Mr. David McGuinty: previous intervention next intervention
Madam Speaker, good morning, after a marathon of debate and voting in the last 30 hours.
I would like to focus on some of the practical everyday aspects and impacts of this bill, legislation which the Liberal Party of Canada will not be supporting.
There are a few things that viewers and people reading Hansard might want to know. This bill is a carbon copy of a previous copyright bill, old Bill C-32, which had been brought before the House. The government has refused to amend the bill in any way, shape, or form, either through legislative amendments put by parties, or based on the sound evidence and testimony given by folks who deal with this sector day in and day out.
Let us look at some of the testimony we heard at the industry committee just in the last seven days.
It deals with the question of digital locks. As my colleague said, it would say to families, housewives, fathers and single moms or dads that when taking their kids to a soccer tournament, for example, they would not be able to copy a film to play in the car during the eight-hour ride to Windsor. If they did make a copy, they would be subject to prosecution.
There are a couple of other elements.
We heard from the CEO of UBM TechInsights, which is an Ottawa-based world-class company. Its job is to protect intellectual property for creators and owners. It is sort of like a CSI crime lab. It helps inventors and owners in the intellectual property area.
Mr. Harry Page, the CEO of the company, explained to the committee that his company employs some very extensive reverse engineering technologies, so-called forensic techniques. They are used to help people identify instances where there is an infringement. It helps them prove that to enforce their intellectual property rights.
The problem, of course, is that the digital lock measures in the bill would prevent that company from breaking a digital lock even if it is placed on a device by someone who is pirating another company’s hardware or software.
Why would the government want to make it illegal for a company like UBM TechInsights to break a digital lock to prove a theft, for example, on behalf of a client? It makes no sense. Why would the government aid and abet software pirates? Why is the government not protecting companies like UBM TechInsights that have hundreds of employees and carry out this work on a global basis?
There is another practical example of the impact this legislation would have.
Campus Stores Canada testified at committee. It is a major supplier of books in the academic settings across the country, in colleges, CEGEPs and universities. Its representative said that the bill would have a negative impact on more than 100 vendor and supplier associates. The Campus Stores Canada representative testified that the new copyright act would increase the cost of Canadian textbooks by as much as 15%.
I am blessed with four kids at home, three of whom are in college and university, and I can attest to my own kids’ struggles with the cost of textbooks. They work at part-time jobs and search long and hard for used textbooks, which are often not available. They have to buy new textbooks every year. That is the way the teaching system works. It is hard for young people.
Why, as the Campus Stores Canada representative testified, would it want to bring in a 15% increase on the over one million students that it serves? Of course, the company does not want to do this, but this is another practical impact of what the government is pursuing.
There is a third example, and it was picked up on by my colleague a moment ago when he read into the record some testimony from Professor Ian Hargreaves. Professor Ian Hargreaves is not just another professor in the area of intellectual property. He was the person who conducted the definitive study in Britain last year on intellectual property. It is the number one study in the United Kingdom.
It is important for Canada to look to other jurisdictions to determine how they have done it comparatively. They are struggling with the same thing.
I want to re-emphasize what Professor Hargreaves said in committee in the last several days. It was basically that the notion that informs this legislation, which is something that the conservative movement has seized upon now in its present form for many years, is about tougher enforcement. The government is going to be tougher about enforcement. We often hear that, and we often ask why the government would not want to be as tough on the causes of crime, for example, as the government says it is on the crime itself.
Professor Hargreaves said that the United Kingdom has a law in place making it unlawful to copy a song from a laptop to an MP3 player. He basically said that this was a big mistake. It has not worked in the United Kingdom. He went on to say, “The continued unlawfulness of copying a song from a laptop to an MP3 player is something which has not been tenable for really quite some time. The law needs to be sensible.” The law he referred to as making “reasonable sense to reasonable people”.
We have a situation where the government, with full knowledge of other experiences in other jurisdictions, is simply saying it does not want to change or improve this bill. Perhaps the Conservatives are motivated by such partisanship that they cannot accept good amendments from other parties. It is very unfortunate if that is the case. Perhaps they are under inordinate pressure and undue influence from the United States, which has a very powerful entertainment industry. Perhaps they are under pressure from forces in Los Angeles and Hollywood that are very worried about the growth of Canada’s film industry, of the success in Toronto and Vancouver and even in cities like my city, Ottawa, where increasing numbers of films and recordings are being pursued.
I do not know what the motivation is, but it is unfortunate that the government does not see fit to work with Parliament. That is why we come to work here every day. We come to work to improve things. We have here a case where the definitive author of the biggest study in the United Kingdom in years testified that it just does not work, so why do we not actually pursue another way?
That is why we put forward a number of amendments to try to overcome these difficulties. We ask again, why will the government not amend Bill C-11 to allow consumers to break a digital lock for personal use, for what we call non-infringing purposes? Why would the government want to send a signal to the millions of Canadians who occasionally copy this kind of material for personal use that they had better watch out because they are going to be hunted down? It sort of portrays, and I am not sure if it is ignorance or just an unwillingness to see where society is on these issues.
I have four teenage kids who spend a lot of time doing creative work, listening to creative work, participating in creative work. It is now part and parcel of what they do in school. It is part and parcel of what they do in society.
Seniors are increasingly turning to online solutions. Very many seniors in my riding of Ottawa South are now doing online banking. They are pursuing online entertainment searches. Some of them have mobility problems, or perhaps are disabled.
I do not understand why the government has this pig-headedness, this hard-headedness about not wanting to improve the bill based on these practical issues that have been raised and practical solutions that have been proffered by both the U.K. experience and by parliamentarians here on the floor.
I would like to close by saying that, yes, it is important to improve and modernize our Copyright Act, but it is not a serious venture when the government carbon copies the previous facsimile of it, brings it to the floor of the House, and says, “Here, do it again. We are not interested in improving this,” when there is goodwill and good faith to do so.
Mr. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.
Does he agree that this copyright reform has a lot in common with the policies of our neighbours to the south, and that it is basically a cut-and-paste job? Is the government essentially copying the American vision, adding nothing more than a “Royal Canadian” sticker?
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Mr. David McGuinty:
Madam Speaker, first, we have to be very careful. Our American neighbours have their own interests at heart, and we have to respect that. In this case, it is clear that the Americans have had a major influence on the Conservative government.
Diplomatic cables recently revealed information showing that some parts of the Conservative bill were drafted to address concerns expressed by the American industry rather than issues of interest to Canadians. That is what is going on.
We have responsibilities here as Canadian lawmakers. We have to protect our own creative sector. Quebec, for example, has world-famous producers, filmmakers and writers.
We have to protect our own interests. I am not here to criticize American society, which has to protect its own interests. Still, it is outrageous that this bill has been influenced by so much pressure from the United States.
Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP): previous intervention
Madam Speaker, one issue in the bill is of direct concern to people in my riding and across Alberta. We have a wonderful university called Athabasca University where everybody learns online. Students need to access materials online. The bill would digitally lock material, which would self-destruct within five days, and the course materials would have to be destroyed after no more than 30 days.
Could the hon. member speak to that? Does he think there should be accommodation? We want to protect creators. I have been an academic. We value the work of writers, but at the same time we want to try to encourage the people, particularly in aboriginal communities and isolated rural communities, to beef up their skills.
Surely there should be greater provisions to support those people who make an effort to further their education. They should be able to access that information for a longer time period.
Mr. David McGuinty:
Madam Speaker, when I first read these provisions in the bill, I was reminded of the beginning of the famous Mission Impossible series of films, in which the Mission Impossible person is asked to take on a mission, if he agrees to do so, at the end of which, once he agrees, the tape self-destructs in 30 seconds.
As a former university teacher, that is just not how learning works. Young people today use information of this kind that is available online and elsewhere and they learn in learning blocks. They often have to return to foundational learning blocks to build on them to make progress, particularly in our trade sector.
Information, when it comes to trade skills, learning skills that build one on the other to provide a good workforce for our Canadian economy, it is just not realistic to ask them to destroy material in that kind of timeline.
Again, it is not steeped in reality and perhaps not even steeped in the real interests of Canadians.