this bill, Canadians will lose this ability if a company chooses to deny it. This effectively makes us criminals if we try to circumvent a digital lock, even if we are transferring what we own from one device to another device that we own.
Recent releases of diplomatic cables showed that parts of the Harper reform copyright plan were drafted to satisfy U.S. concerns rather than Canadian, particularly the digital lock provisions.
Who is running the government over there anyway, honourable senators? That is what I want to know.
Again, this government pretends it cares about Canadians, but just as with the budget, that care does not seem to exist.
Honourable senators, I was indeed pleased to see some provisions in the bill to help students, including education as a category in fair dealing as a positive step. However, it becomes muted when you add in the digital lock provisions because they effectively override fair dealing.
There is also the issue of clarifying provisions of fair dealing when it comes to education. I can only hope that all parties will continue to work together to respect the rights of artists but also to allow students to fully explore their educational opportunities.
I have worked with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, CASA, on various issues over the years. In fact, many of you have attended an event I host every year called Homecoming on the Hill in conjunction with CASA. Go, Huskies, go!
CASA and the other student groups have advocated for education fair dealing because it would provide some reasonable freedoms to use copyrighted material in certain circumstances.
Also, some teachers want to innovate and use every tool at their disposal to improve the education experience for their students. By not including fair dealing, students would lose out, but we must be careful not to abuse it because our writers and artists must be fairly compensated for their work.
Honourable senators, I do support the efforts to efficiently and effectively modernize the Copyright Act in a balanced way, but some of the provisions — digital locks being the most controversial in my eyes — are highly restrictive and do not strike a proper balance. We must ensure that our copyright law protects the work of our Canadian artists and reaches a balance with the rights of Canadian consumers. I do not think this bill does that, and so I will be voting against it.
Please click here to read the full text of this debate