Thoughts on C-32 committee members from the Bloc Québécois

Of the 12 members of the C-32 committee, two of them were from the Bloc Québécois. Carole Lavallée (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert) and Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke) were there at each meeting, with Guy André (Berthier—Maskinong) being on-hand for one meeting just in case there was a vote (He didn't speak that I am aware of).

I believe the questions directed at me when I had an opportunity to speak before the committee were typical of what I heard other meetings.

Mrs. Carole Lavallée:

Mr. Fewer, if I understood correctly, you said in your presentation that consumers should become copyright owners. And Mr. McOrmond, you said in one of the documents I read that you wanted to do your share in taking all of us to the post-industrial era by rejecting the notion of intellectual property. Am I to understand that you both disagree with the idea that a work of creation belongs to its author?

I am not certain, but I believe she was making a reference to the submission I made to government in 2001 for that phase of this reform process. I specifically asked whether we were talking about A new economy, or a new product for the old economy? I discussed how creators of works of the mind could receive material rewards in far more ways than the limited options available for tangible/physical goods.

I had already answered the question about whether I believe that the copyright for a work is owned by the copyright holder in my opening remarks when I said:

I'm holding up four things. In one hand, I'm holding a DVD, which represents two things: some copyrighted content and the tangible medium it is stored on. These two things can have two different owners, and the rights of each should be respected. In my other hand, I hold some digital technology. It's my Google Nexus One phone, which represents hardware and software. Again, these can have two different owners: the copyright holder of the software and the owner of the information technology.

Clearly I believe, and included in my presentation, that the copyright in a work is owned by the copyright holder. I also recognized there was far more than one owner whose rights and interests were impacted by C-32.

What the question signified was something that seemed common in the questions from Ms. Lavallée and Mr. Cardin. They had a narrow set of stakeholders in the creative sector that they consider to be "creators", and everyone else was either treated with hostility or ignored. It wasn't only a lack of recognition of the rights and interests of non-copyright holding stakeholders, but a lack of recognition of what I suspect is a majority of copyright-holding stakeholders.

She often gave long speeches about how "authors in Quebec" believed one thing or another, and by that she meant the representatives of collective societies and traditional artists unions. She did not seem to ever include the majority of creators from Quebec I have interacted with, whether that be independent musicians, visual artists or software authors.

I think this is quite unfortunate, and doesn't reflect what is happening within Quebec or in other parts of Canada. In my roll as policy coordinator for CLUE and co-coordinator of GOSLING I have had long discussions with fellow Free/Libre and Open Source Software authors and advocates in Quebec. After some issues in the past, I have been hearing that they have been welcomed with open arms by the Quebec government. It is my impression that they are much further ahead in Quebec than other parts of Canada.

These are Quebec creators make a living from their creativity in ways that are different than treating creativity as a manufactured product in the Industrial era -- in other words, people that Ms. Lavallée might presume don't respect the interests of copyright holders (IE: don't respect their own interests).

I have to wonder why there is this disconnect. Is it a matter of Ms. Lavallée simply not meeting with her counterparts in the province, a full range of creators, or a full spectrum of constituents in her own electoral district?

Mr. Cardin did try to ask a more interesting question, but given the time limits in committee there was no chance to answer.

In your brief, you have said the following:
I have often said that copyright is to creativity like water is to humans: too little and you dehydrate and die, too much and you drown and die

The Canadian Conference of the Arts has calculated the royalties creators would be losing under Bill C-32. The total comes out to $126 million, which is rather conservative. The creators will literally dry up. What do you think about that?

If we have enough time, could you tell us about the keys and how they could protect copyright, even though they are not owned by the authors or the copyright holders?

There were literally only seconds left, so I could only suggest that we should not take as a given what the Canadian Conference of the Arts had said. Neither Bloc MP seemed to be willing to question what the conference had said, and assumed it was something we had to accept as if it were fact.

The assumption was also that any shortfalls that creators may have in a changing marketplace can be made up by increasing the "strength" of copyright. There was an assumption in many of the speeches (and Ms. Lavallée often gave speeches rather than asking questions) that if some copyright was good, that more was automatically better. The reality is that more copyright can quite often lead to less money to creators.

The answer to his second question is easy: they don't. Locks, digital or otherwise, protect the interests of the entity that holds the keys. Digital locks abused in the copyright context will harm the interests of authors and copyright holders, not help or protect them.

My hope is that Quebec creators will get involved in the election, with particular attention on the Bloc candidates. Ask them questions about laws like Copyright and whether they recognize and respect the interests of a full range of creators who are harnessing a full spectrum of business models. Ask them if they recognize and will work for laws that respect the rights of all the owners impacted by copyright legislation, and not only a tiny subset of copyright holders.

I believe it would be better for Quebec and other Canadian creators if we had different Bloc representatives in the committee charged with studying the next Copyright bill (expected soon).