Third reading of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (access to copyrighted works or other subject-matter for persons with perceptual disabilities)Published on 21 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joseph Day
Hon. Joseph A. Day:
Honourable senators, I would first like to thank Senator Enverga for covering very nicely the points that came out of our committee hearing in relation to this particular piece of legislation, Bill C-11.
Copyright, as honourable senators know, is the exclusive right by the author or the owner of the copyright to produce and reproduce that work in any format.
This is a format that is designed specifically for people who are blind or near blind, and the question is, can we make an exception to the exclusive right of the copyright owner to make copies in that particular mode, in that particular manner, that is readable by those who can read Braille or other new technologies that are coming along?
We made amendments in this chamber. We looked at those amendments in the Copyright Modernization Act a few years ago. We put in an exception, along with the exception for students at school, in university, to use copyright and reproduce that work, and to use photocopy machines and take a copy back to their office or their room to study. That was deemed to be a fair use of copyright, where royalties did not have to be paid.
The royalty issue is the problem, as Senator Enverga mentioned, and I’ll get to that in a moment. The copyright owner can normally demand royalties for the reproduction unless there’s an exception. Canada is a signatory to the Marrakesh Treaty, along with, to my recollection, 16 or 17 other nations now; they’re trying to get to 20, and then it will become official. Canada has signed on.
Not many of the major nations have accepted. I say “major nations.” The United States hasn’t yet ratified; however, they did sign on at the beginning.
By accepting this treaty — which has been developed by the World Intellectual Property Organization out of Geneva — we are showing leadership, and hopefully there will be enough to bring this treaty into law. In any event, we are asking Parliament to pass Bill C-11, which amends our Copyright Act. As I mentioned earlier, we already have an exception for perceptual difficulties and for individuals that have difficulty seeing; we already have that, but it didn’t fit in with the requirements of the Marrakesh Treaty under the World Intellectual Property Organization. So the government came forward with this bill, which basically mirrors the words in the treaty. That’s what we’re dealing with here, honourable senators.
We’ve heard the honourable senator point out the two concerns that were expressed by one of our witnesses. The witness is a librarian at the University of Toronto. Victoria Owen was another witness. They had expressed the concern, as sighted librarians, that there is a provision that the ministry may, in the future, pass regulations requiring that royalties be paid.
That is of concern, because that can be quite expensive. With regard to tracing down who owes the royalties, there are many cases in the courts on royalties that are deemed to not have been paid and should have been paid. So it’s a concern; it’s there. The minister assures us that he didn’t intend to exercise it, but it’s there. That’s one concern.
Diane Bergeron, the sight-impaired person who appeared before us, talked about teaching her child how to read. She would read on the left side in Braille so that her daughter could then read for a sighted person the same words on the right side of the book. That’s the kind of book that would be possible by this particular legislation.
The only other point I want to make, honourable senators, is that should we hold back on passing this bill to try and rectify the points raised by the chief librarian for the University of Toronto, then we would be missing out on an opportunity to show some leadership in relation to this Marrakesh Treaty. As Diane Bergeron said, “Pass it, please, with the imperfections.” The five-year review that we worked into the copyright modernization legislation four years ago will be coming up next year. If we pass this now, we can see how it works in about a year. If it needs some fine tuning during that review, we’ll be in a position to look at it at that time.
I recommend, honourable senators, that we support this legislation.