Mr. Chair, members of Parliament, thank you for giving me this opportunity to make an introductory presentation by taking a brief look at the history, purpose, nature, and challenges of the Copyright Board of Canada.
Let me first start by introducing the people seated next to me: Mr. Justice Robert A. Blair, chairman of the board and a sitting judge at the Court of Appeal for Ontario; and Mr. Gilles McDougall, secretary general of the board.
The Copyright Board of Canada is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal created under the Copyright Act to establish the royalties to be paid for the use of works and other subject matter protected by copyright when the administration of these rights is entrusted to a collective society. The board also issues licences for the use of works when the copyright owner cannot be located. Its workload is increasingly heavy and complex.
The board is sometimes referred to as a polycentric administrative tribunal, meaning that its mandate and responsibilities involve more than simply resolving a dispute between the individual parties before it. It involves public policy considerations and the weighing of a large number of conflicting and overlapping factors that affect the industry and the public interest as a whole. This has implications for our processes and procedures, and the resources needed to fulfill our mandate, which I will discuss later.
The act establishes the board, which consists of no more than five members. At the present time there are three members: the part-time chairman, the full-time chairman and CEO; and a part-time member who is with us here, Mr. Nelson Landry, whom I salute, all appointed by the Governor in Council.
The board's chairman directs the work of the board and apportions its work among members. The vice-chairman is the deputy head of the board. As such, he has leadership over the work of the board, as well as supervision and direction over board staff. In addition to its members, the board has 16 employees consisting of administrative and support staff, as well as lawyers and economists.
The operating budget of the board is set at $3.5 million per year. The direct value of royalties set by the board's decisions is estimated to surpass $400 million annually. The board's decisions have a contributory impact on a number of industries, on individuals, and on the Canadian economy as a whole.
The legislative framework of the board has changed exponentially over the years. The board was created in 1990 by phase 1 of the modifications to the Copyright Act, as the successor of the Copyright Appeal Board, which had been in existence since 1935. A second major phase of amendments to the Copyright Act was adopted in 1997 as Bill C-32. These amendments significantly expanded the board's mandate and responsibilities. A third major phase of amendments to the Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-11, came into force in November 2012. By adding new rights and exceptions, this third phase of amendments further expanded the board's mandate and workload.
Ongoing amendments to the act, as well as decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and of the Supreme Court of Canada, continuously add to the legal and policy issues the board must address and take into consideration. Eight decisions of the Supreme Court, two in 2004, five in 2012, and one in 2015, with all but one triggered by board decisions, have a significant bearing on the board's mandated activities now and for the future.
The board acts as an economic regulator. It must ensure to render fair, equitable, and timely decisions that require dealing with increasingly complex economic and legal issues. Its decisions must be based on solid legal and economic principles, reflect a solid understanding of constantly evolving business models and technologies, and be fair and equitable to both copyright owners and users.
The board has similarities to a trial division of a court for all matters it determines. As such, it is often the first to interpret new legislation or to apply legal principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada. Because of the polycentric nature of the board's decisions, administrative law principles dictate that the Federal Court of Appeal, on judicial review, afford the highest level of deference to the board's analysis of the evidence and findings of fact. As a result, this analysis and these findings must be reliable, understandable, and convincing— drawing heavily on the board's resources and the skill and expertise of its members and staff.
On average, the board issues about 9 decisions every year, which encompass over 70 tariff units, including a significant proportion that have been the subject of public hearings. In spite of this, the board currently faces a huge backlog of uncontested or agreed-upon tariffs to be certified. The increasing volume and complexity of files that the board is required to deal with are all too often ignored and underestimated. Professor Jeremy de Beer, from the University of Ottawa, said that the board's powers or procedures have been central to some of the most important copyright matters of the 21st century: music streaming, peer-to-peer file sharing, Internet service provider liability, iPod or other device levies, the use of educational materials, and much more.
Over time, the board has been subject to criticism, most particularly in respect of the time it takes to render decisions, the cost and burden of participating in its public hearings, and the overall efficiency of the board's processes. In light of this, the board has put in place a working committee to look into the operations, procedures, and processes of the board, to make them more efficient and more productive.
In its first report, the committee was able to produce a number of recommendations in respect of some aspects of the board's procedures. Public consultations were also held regarding these recommendations. It is noteworthy that among the members of the working committee, as well as among the comments received in public consultations, there was no consensus on how to bring about solutions.
The board has yet to issue a decision on these recommendations, but has decided instead to hold it so the board can benefit from parallel initiatives taken by the two departments responsible for the copyright legislation. These initiatives by the two departments flow from one of the recommendations of the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in its report titled “Review of the Canadian Music Industry”, which read:
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada examine the time it takes for decisions to be rendered by the Copyright Board of Canada ahead of the upcoming review of the Copyright Act so that any changes could be considered by the Copyright Board of Canada as soon as possible.
It is noteworthy that, in the course of this committee's work, most witnesses acknowledged the crucial role the Copyright Board plays, while also stressing the inefficiency of its financial resources. This was also echoed by the complementary report of the Honourable Stéphane Dion, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, in which he recommended:
the Government of Canada undertake as soon as possible a consultation with the Copyright Board in order to analyze the delays in rendering decisions, notably in the digital context, and to establish, with the Commission, a level of funding that is adequate for the timely delivery of its mandate.
The board is in full agreement with this recommendation. The problem with the time it takes for the board to render its decisions could be fixed relatively easily by providing the board with the necessary resources to adequately deliver its mandate. That being said, the complexity and importance of the issues imply that no matter how much staff we have, the board will always have to take the time required to fully assimilate and analyze the complex evidence, and to write a decision accordingly. Providing the adequate resources for the board would contribute to reducing the decision time dramatically.
For your information, some of these issues will probably be addressed as part of the five-year mandatory review of the act, which will be done by a parliamentary committee in 2017.
Thank you all for giving us the opportunity to provide you with the board's state of the union. We will be pleased to answer any questions the committee members might have.
Good afternoon. My name is Maria Aubrey and I'm the acting president of the National Research Council. I'm joined by the NRC vice-president of life services, Dr. Roman Szumski, as well as the vice-president of our industrial research assistance program, very well known as IRAP, Mr. Bogdan Ciobanu.
I'm pleased to provide the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology with an overview of the NRC, our role within Canada's innovation system, and some examples of how we're fulfilling our role and our vision for the future.
The NRC's budget for 2016-17 is approximately $1.05 billion, with $287 million of that earmarked for IRAP contributions.
The organization has 3,700 employees, with scientific facilities and infrastructure located across Canada. The R and D capabilities of our staff cover a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, from microbiologists to aerospace engineers and from quantum physicists to organic chemists.
The NRC has a rich history of using its expertise and specialized infrastructure to tackle complex innovation challenges for Canada.
This year we celebrate our 100th anniversary. We have made remarkable contributions to Canada over that time, from developing the cardiac pacemaker, to anti-counterfeiting technologies, to delivering a vaccine for infant meningitis for the world. NRC is certainly proud of its accomplishments.
One thing that's helped to ensure our longevity and valuable contributions to Canada is our ability to evolve and to respond to the changing needs of the country. At this time of significant change, where the pace and the intensity of global competition and the complexity of global challenges is increasing, innovation is essential to Canada's success and its prosperity. NRC is once again well positioned and ready to help Canada meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Our areas of R and D focus are driven by long-term perspectives, and they are focused on the needs and issues facing the country over the next few decades. They include issues such as the environment and climate change, health, security, communities, natural resources, and of course sustainable economic development.
I'd like to give you some current examples of work we're doing to help Canada tackle some of these challenges.
Agriculture is not only a sector that's vital to Canada, but also one that we believe we can make more productive, profitable, and environmentally sustainable through innovation. That's why NRC is part of a partnership known as the Canadian Wheat Alliance, which involves Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan, and the University of Saskatchewan. This 11-year commitment to collaborate on long-term R and D integrates complementary areas of expertise among the partner organizations in wheat breeding, genomics, biotechnology, and pathology. Through this research, the Canadian Wheat Alliance members are working to develop new wheat varieties. Benefits to Canada include the production of stable and increased wheat yields, better resistance of wheat to environmental and disease stresses, reduced agricultural input costs, lower environmental impacts, and improved prosperity for Canadian farmers.
In the area of clean technologies, NRC is collaborating with key partners, including industry, to deploy an algal carbon conversion demonstration plant. What's really exciting is that the facility will use marine algae to convert carbon dioxide emissions—for example emissions from manufacturing industries such as steel, pulp and paper, or oil and gas—into biomass, which can then be converted to biofuels or other valuable products. Successful deployment will propel Canada to be a world leader in managing carbon emissions and resources, and help to create and expand markets for Canadian photobioreactor producers.
Clients and collaborators often come to the NRC because we can quickly mobilize skills from across our diverse R and D capabilities. For example, NRC engineers, biologists, and chemists worked together with private sector partners to enable the development of a novel bio jet fuel. This product was then used to fly the world's first civil aircraft with 100% bio jet fuel. Validating and demonstrating the viability of the bio jet fuel was a critical step in helping the companies involved work toward commercializing their technologies.
I've given you some examples of how the NRC has succeeded in stimulating innovation and economic development for the country. But what I am often asked is what exactly the NRC's role is in Canada's innovation system. We play a complementary and vital bridging role across university research, the research activities of other government departments, and the R and D needs of Canadian industry.
Our breadth of expertise, our globally rare or unique scientific infrastructure, and our national scope enable the NRC to bring together players from across the innovation spectrum in Canada and abroad.
We work collaboratively in areas of common interest with other federal science-based departments and agencies, which typically conduct R and D to help inform policy and regulatory decision-making. While the expertise of other federal departments typically lies in one domain, such as health or agriculture, NRC is involved in a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines. This breadth of expertise allows us to help them address issues or look at problems through a multi-dimensional lens. NRC also plays a complementary role with universities, which often have knowledge as a primary focus for their R and D. NRC conducts R and D, including basic research, with the aim of applying it to address challenges we foresee in Canada. We keep a pulse on the basic science activities within the universities and other organizations, allowing us to proactively identify and address evolving needs.
NRC also works directly with Canadian companies to help address their innovation needs and challenges. Our role is to help Canadian industry adopt, adapt, and develop technologies that are expected to yield innovative products, services, or processes.
Going forward, NRC sees opportunities to further strengthen its R and D program impacts. We're well positioned to convene the right players and work collectively to tackle some of the grand and enduring innovation challenges facing Canada. We're excited at the prospect of working to support the government's upcoming innovation agenda, and our over-arching aim is to help ensure a prosperous future for Canada.
Thank you again for your interest in NRC. My two colleagues are here with me, and given that I have only been at NRC for a short while, and acting president for an even shorter time, I will rely on them for depth because my knowledge is just skimming the surface.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Ms. Aubrey, for coming here. We really look forward to working with you.
Mr. Ciobanu, I noticed that you were in India a couple of months back, signing agreements. Welcome back to Canada.
I am from Ottawa, and I personally know a number of scientists and research staff who work for NRC, and trust me, during the last several years, we had quite an earful from the people working at NRC
Basic research is very important, not only for Canada, but I think all strong economies invest in basic research. We also know that the knowledge is passed on from generation to generation, not just by books or by codes; it's also passed on through personal interaction. From the cuts in the basic research during the last few years, I think we may have lost a generation of knowledge there.
As I mentioned, the scientists complained not just about dropping innovation, but they said there was an urgent need for a strategy to support NRC staff in transition as research programs end. They also complained about the lack of opportunities for them to participate in scientific conferences, maybe due to the cuts that were there. I also understand that there's a working group of NRC scientists and researchers who already do work with NRC senior management to address various issues.
Do you have any plans to meet them?