Elizabeth May on Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act #C11
Because I’m a writer, copyright is a huge concern for me, so I’ve blogged pretty extensively about the dangerous changes Bill C-11 will make to Canadian copyright law in my personal blog. In today’s world, however, since copyright law’s been extended to blanket pretty much all of our culture, and Bill C-11 will extend its reach into areas of property and technology, it no longer just effects writers or creators, but all of us.
I was quite impressed with Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s valient attempt to challenge Bill C-11. If we had a different sort of electoral system that promoted co-operation instead of opposition, members of the ruling political party might have been able to listen to Ms. May’s words and perhaps even be swayed by them, for the good of the nation.
Although the government couldn’t/wouldn’t listen, what she said is well worth repeating.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak for the second time to Bill C-11, an act to amend the Copyright Act. The first time I had the occasion to speak to the bill was at second reading, on November 22 last year. I had hoped at that time we would see significant improvements made to the bill through the committee process.
“There have been several tries at amending copyright law. The first attempt to bring copyright law into the digital age was made back in 2005 by the previous Liberal government. Subsequent bills were brought forward, most recently, Bill C-32, which is what we see now, pretty much unchanged, as Bill C-11. In the process between the previous Liberal government’s attempt in 2005 and the bill presented by the current Conservative majority government, we have seen a leaning toward the rights primarily of U.S.-based entertainment industries.
“I am not a member of the parliamentary committees, and I certainly am not making that point to complain. I understand my position here as leader of the Green Party of Canada. The Green Party is a recognized party in the House, but my rights, obligations and opportunities are closely aligned with those I would have had if I had been an independent member, a member of no party at all. Strangely enough, that gives me superior abilities at report stage to bring forward amendments that are substantive, which I could not have brought forward today had I been a member of the committee.
“With that small digression I will just mention that although I am not a member of the committee, I tracked very closely what occurred at committee. Thanks to the able assistance of the wonderful young people who work on my team, and I am very grateful for their help, I was able to carefully monitor the evidence and review the testimony of expert witnesses who came before the committee. It was very compelling testimony from very knowledgeable experts in the field of copyright law in the digital age, which admittedly is a complex field.
“One of those experts who is often cited and has made valiant efforts to see this legislation improved is one of the country’s leading experts, Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa. He has been saying for some time, and I invoked his words when I first spoke to this bill at second reading, that the bill was “flawed but fixable”.
“We had a chance to fix it at committee and we did not. It is my hope that the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, who I think deserves a lot of credit for the bulk of what he has done on this legislation, will allow Conservative Party members to consider favourably amendments being put forward now so that the bill, when passed, will not just be new copyright legislation, but will be excellent copyright legislation. We have that possibility but we will need amendments to get there.
“The 18 amendments that I am putting forward today fall into two general areas. The Speaker has grouped them as such, and I recognize that, but I propose to speak to both groups at once. The two areas are to improve the clarity around the term “fair dealing”, particularly in relation to the new insertion of educational provisions, and to address the overly onerous provisions to protect material against digital locks. Digital locks are referred to in the law as technological protection measures, TPMs.
“I propose to try to explain these in layman’s language in the next few minutes to make sure they have a fair chance of being accepted by other members of the House who, like me, were not on the committee, but perhaps, unlike me, were not following the evidence as closely.
“Fair dealing” is a very straightforward term, but it does not have the meaning one may think. “Dealing” sounds as though we are making a deal with someone. This is basically copyright law, so we are asking whether the way one uses someone else’s creative work is fair. We have a lot of case law on fair dealing. We cannot define what it is or is not. It is not a question of being able to quote a paragraph or a page and acknowledge who the author was. In certain circumstances we could quote a page, and in other circumstances we cannot quote a paragraph. It depends on what the purpose and intent is and whether the intent infringes the creator’s rights under copyright law.
“In the concept of whether one is using someone else’s creative work fairly, we have changes in the legislation which, for the most part, are quite good. We are now saying one can use someone else’s work if the purpose is for parody or satire. Those words are not creating any problems for us today at report stage.
“However, the government threw in “education, parody or satire”, and the use of the word “education” does create some concern, primarily because “education”, as a term or exception under copyright use under fair dealing, has not been previously defined in the courts. It could lead to significant litigation to expand or narrow the meaning in ways that would be prejudicial to the average person who wants to use the material. Given that those people who might want to change the law in ways that restrict consumer access and normal opportunities to use materials are those with the greatest and the deepest pockets to go to court to prove this, it seems that down the road we might want to improve the way the bill currently reads and to create an opportunity by regulation for the Governor in Council to provide a definition of “education”, which is currently not in the bill, in order to leave that flexibility in place down the road. That is what my Motion No. 3 stands for: that the Governor in Council may make regulations defining “education”.
“This very specific amendment comes from testimony by Giuseppina D’Agostino, a professor in intellectual property at Ogoode Hall Law School. She also teaches at York University. Back in 2010, when this legislation was Bill C-32, the comment that Professor D’Agostino made to explain this amendment was this:
“This would allow for a more evidence-based approach and allow government departments with expertise to helpfully collect evidence and be specific on what they need to cure by legislation, and to be nimble and flexible in making adjustments to copyright problems in the educational sector as they arise from time to time.
“That is all I propose to say on fair dealing. It is a big topic, but I want to move on to the question of digital locks. Most of my amendments relate to this problem.
“Digital locks make sense. The whole scheme of this legislation is about protecting the rights of a creator and balancing the rights of the creator with the rights of the consumer.
“This legislation attempts to bring Canadian law up to speed with the international obligations that Canada has undertaken through what is generally called the WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, copyright treaty.
“The problem I have with Bill C-11 is that it extends well beyond WIPO requirements; in fact, the scheme it would create would be among the most restrictive schemes anywhere in the world. The plain common sense explanation of this is to imagine that an individual has the right to put on a lock on something to protect it if that individual has the right to do so. No one has a right to break the lock if that is the person’s property, and getting through that lock is the same as stealing.
“However, we have exceptions in the bill that say people’s intellectual property can be used for creative purposes, for satire and for parody.
“What if the individual does not have the right to lock it away? Under this legislation, breaking the lock would still be illegal.
“It was explained well by John Lutz of the Canadian Historical Association when he was testifying about previous Bill C-32 before committee. He said that the new law brings copyright legislation last amended in 1997 into the digital age: “Consumers will, for example, be able to make private copies of digital works to carry on different devices like an iPod, a smart phone or a laptop without breaking copyright. There is, however, one important exception, and that is if the vendor does not want you to make a copy. All a vendor has to do is make otherwise legal uses illegal is put a digital lock on it. A digital lock…”, and he goes on to describe it.
“This legislation not only indicates that a digital lock cannot be broken but also indicates that it would be illegal to produce the kind of equipment or technology that would help someone break a digital lock.
“I will not go through each of my amendments one at a time. They essentially speak to the following principle: if in all other circumstances under the bill the use of the material under a digital lock would be legal, an individual should be allowed to break the digital lock. A digital lock should not trump all other rights under the bill when it is fair dealing, when it is otherwise appropriate and someone wants to get access to that material.
“It could be as simple as a mistake I once made in Amsterdam: I bought a movie that I really wanted to watch and when I arrived back in Canada I could not watch it. I still cannot see it.
“I ask the Minister of Canadian Heritage to consider these circumstances in which no one has any intention of breaking copyright. They just want to be able to view or access something that they normally would have a legal right to do. Digital locks should not trump all other rights.
“I commend the Minister of Canadian Heritage for his hard work. I ask him to please consider amendments at report stage to improve this legislation.”
The Conservative Government passed Bill C-11 without accepting amendments from any other party.
Although passed, Canada’s new Copyright Law is not yet in force.
Elizabeth May was photographed by itzafineday and released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License