I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to the industry committee as we continue our continuation of our five-year legislative review of copyright.
Today, we have with us from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Mr. Simpson, head, public affairs; and Mr. Greco, national manager, advocacy.
We also have from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, John Rae, chair, social policy committee. Welcome.
From Toronto, where they're having some big elections today, we have from the Screen Composers Guild of Canada, Paul Novotny, screen composer; and Ari Posner, screen composer.
We're going to get started with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. You have about seven minutes.
My name is Thomas Simpson. I'm the head of public affairs for CNIB. Joining with me today is my colleague Lui Greco, who is national manager of advocacy.
We've ensured that we have a brief in Braille that should be sent to each member of the committee. I'm sure some of you are wondering why disability organizations are present today to be discussing Canada's Copyright Act. I hope the next few minutes of our presentation can better help you understand how Canada's Copyright Act can be altered to remove barriers for persons with print disabilities.
To start, I'd like to provide an overview of CNIB. We were formed in 1918 by war-blinded veterans coming back from World War I, as well as a result of the Halifax explosion. CNIB has been providing post-vision loss rehabilitation as well as emotional and social services to Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empowers people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and to tear down barriers to inclusion.
When we talk about a print disability and the barrier that access to alternate format materials creates, you're experiencing it right now. It's very unlikely that you're able to read Braille, just as it is for people who are blind or partially sighted to be able to read print.
Unfortunately, the option of going to a bookstore and purchasing a book in an alternate format doesn't exist.
For Canadians with print disabilities, sight loss included, we rely on alternate format materials. This includes Braille, which is exactly what you have in front of you. Print Braille is, as it says, print and Braille. This is something that would be used by parents with blind kids or blind kids with sighted parents to be able for them to read together. We'll get you to listen to a sample of what digitized accessible speech sounds like.
As you can tell, that's not exactly the most friendly sounding voice, but it's what many of us rely on because it's really all we have to choose from.
In Canada, we estimate that there are about three million people living with some kind of disability that creates a print disability. The material in accessible formats is rare. We're here talking to you today to try to bring that change around.
Worldwide, estimates of people living with some kind of disability are consistent with overall health estimates for sight loss.
The percentage of material that's available in alternate formats, as just explained to you, is somewhere between 5% to 7%—we're not really sure. What does this really mean?
A few years ago, I decided to take a course in project management. I registered through the university continuing education program, did reasonably well in the course. I got a B+. I paid my fees to the project management institute, studied, and when it came time to write the exam, I couldn't find a study exam that was accessible. I wrote to the author. The author said, “Go away”. I wrote to the project management institute, and they said, “Go away”. The end result was that I was the denied an opportunity to gain a professional designation that would have furthered my career.
According to the Association of Canadian Publishers, more than 10,000 books are published in Canada each year. However, under Canada's current copyright requirements, publishers are not required by law or regulation to make these books accessible. Even with incentive programs through Canadian Heritage, Canadian publishers are under no obligation to produce accessible works, despite receiving public dollars.
The CNIB believes all books should be accessible. Whether it's just to ensure that accessibility applications can be used simultaneously with e-books or that Canadians with sight loss can buy Braille or electronic Braille copies in-store, all books published in Canada must be accessible.
We recommend that publishers be legislated to make accessible copies of their books. To do so, we recommend creating an additional subsection within section 3 of the Copyright Act, subsection 3(2), which would read, “For the purpose of this Act, a copyright cannot be granted to a literary work unless the production of such a work is done in an alternate format for persons with a print disability.” You can follow along in your Braille copy, if you'd like to know the specifics.
We believe that this sensible amendment to the Copyright Act would ensure that all books will be born accessible in Canada. Given the abundance of means by which accessible books can be produced, why does the lack of accessible books continue to be an issue?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Members of the committee, as you indicated my name is John Rae. I am a member of CCD's national council and chair of its social policy committee.
I'm here to talk to you about the dual issues of accessibility and usability. I assure you these two concepts are connected, but they are not synonymous.
In my time I'm hoping to cover five points.
Point number one is accessibility. As the previous speakers have indicated, many published works today are not accessible to folks like me or folks like them. That needs to change. Even when I receive reports from the Government of Canada that are sent to me electronically, I wonder whether when I open the attachment, my screen reader will say empty document, the bane of my existence. That tells me that I have received a PDF document that is not readable by my screen reader. Yes, this still happens in the year 2018, and it must stop.
I have done some work with your publishing people earlier this year. I'm hoping this problem is behind me, but I'm a skeptical guy. There is, of course, a simple way to solve the problem, and that is to stop publishing documents solely in the PDF format. It is, after all, the most problematic of formats. Or, if you continue to insist on using it, publish simultaneously a version in text or HTML. They are more likely to be accessible.
The act should bind Parliament insomuch and insofar as the publication of documents. All of your documents must be published in an accessible format.
Point number two is usability. I'm sure you've all heard the notion from some of your constituents that it often seems that government documents are written for lawyers and only for lawyers. I've seen some of you are lawyers and that's all right. I started up that road and didn't get there. I'm an advocate. I also need, as do other ordinary Canadians, access to the material you folks publish.
I'm talking about the need to write reports in plainer and more understandable language, and maybe even shorter in length. That would help too. As you know when a new document is released, the media is interested in responses the day it's released, perhaps the day after. If you're really lucky and it's really controversial, maybe two days later. People like us need to be able to participate in that discourse just like all other Canadians. That's the issue of usability. Documents need to be produced more in plain language.
Point number three is Braille. For blind people, Braille is our route to literacy. It is essential. Strange though it may sound, in the year 2018, while it is easier than ever before in human history to publish material in Braille, it seems like less and less of it is being produced. We can talk about why that's the case, but we'll save that for the time being.
There needs to be greater promotion of Braille. In the past, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities has recommended that the federal government establish a national program for disability supports. One of those areas could be the provision of refreshable Braille displays to those blind persons who need them and want them, to make access to Braille easier and to encourage more and more people to use Braille, because it really is our mode to literacy.
When the accessible Canada act was introduced, I immediately asked for it in Braille, because as you know every comma, every semicolon, can make a difference. I said that I might need it when I go to meetings to talk about it. Well, I had to justify as to why I wanted it. It wasn't just that I wanted it. I had to say why I needed it. I'm pleased that I did get it, and it has come in handy.
Point number four is publishers. I want to support the point Mr. Simpson made earlier. CCD believes in the addition of a disability lens, especially to Bill , but I think it could be added to the Copyright Act as well, whereby no federal funds would be given to any program, policy, contract or grant that would contribute to perpetuating barriers or creating new ones. That would include grants or contributions to publishers.
Point number five, my final point, is the whole involvement of the publishing sector. Earlier this year, the office for disability issues called together a wide range of representatives: publishers, consumers, producers. I believe many of the right players were brought to the table. The goal was to produce a five-year plan for the production and the expansion of the availability of material in alternate formats.
We last met in May. So far, no plan whatsoever has been seen. The first year of those five is ticking away awfully fast. Still, no plan has been issued. Perhaps you folks can help us get that release. That would be helpful. Publishers need to be more involved. If that would involve maybe some initial assistance from Heritage Canada to help them get started or to rev up their work in producing accessible documents, then so be it. I would support that. Publishers need to do a better job, not only of producing documents, but making them available to public libraries and making them available for direct sale to consumers.
Thank you for the opportunity to come and talk to you about those dual questions about accessibility and usability. I would be happy to respond to questions.
I had the good fortune to work with George Stroumboulopoulos creating the music for CBC's The Hour
. Also, I've written the music for CBC News Now
, which is on Newsworld. Also, I did the music for CBC's The National.
The reason we're here today is because we want to tell you a little bit more about our dilemma and exactly how we locate ourselves in our creative ecosystem.
Screen composers are the first owners of their copyright. Like screen writers, screen composers are recognized as key creative people. Our music copyrights consist of two types of rights: a performance right and a reproduction right. These rights live alongside a separate bundle of motion picture copyrights. When our music is married to picture, it is distributed for domestic and international broadcast, generating copyright remuneration, which is derived from a broadcaster's advertising sales. Our remuneration is governed by copyright policy, not by us. SOCAN collects on behalf of us from around the world.
The money for public performance and reproduction rights is calculated on a per cent of quarterly advertising sales. Twentieth century copyright policy for screen composers is based on broadcast advertising sales. I want to ask Ari how that is working for him in the 21st century.
My story is that I recently wrote music for a film called Mishka
, made by Canadian filmmaker Cleo Tellier. It has achieved 22.5 million YouTube views since April 22, 2018. The film is generating approximately $3,000 a month in YouTube advertising revenue. There is no connection, though, in the 21st century, of that advertising revenue to a public performance or a reproduction copyright.
At this point, Ari and I are both sitting here wondering what has happened to our public performance and reproduction royalties. The simple truth is that they've become insignificant, because the money has moved to subscription. We think that copyright policy must be augmented in order to gather adequate money from subscriptions to sustain our sector in the 21st century.
What has happened is a value gap has been created. We want the members of the committee and all Canadian citizens to understand exactly what this value gap looks like. I'm going to tell you right now.
In 2018, Netflix reported $290 million in net income for the first quarter, more profit in three months than the streaming giant had for the entire year of 2016. If the company meets its second quarter forecast of $358 million in profit, it will earn more in the first half of 2018 than in all of 2017 when it reported an annual profit of $585.9 million.
During the same time period, Ari Posner has experienced a 95% decline in public performance and reproduction copyright remuneration from the fourth most self-served, binge-watched Netflix TV series in 191 countries.
Ari, it seems like you and your family are subsidizing Netflix. What's going on in your household?
Let's just be clear, it's not just about me. I'm an example of someone who's in the middle of my career. I'll be 48 years old this year, and I have three young kids. I have a mortgage. I live a pretty basic middle-class lifestyle, and I've only been able to do that because of the value of my intellectual property on shows that I've worked on in the past.
Here I am, at this stage of the game, doing the same work on shows like Anne with an E that are more popular than anything I've ever worked on in the past, and yet the remuneration is not there. That is the value gap.
The only organization that can really help someone like me, my colleagues and my peers is an organization like SOCAN that advocates for us and goes after the performance and reproduction royalties from our work.
As it stands right now, the streaming giants, the big tech companies—the Amazons, the Hulus, the Netflixes—have no transparency, and they don't seem to need to have any transparency. I'm not sure why.
We're going to finish up very quickly here. We have three things that we would like to request.
The Screen Guild wants to participate further in the process of crafting a fair-trade, techno-moral copyright policy for the 21st century so as to respect every constituent in the value chain of screen media, including the consumer.
We want Canada to adopt a philosophical vision that aligns with other countries and economic unions that embrace copyright protection for creators. An example could be found in EU articles 11 and 13, which espouse similar ideas to Music Canada and CMPC recommendations. With that, what we want to do is encourage you to endorse those recommendations.
Ari is going to finish up with a few principles that we believe are key to techno-moral copyright policy in the 21st century.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses.
I will let you know that I will be sharing my time with MP Longfield.
I'm going to start with the Screen Composers Guild of Canada. Mr. Novotny or Mr. Posner—either of you could answer this question. This goes back to the testimony you provided in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, on September 25.
You brought up SOCAN, and you stated that SOCAN was unable to “get behind those closed doors of Netflix” and that Netflix would not be able to “give them the data they need in order for them to properly tabulate the views and turn them into a proper remuneration model”. You made similar comments about YouTube. You touched on both Netflix and YouTube in this testimony.
Can you tell us exactly what type of data needs to be collected from these two organizations to be able to fairly compensate? The numbers you are talking about—what they are going to hit by the middle of this year, compared to where they were last year—are astronomical. What data do you need to be able to make sure you get your fair share?
I'd like to thank all of our witnesses for making the time to share your expertise with us today.
In particular, I'd like to start with the CNIB on the Braille.
First of all, is this French? Is it English?
Second, about how many pages would this be either
in French or in English,
if this was submitted? I just want to get a sense of the briefing note you supplied today.
Thank you for that. I certainly appreciate the expertise you're bringing to this issue.
I've also heard from disability advocates. In my area, for example, in Kelowna, we have Michelle Hewitt, who is championing local accessibility issues. She said to me that she and many of the people she works with are often unaware of many of the exemptions in the Copyright Act for people with disabilities, that they even existed.
Is that something that either group has found consistently as well, that even though there are carved exemptions in the Copyright Act, people don't necessarily know about them?
Of course. But in the current context, you can shout it from the rooftops. In my case, with the Project Management Institute where I paid a fee to write an exam, they chose not to comply under a false pretext that it would be too onerous on them and simply shut the door on their moral obligation to accommodate me. I don't see how government or any organization providing education would help.
I needed a stick, some kind of mandate or obligation to say to them, this is how you can provide the resources to me as a paid member in a format that I can be successful. You must do it, and here is the piece of legislation that says you must do it.
Quite honestly, in an ideal world, I shouldn't be having those conversations. I should be able to identify myself as a blind person, and as a producer I require the materials in an alternate format—be it Braille, electronic text, DAISY, whatever—and the publisher, or in my case the PMI organization, as a producer should simply deliver it. I've paid my fees, I've met their credentials, I've jumped through the necessary hoops, and then I encounter a wall. It's not just. It's not fair.
When I had a real job, I used to be an employment specialist on behalf of persons with disabilities at Community Living Mississauga and the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities of Windsor and Essex County, and I was on the board of directors for the CNIB.
It's frustrating to have to continue to prove how your own taxpayers' dollars have to be used for basic things that should be a right. I'll give you a card later, but I'll give an example of the barriers we create. I have a Braille card from the House of Commons that I use, and I'm allowed to have this, but my staff is not. Despite the fact that I could get this business card printed in Braille, our public policy here, that I have been unable to change in the 16 years I've worked here, will not provide my staff with the same accommodation, despite the complete accessibility of something like this. This is the type of stuff we continue to see.
I want to talk a little about your amendment, subsection 3(2), and where the philosophy for that comes from. I think it's important. Government and also sponsored investments have the onerous responsibility to be accessible. I can tell you once again we have a 50% unemployment rate for persons with disabilities, which is a chronic problem, a systemic problem in our society, and then on top of that, if we don't have these materials, not only is it social exclusion from the workplace, but also socio-cultural.
Please explain a little more about section 3(2) and how that turns the tables to be more proactive. There are those who argue that accessible doors or accessible washrooms are too expensive, but you can use them as good examples that the investment makes a better society for all.
For the talking book reader that Thomas has here, a company called HumanWare, just outside of Montreal, sells these devices internationally for $350 to $400 a pop.
The KNFB Reader was around $100 the last time I checked. Some of the more sophisticated reading machines, closer to TV readers, where you place printed material underneath a camera that then blows it up, based on the person's ability to read or to see, are in the thousands of dollars. Braille display machines that Mr. Rae talked about, the refreshable Braille displays, are in excess of $3,500.
Prototypes are coming onto the market. CNIB participated in something called the Orbit Reader. It's just coming to fruition now, selling for $500, but it's still first generation. Just think back to microwaves; they were clunky, and they sort of worked.
It will get better. As these devices go through their life-cycle development, they will get better, and they will become cheaper and do more.
In our opinion, sir, no. We don't apply reasonable effort to make buildings accessible. We don't say, “You must put in a ramp or you must provide a door opener only if it doesn't create an undue hardship”. We don't say that. We say, “Buildings must be accessible and usable by everyone.” Period, new paragraph.
Why do we provide those opt-outs for publishers?
We do the same thing with transportation. The Canadian Transportation Agency has similar language. Websites must be made accessible, provided that it's not an undue hardship. Terminals must make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities, provided that it doesn't create an undue barrier.
I call that nonsense. I'm not from Ottawa; I'm from Calgary. Mr. Simpson and I walked over from a hotel that I'm staying at, which is about four blocks away. Most of the intersections did not have appropriate accessibility accommodations. The ones that did were inconsistent. The beeping traffic lights or the accessible pedestrian signals, as we refer to them, didn't work.
Why do we allow that? Why is that acceptable? Bringing it back to this conversation, why do we say it's okay to produce things that are not accessible? Why is it okay that a book or a work of art that is produced with public funding is not made accessible?
Our colleagues from Toronto on the art side... Described video is not expensive, yet we have huge discussions with broadcasters and producers around the inclusion of described video. Why is it okay not to expect that content be made accessible to everyone, regardless of how they consume that work of art or media?
Now I'm going to move to Mr. Simpson, Mr. Greco and Mr. Rae.
I have to say that I appreciated your testimony, Mr. Greco. Stories are sticky. Your opening story about your project management course failures at the end, after you've paid your fees, was frustrating to listen to.
Mr. Rae, you talked about reinforcing human rights. If we pull away the curtain of this copyright review, I would say that a lot of what you are talking about, especially with regard to publicly funded material, is not just about copyright, it's about the right to access. If we expect to have access within the federal jurisdiction of materials in French and English, you would like it in either French or English, but you'd just like to have it, period. Is that a fair assessment of what you would want?
I have a slightly similar story.
When I retired, I decided I would go back to school. I applied to Ryerson. I was accepted. Some of their courses are done by distance learning, and they used this thing called “Blackboard”.
I'm not 100% sure whether it was inaccessible or if it was just so complicated I couldn't figure out how to use it, but it was a barrier, so I withdrew. I felt I had to withdraw before I even got started, and that was a great disappointment to me. I actually had a reason for wanting to go back to school, and Blackboard at the time was a barrier to me. I think it has been changed a little bit since then, but I don't know if it's accessible now or not.
I would just say it's quite different from blank tapes, where I would make a mix tape for someone and utilize content from my own private collection to give to someone else. We're past blank CDs. Again, simply adding more cost to consumers—you're a consumer, I'm a consumer—I don't think that's right. But as parliamentarians, what is fundamental to us is government cannot tax without the consent of the people. And that's where any of these changes have to come from this committee.
When you bring forward a proposal from here, we do expect there to be good answers for this. It can't just be “we're hurting”, because everyone out there is challenged by this new technology. I would say that if you're going to come to a committee and ask for us to ask Canadians to pay more for something that they may not use, we should have good reasons as to why it's a special case.
We've heard at this committee that some of the publishers have suffered greatly. That might compromise the ecosystem for producing new materials. I'm concerned about that. We have to have those kinds of things fleshed out.
I appreciate that you don't have all the answers. I certainly don't myself. But when you come to a committee and you're asking us to use that ancient power to tax the people, we need to have good reasons.
That's a really good question. I think the short answer is no. No one tracks it. Someone brings a book to market, and their job is to convince as many people as possible to buy it. Some of those people may or may not have a print disability.
I think to keep it in context, if you look at self-publishing today, Apple, Adobe and a multitude of other platforms provide the ability to self-publish. Provided that those platforms are accessible and that they design the platform to generate alternate format materials, the format that the consumer or I buy it in.... I either hook up my Braille printer to my computer and print it or listen to it on my Victor Reader or what have you. Then I bear the cost of making the content consumable in a format that I choose to digest, but the building has to be built to be usable and accessible, i.e., the building is the book.
Is that cost onerous? No. There's free software now. You can go to daisy.org, and you can download for free software that will take a Word document or an ASCII text file, or probably an XML or HTML file— XML is a protocol that publishers would be familiar with—and literally, at the click of a button, you can create a well-structured accessible book at no cost. Whether one person who's blind chooses to consume that or a thousand people choose to consume it, it doesn't matter. It's available in an accessible format.
We don't ask questions around how many people are going to be watching television with closed captioning. We don't ask that question anymore; we just make it available. One hundred percent of Canadian television has to include closed captioning.
Why would we ask the question that you just posed, sir? It's unfair and unnecessary. The fact is that all content should be made accessible, end of story.
For our witnesses from Toronto, I just want to make sure it's clear this is just a five-year statutory review of the copyright change that we've had, and then we will be making recommendations, which will go to the minister. The minister will then have a designated period to respond to us. We're also constrained by a similar study going on with the heritage committee. From there, if there are going to be any changes, they would require tabled legislation, and likely more hearings, and then they would have to go through the House of Commons and the Senate. This is quite a winding tale to get where we're at.
What would you see as some of your priorities for what could be done? I know there's been a lot attention to a couple of items from other witnesses. Is there something, through regulation or in the short term—for example, the enforcement of current provisions—that could be done? If we do not come away with any changes in the short term, we're likely to come into an election, and that would then increase the time for all of this to take place. Perhaps you can enlighten us as to any potential things that would be seen in the short term or through regulation or enforcement of current provisions of the Copyright Act or the Copyright Board, for example. That would be helpful.
I'll turn my attention to Mr. Greco and Mr. Rae.
I first want to say that my doctoral supervisor was the great Professor James Harris of Oxford University, who was blind and was not only a wonderful man but a brilliant scholar. He was a prolific author of two major books with Oxford University Press, plus articles and all the rest of what one would expect in an academic career of that stature. What was truly tragic, the biggest injustice of all, is that technology was just starting to make his life a whole lot easier back in the early 2000s. The last time I saw him was at his house in the U.K., and he had just gotten a new software that was reading texts to him. I used to submit my texts in WordPerfect and he had a machine that would convert it to Braille.
I want to invite Mr. Rae, and Mr. Greco as well, to speculate on what Mr. Rae had said earlier, which is, why? It seems to me crazy that people will not produce documents in formats, technological formats, that can then be easily convertible and easily accessible. If it's HTML or some other format, why do people insist on using formats such as PDF that are locked?
Well, there's a belief that it's locked. I maintain that's actually the big lie, and I say that for this reason: I get a PDF document, and if I can read it, if it is accessible, and there's a good chance it may be, I can take that document, turn it into Notepad or move it into the drafts folder of my email program, and immediately I can do anything I want with it.
In my opinion, the notion that a PDF document is automatically protected is a big lie.
As to why so much is just not produced, I guess there are those who see it as not a sufficient market. In terms of Braille, a lot of kids are now mainstreamed. Do itinerant teachers know Braille? Do they believe in Braille? There's an assumption that we read everything electronically now.
That's an unfortunate assumption, and it's an unfortunate idea, because as I said earlier, our road to literacy is Braille. I've learned so much about spelling and punctuation by having my fingers go over Braille. That's something you just do not get when you listen to a document, whether it's a book or a report, or whatever. Braille is so important, but it's just not given the priority it deserves.