Mr. E. R. E. CHEVRIER (Ottawa East):
The main reason I rise on this occasion is that we are concerned with the second reading of this bill; and, according to the practice that prevails in this house, whoever allows the passing of the second reading is regarded as a matter of course as assenting to the principle of the bill.
My stand on this matter goes back fifteen years in the house, and you, Mr. Speaker, and some of the other members, are familiar with my views regarding copyright. This evening I desire to approach this question from one point only, namely, the question of rights. It is well known that we are now a party to the convention of Berne. There are two classes of authors: those who are our own nationals and those who belong to nations which are parties to the Beme convention and are neither Canadians nor Canadian nationals. So far as our own nationals are concerned, we may violate the convention of Berne from the first to the last letter; we may stultify ourselves by proclaiming any arbitrary measure to the detriment of our own nationals, and. it is up to our own authors to suffer. But as adherents to the Berne convention we have
Mr. Chevrier (Ottawa)
to respect that international undertaking, and under the terms of that convention copyright exists in every one of the countries that are participants in the convention, and that without any formality whatsoever. As regards all works, whether literary or artistic, no formality need be complied with to secure copyright. The ownership in the copyright may be in the author or it may be in his assignee, and as the hon. gentleman who is proposing the bill (Mr. Esling) has said, the right to the copyright must be respected just as much as is a title to real estate.
Unfortunately in Canada that is not so. Those who in the past have been charged with the elaboration of a copyright act have always and to this moment neglected to protect the copyright holder. The most glaring evidence of that was given before one of the committees of the house when a gentleman from Toronto came to give evidence and declared that he represented the Copyright Protective Association. On examination of that witness it was found that the shareholders and those who composed the Copyright Protective Association were paper makers, dealers in twine, dealers in paste, and dealers in ink and typesetting, but there was not a single owner of a copyright nor was there one author in that corporation. We have neglected to safeguard the rights of authors.
For many years we have been endeavouring to provide remedies and to afford some measure of protection, but the law as it now stands is a fearful testimony to the monumental lack of protection. With reference to these two kinds of authors, we may do as we please with our own nationals; but as regards those who are not Canadian nationals, they retain their right to copyright and have a perfect right to charge whatever they may wish to exact in connection with the performance or reproduction of their works, whether literary or artistic. I protested vigorously in the name of these outside authors when this law was enacted. True, I recognize that there must not be a monopoly; true, these artistic or literary works may be reproduced for the good of the community. But after all the authors have a perfect right to say whether for So or S50 or for nothing at all their works may be reproduced.
It may be objected that in the patent law the ownership is taken away after a certain length of time. There may be some difference as 'between copyright in a piece of music and a patent on a wonderful instrument or an improvement, whether in connection with
the telephone, the telegraph, the Marconi system or some of the most recent developments of science. There may be something in that. But there is no particular reason why the rights of composers to fees should be taken away from them and should be given some arbitrary compensation.
Is there any real reason why there should be a corporation called the Performing Right Society? I am not at all concerned with the Performing Right Society. As to whether it exists I am not concerned in the slightest degree. But it will be recognized at once that authors belonging to those nations of Europe and of other parts of the world subscribing to the Berne convention cannot very 'well supervise the collection of their own fees in Canada, any more than Canadian authors can supervise the collection of royalties in Japan, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy and other countries that are adherents to the convention. Some association must exist for the collection of these fees. I have not gone into the question, but it may be a fact that in the Performing Right Society there are no Canadians who have assigned to that corporation any of their rights. Nevertheless there are authors and copyright holders, assignees of those rights, who have handed over to that corporation the collection of their fees. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Canadian Performing Right Society should have the right to charge something outrageous, but we are faced with this problem: We belong to the convention
of Berne or we do not. We have signed that international convention' we are bound to adhere to its tenets, and I submit that we cannot by this means interfere with the rights and the royalties of those authors and composers and assignees thereof who are not nationals. It is all very well to say that there is a racket-probably there is; I am not concerned for the moment whether there is or not-and to say that enormous fees are being charged. But I think that what was shown under past circumstances is well within the memory of any hon. member who has sat in the house for some years.
I did not intend to speak on this matter this evening, but I collected just at random one or two items from a most voluminous collection of documents that I happen to have, and if I am allowed I shall cite one or two of them. It was disclosed before the committee on railways and shipping on June 24, 1931, with reference to Canadian National broadcasting that the total amount paid for talent in 1930 was 895,073.82. This was for the artists who performed the copyrighted works; 195,000 was paid to the per-
Copyright Act-Mr. Chevrier (Ottawa)
formers of those compositions. And when I asked this question in the house on July 2, 1931:
What amount of money was paid by the Canadian National Railway Company to authors and composers of copyrighted music and of other works, as fees or royalties for the use of the said copyrighted music or other works by the said Canadian National Railways broadcasting stations in Canada during the past twelve months?
-the period corresponding to that within which $95,073.82 had been paid for talent- I was answered by the then Minister of Railways that the sum paid in copyrights was the magnificent one of $20.42. The authors obtained $20.42 in order that those who performed those copyrighted works might obtain $95,073.82, and for rentals the additional sum of $60,756.23. I leave it to hon. members to say, first, whether a racket exists, and, second, where the racket does exist; whether the author derives a comparable benefit for the work which he puts on the market.
Going back to the 1931 committee I recall the evidence of Mr. Gitz Rice. If there is any racket let us see where it is. He said, at page 78 of the report of the committee's proceedings on June 30, 1931:
Since I started my profession of song writing I have been very fortunate in writing some of the world' war's greatest songs. I have yet to collect the first cent from my own country, Canada, for them.
And further down he says:
The composer always gets the worst of it, no matter where you go.
And he adds:
At the same time the Victor Berliner Company of Montreal, published 250,000 records of McCormack singing "Dear Old Pal of Mine,"-
-written by Mr. Gitz Rice-
-and never paid me a cent.
It is with those two views in mind that I approach this question. The first one is, as I have said, that under the terms of the convention of Berne we may do as we please with our own people; we may humiliate them to our hearts' satisfaction by not allowing them to get any of the fees and royalties to which they are entitled, but at the same time I say that so long as we are participants in the convention of Berne we cannot arbitrarily determine what the compensation or royalties shall be to those who are not nationals.
In passing I may say that we have placed ourselves through our copyright law in a very bad light so far as European countries are concerned. In the last few years I have received a large number of comments upon our law, and I am afraid that some of them, ex-12739- 4li
pressed by leading lawyers and jurisconsults of the continent, would be hardly parliamentary. I have under my hand one from M. Francois Hepp, who is a Doctor of Law in Paris. What he says is this:
Un texte legislatif important, et qui ne peut sembler aux amis du "Droit d'Auteur" que vraiment bizarre (sinon monstrueux), a ete vote, le 17 avril 1935, en troisieme lecture.
A free translation of that is:
An important legislative .text, which may seem to the friends of "Droit d'Auteur" nothing less than peculiar (if not monstrous) was voted on third reading on April 17, 1935, by the Canadian Senate.
That in effect is what leading experts on copyright law say of our present Canadian copyright act.
I suggest that there should be a complete revision of that act, with a view of doing exactly what its title says, making it an act for the protection of copyright and not an act for the protection of everything but copyright. If we go back to the origins of the law -I am not going to trace them-whether common law or statute law, we shall find that in those countries where people were moved by the fairness of the right of the copyright holder, be he composer or author, justice was done to him; also that justice has not been done to our Canadian authors and composers. I shall give but one illustration of the sacredness of copyright, going back to the very earliest times of the colony. I remember reading in the Relations of the Jesuit Fathers that an Indian had his own war song and that nobody else was allowed to sing it; if some one did so it was the right of the one whose copyright had been infringed to engage in warfare and to kill that person if he could. So that copyright goes as far back as the Indians of the earliest days of the colony, and I deplore the fact that even to this day Canadian authors do not enjoy, not the right of life and death over their infringers, but a fair measure of security.
I understand that the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) proposes at a later date to introduce a bill to implement in some respects the report of Judge Parker. This is neither the time nor the place to discuss that report but I am very much afraid that we shall be faced again with the same situation, namely, trying to determine rights in respect of something over which we have no jurisdiction whatever. It may be true that monopolies exist in Canada as regards the collection of these fees, but I pointed out on another occasion that the place to deal with the matter was not on copyright legislation. There is another statute the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, and
Copyright Act-Mr. Cahan
if we must do something by legislation, why not place that provision in the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act and take it out of the copyright act. No other copyright legislation in the world contains such a provision. The place to have it, if you must have it, is outside the statute altogether.
I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, again to say that when the matter arises at a later date either in committee or on the third reading, I shall declare my complete opposition to anything which infringes the conditions under which we entered into the convention of Berne. With all deference I say that the government would be well advised to wait until the next convention takes place in Brussels next September. Then, in the light of what takes place there, after a study .of the grievances that have been alleged against [DOT]our own system and after consultation with experts representing the various other countries, a measure can be framed which we can truly call a copyright act, which will contain the essential of copyright, which is the protection of the copyright owner.
Topic: COPYRIGHT ACT