I think we have heard repeatedly on this committee that one of the greatest challenges to copyright is the advent of digital media, and that this in fact seems totally insurmountable and uncontrollable because people are downloading intellectual property of creators and artists on iPods and everything they can. That has left us with a huge copyright vacuum.
I think the way Industry Canada may look at this would be very different from the way Heritage Canada would look at this. I believe the things that concern us at Heritage Canada and this committee here are the issues of pure intellectual property. When someone uses their intellectual property to invent a new piece of technology or widget, patent laws and all of those other things can come into place, because you can see the thing, hold it, feel it, touch it—like the BlackBerry, for instance. When you write a play or a song and someone picks it up on an iPod or on whatever and there's piracy going on and all of those things, that is really harming the creator, the artist. Therefore, I think we need to be at that table. We need to inject this perspective into any discussion on any copyright legislation.
It's most important, especially since we know that the CRTC has given an indication that they don't intend to deal with anything to do with the Broadcasting Act or copyright for the next 10 years. We are already the only one of the industrialized nations that doesn't have a copyright act that deals with these issues.
Having now seen the above, the idea of a Special Joint Committee becomes rather problematic. If Minister Prentice is listening to the advice he is getting from those who believe in balanced copyright, especially the recently formed Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright ("BCBC") and his bill, if and when it comes, truly reflects these concerns, it should be passed quickly and could mark a major positive achievement for Canada. However, the proposed Special Joint Committee could slow this down or even stop such a good bill from going through, if Mme Fry's frankly reckless rhetoric represents the prevailing view of the Heritage Committee.
My earlier (November 20, 2006) potential sympathy for a Special Joint Committee was predicated on the likelihood that the Bill would wind up before the Heritage Committee alone, a troubling prospect at that time. As I said on November 20, 2006:
If there is a copyright bill, and if it gets as far as committee hearings, it is imperative that it be considered by a balanced committee that represents the mandate of both of the sponsoring departments. The Heritage Committee alone cannot be entrusted alone with this task. Even with Mme Bulte gone, the institutional structure militates against both actual and apparent balance in the hands of that Committee alone. Even before Bulte, that Committee often gave the appearance of imbalance and of being too prone to influence by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the usual lobbying suspects. Indeed, the appearance probably reflected the reality. Clifford Lincoln may have appeared more balanced than Mme Bulte, but the result too often left much to be desired.If Ms. Fry represents anything like the current consensus of the Heritage Committee, then a Special Joint Committee is not likely a good idea - at least for those who believe in a balanced copyright policy informed by facts and sound reasoning.
One also hopes that she is not speaking for the Liberal party - whose views on the bill could be crucial in terms of whether it stands a chance of being passed or not before the next election. Ms. Fry has been something of a controversial loose canon in the past with her comments in the House of Commons on cross burnings on the lawns of Prince George BC.