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CHPC Committee Report

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TIME TO WALK THE TALK

Complementary Report,

Pierre Nantel, MP for Longueuil — Saint-Hubert

New Democratic Party

We’d like to thank all parties for the spirit of cooperation which led to this report on the urgent and necessary reforms to the Copyright Act. We thank the members of the Committee for their openness and we contribute our support to the recommendations of this report.

Throughout this process of reviewing the Copyright Act, we have brought to the table the perspective of artists and creators, who have seen their revenues collapse over the last decade.

Many recommendations in this report will allow Canada to live up to its international obligations regarding copyright, for example by reviewing, clarifying or removing exceptions to ensure they respect the Berne Convention, or by clarifying fair dealing exceptions for education institutions.

Certain recommendations clarify important loopholes or flaws; others open a larger discussion on the effects of the internet on the revenues of artists and creators. We stand by these necessary reforms to the Copyright Act and we applaud the work that has been achieved together so far in the interests of creators.

Beyond the many witnesses heard and the briefs submitted to the Committee, as well as campaigns such as A life without art? Really?, we would like to point out that the cultural sector has been asking Parliament unanimously, for many years, to simply fulfill its responsibilities with regard to culture.

Through the Coalition for Culture and Media, which represents over forty organisations from those industries in Canada and Québec, the sector has asked for continuity in our cultural policies, rather than the deregulation encouraged by digital multinationals. They have asked for fiscal and regulatory fairness, to ensure that new platforms are subject to the same obligations as traditional broadcasters. They have asked for government support that is adapted to the digital age.

Those are coherent, structural proposals. Over the last 10 years, on the other hand, the federal government – no matter the party in power – has met the changes brought by the digitization of the economy with confused, incoherent policies, and a piecemeal approach that runs counter to the bold approaches of other jurisdictions that have sought to defend workers and industries.

While we support the work accomplished by this report, we must deplore a certain timidity that many will correctly interpret as incoherence. The Committee proposes, for example, that we regulate certain digital broadcasters, and not others. It proposes to regulate music streaming services, like Spotify, but not video streaming services like Netflix. It advises, in other words, that we regulate Youtube Music, but not Youtube. (Concerning video streaming services, the Committee abdicates and proposes that the government “develop mechanisms” so that those services “will develop and promote Canadian content”. This recommendation effectively endorses the permanent tax break given to Netflix, and it is precisely this sort of vague and self-regulating approach that led former minister Mélanie Joly to conclude a deal with that company.)

The Committee bluntly notes in this report that the government’s failure to address the influence of web giants like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon has hurt artists’, creators’ and right holders’ revenues: “failure to regulate these foreign entities poses a significant threat to Canadian artists and creative industries”. But the Committee draws no coherent recommendation from this fact. The digitization of the economy is a real issue, with economic and cultural repercussions, and one would expect that parliamentarians would sense the urgency of addressing this issue head on in order to consider broad solutions.

The businesses (both Canadian and international) that have benefited the most from the digital economy and from lower artist revenues are not being required or encouraged to contribute to the cultural ecosystem they profit from. The government is now using public funds as compensation to allow telecommunications giants to spend less and less on mandatory cultural funds. Further, the government says there will be “no free rides” but continues to distribute free rides to multinationals such as Netflix, Facebook and Google, which are allowed to make a living out of Canada’s cultural vitality without having to pay taxes, charge GST or contribute to our cultural ecosystem.

The Heritage Committee is the parliamentary committee that is mandated to defend our culture and ensure the vitality of our cultural industries.

Over the last 10 years, our cultural sector has existed in a state of siege. Revenues are collapsing, vacuumed up by tax-free multinationals like Facebook, Google and Netflix, undermined by vast and poorly defined exceptions inserted into the Copyright Act in 2012, left undefended by the inaction of successive governments faced with the digitization of the economy.

Until this year’s mandatory review of the Copyright Act, the Heritage Committee has chosen to mostly ignore the cultural sector’s plight. The Committee has passed the most part of four years doing its best to avoid looking at the causes of this crisis. We find this strange and frustrating – as we would if, for example, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans refused to discuss fish.

We are therefore happy to see that this interlude on copyright has been a chance for the Committee to take note of the collapsing revenues of our artists and our cultural sector, and to consider some urgent and necessary reforms. The cultural sector must be able to rely on us, and on our continued efforts, so that these recommendations lead to real change.