Mr. Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, here we are again, debating another bill that was put under time allocation, which is 44 or 45 times now.
The irony in this instance is that the government could have had an agreement with the opposition to speed the debate of this bill so that we would be using less time in the House than it took to bring in the time allocation motion, vote on it and then provide a full day of debate, because we in the NDP do want to see this bill go back to committee, where it can be approved. Therefore, we will be supporting it at second reading.
Again, we had time allocation brought in before the Minister of Industry, the person presenting the bill, had even spoken to it. We did not have one full speech in this House. There was a speech by the member for Simcoe—Grey, who spent half of her speech laughing at jokes being told to her by other caucus members. We did not have one full speech before time allocation was brought in.
I would say humbly that this is not democracy. This is not how Parliament is supposed to work. We are supposed to have the opportunity to have full debates in the House on the various issues that are brought forward.
Bill C-56, an act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which is now otherwise titled the “combating counterfeit products act”, is an important issue. It is my honour to rise today to present the lead-off speech on Bill C-56 for the NDP and the official opposition.
Normally our industry critic, the member for LaSalle—Émard, would be leading off on second reading comments on this bill. Our critic had planned to give her remarks on Friday when this bill was supposed to come up for debate; however, because of time allocation and the government playing games, we are here Wednesday evening instead, again preventing certain members of Parliament from participating in this debate in the way that they would like to.
In their rush to introduce yet more record-breaking time allocation motions—as I said, we are at 46 now—the Conservatives rescheduled all the House business this week.
As the NDP's deputy industry critic, it is indeed my privilege to address this bill on behalf of the official opposition. This is a bill the NDP takes very seriously, as opposed to the Conservative government, it would appear, because this bill was presented originally in March. It did not come up for debate until the end of May. Recommendations for this bill were made in a committee report in 2007, again in 2009, and then there were more recommendations from the industry committee in an intellectual property study that was done earlier this year. It has taken the government a very long time to start bringing these forward for implementation.
We have yet to have a whole speech by the Minister of Industry on this bill. Even then, if it was not going to be the minister, we would have thought that maybe it would be the parliamentary secretary, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, but that was not the case.
When the government presents a bill, it is supposed to justify why it is bringing that bill forward. It has yet to do that and has already implemented time allocation.
Instead of a full presentation by the government, what we had was the parliamentary secretary for human resources and skills development getting up and presenting a very short speech on this bill. In her speech she spent a lot of the time laughing and did not seem to be taking the bill seriously. It was so bad that the Speaker had to interrupt and ask if she was able to continue.
I mention all this because it seems to speak to the Conservative government's contempt for Parliament and to its continual practice of introducing legislation that can never be properly implemented because its budget cuts make it impossible.
There are many clichés we would use, but the Conservatives keep putting forth pieces of legislation that are either empty shells or just cherry-picked from among the many recommendations that we need to implement to have solid pieces of legislation. They put forth rules and regulations that perhaps cannot be enforced, because those budget cuts mean that no one will be there to enforce them.
Recent examples include Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act, which the Conservatives put forward without the funding in place to make many of its provisions actually meaningful. Another one, Bill C-54 would make changes to how we would deal with people deemed not criminally responsible, however, it would download the responsibility for mental health care onto the very provinces, which are having their health care budgets slashed again by the Conservative government.
Bill C-56 is another example of the Conservatives playing the shell game they so like to play. It is legislation that on one hand imposes some good rules and on the other hand, through the budget, cuts the jobs of those who are supposed to be enforcing these new rules. I will come back to that point later in my remarks.
Let me say up front, again, that the NDP will support the bill at second reading so it can be sent back to committee and, we hope, fixed to maximum its impact. However, it would indeed be a first at our committee, if we actually saw recommendations and amendments that we brought forward voted on and passed by the Conservatives on the committee. That would be groundbreaking.
The bill dealing with counterfeiting and copyright infringement is important for both Canadian businesses and consumers, especially where counterfeit goods may put the health and safety of Canadians at risk. We will support the bill so it can go back to committee for further study and we want to ensure we maintain the necessary balance on copyright and trademarks.
For instance, the bill would give ex officio powers to our border officers, which the NDP has been calling for since 2007. However, it is very difficult to see how this will be implemented when, last year, the Conservatives slashed $143 million in funding to CBSA, which further reduced front-line officers and harmed our ability to monitor our borders.
CBSA expects to lose several hundred front-line officers by 2015. It is also important to note that in the past the government repeatedly has refused to take a balanced approach to copyright. The NDP believes that intellectual property requires an approach that strikes a balance between the interests of rights holders and the interest of users and consumers.
I will now take a few minutes to explain some of the details of the bill.
Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act, would amend both the Copyright Act and the Trademark Act. Its purpose is to strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark rights and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies or counterfeit trademarks.
The proposed bill will add two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act for possession and exportation of infringing copies and creates offences for selling or offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale. It creates a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods and introduces some balance to that prohibition by creating two exceptions: first, for personal use, items that are in one's possession or baggage; or second, items in transit. It also, as I said, grants new ex officio powers to border officials to detain infringing copies or counterfeit goods, a significant policy shift. Until now, border officials required a warrant before seizing infringing copies or goods at the border.
It also grants new ex officio powers to the Minister of Public Safety and border officials to share information on detained goods with the right holders so they can actually see what is being brought in and take measures themselves to combat that counterfeit and trademark infringement.
That is important, because the businesses do a great job of trying to protect their own products. Seeing what is coming into the country illegally and what products are counterfeited can give them ideas about how to combat that counterfeiting better for themselves.
The proposed bill widens the scope of what can be trademarked to the features found in the broad definition of sign, including colour, shapes, scents and tastes. Measuring the problem in counterfeit goods and copies in Canada and its corresponding impact on the economy is difficult.
The New Democrats, nevertheless, support dealing with counterfeiting, especially where health and safety concerns are at stake. As I have mentioned, it remains unclear to me and many others how the CBSA could implement these enforcement measures in the face of the cuts from budget 2012.
The United States and many industry groups have long called for border measures on counterfeiting. It remains important to continue to be vigilant to ensure that intellectual property laws balance the rights and interests of rights holders with those of consumers and users.
The government has long been aware of the difficulties in measuring the scale of counterfeiting for copies and goods in Canada, a challenge that was identified in a 1998 OECD report on “The Economic Impact of Counterfeiting”. One of the difficulties results from the clandestine nature of counterfeiting. Much of the data is estimated and based on actual seizures, which is anecdotal or comes from industry itself, in which case the collection methods may vary or be unavailable to assess.
In 2007, the industry committee report on counterfeiting recommended that the government establish a reporting system that would track investigations, charges and seizures for infringing copies and counterfeit goods as a means of collecting data.
A recent Industry Canada report published this year notes that, “It is difficult to obtain a precise estimate of the market for counterfeit or pirated products in Canada”. Why? Because, again, the government has delayed bringing this legislation forward. Even now that it has, the Conservatives have not put provisions into the bill to implement those measures I just spoke of so we can start collecting more robust data to more accurately determine the economic impacts of counterfeit and trademark infringement in Canada.
As I said, much of the information in Canada comes from statistics about actual seizures. Industry Canada notes that the retail value of counterfeit goods seized by the RCMP increased from $7.6 million in 2005 to $38 million in 2012.
In 2009, the OECD estimated that the international trade in counterfeit goods and infringing copies could be valued at up to $250 billion U.S. It is a mind-boggling number that there would be that many counterfeit and trademark infringed goods travelling around the world. Law-abiding companies are losing out on much of that revenue.
The same study also reiterated previous calls for better information. We know anecdotally that counterfeit products can pose risks to the health and safety of consumers, whether we are talking about counterfeit electrical components or unsanitary stuffing in goose-down jackets.
I mention unsanitary stuffing in goose-down jackets because when we were at committee, many different Canadian businesses and organizations presented before the committee. One such company was Canada Goose, which is certainly a Canadian success story. However, representatives of Canada Goose brought with them some counterfeit Canada Goose jackets they had collected. The things contained within those counterfeit jackets would make one's toes curl. There were things like feces in the lining, feathers that were not properly treated and sanitized before being stuffed in the jackets. Certainly they were not goose down or coyote fur. Many different animals were being used.
Unfortunately, it was very difficult, on the surface, to detect these jackets as being counterfeit. When we put a real Canada Goose jacket next to a counterfeit jacket, they looked identical. It was not until we took a microscope to it or started to pull the jacket apart that we started to see that one of the jackets was indeed counterfeit.
Other representatives that came before the committee were from Hockey Canada. They talked about the last Olympics we had in Canada and about professional sports jerseys. They found, through studies they conducted and at the Olympics, that sometimes in professional sporting events, up to 70% to 75% of the jerseys being worn at the games were counterfeit. Consumers are unwittingly buying illegal and counterfeit products when they try to support their sports teams. At the Olympics in Vancouver, many stops and arrests were made of individuals selling counterfeit Olympic paraphernalia and products.
It is a growing problem because there is a financial incentive there. There is money to be made in counterfeit goods. We certainly have a responsibility to try to stop as much of it at the border as we can. As for the stuff that gets across the border, we have to deal with it here and hold the appropriate people responsible.
In many cases, as I have said, it is very difficult for consumers to detect whether they are buying legitimate products. However, vigilance is also important and people who have any concerns about products they are buying should go to the manufacturers' websites and contact people in law enforcement if they think they have bought something illegal. There are many things people can do to prevent these crimes and, indeed, to ensure the products they are buying are legitimate.
Dealing with counterfeiting is important to both Canadian businesses and consumers. It is especially important where counterfeit goods put the health and safety of Canadians at risk. Yet again it remains unclear how the enforcement regime being proposed by Bill C-56 will be resourced. This bill would add significant new responsibilities to the duties of border officials during a time of significant budget reductions.
In budget 2012, the Conservatives imposed $143 million in cuts to CBSA, reducing front-line officers and further reducing our ability to monitor the borders. This is interesting. This year's CBSA report on plans and priorities alone indicates a loss of 549 full-time employees between now and 2015. At a time when there is more trade, goods and people crossing the border, we will be cutting front-line officers? It makes absolutely no sense.
Under Bill C-56, customs officers would be asked to make highly complicated assessments on whether goods entering or exiting the country infringed on any copyright or trademark rights. Such an assessment for infringing copyright would include, for example, consideration of whether any of the exceptions under the Copyright Act would apply, something with which the courts often struggle. The New Democrats want the CBSA to be adequately funded to implement this bill without compromising the other responsibilities of protecting Canadians and our borders from things like drugs, guns and other threats.
The United States has lobbied for stronger enforcement measures in Canada for counterfeit and pirated goods for many years. In the 2012 special 301 watch report, the office of the U.S. trade representative stated that the U.S. “continues to urge Canada to strengthen its border enforcement efforts, including by providing customs officials with ex officio authority to take action against the importation, exportation, and transshipment of pirated or counterfeit goods”.
In its June 2012 report on counterfeiting in the Canadian market, the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, a sub-group of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, identified counterfeiting as a barrier to competitiveness and specifically recommended that customs officials have ex officio powers, that Canadian law be amended to bring criminal and civil sanctions for counterfeiting and piracy and that enforcement officials be encouraged to seek strong remedies for infringements.
It bears saying that many of the requests the United States made are, indeed, in this bill. Providing ex officio powers to the CBSA in order to track, monitor and confiscate copyright and trademark infringed goods are terribly important to our long-term safety.
In its recently tabled report, “Intellectual Property Regime in Canada”, the committee recommended border measures that we supported, including providing appropriate ex officio powers to customs officials, civil and criminal remedies for trademark infringement and counterfeiting, allowing customs officials to share information with rights holders regarding suspected goods. All members of the committee agreed that consumers acting non-wilfully should not be subject to excessive fines.
The New Democrats on the committee, of which I am one, filed a dissenting opinion that called on the government to also consult with consumer groups, as well as industry groups, in an effort to combat counterfeiting and piracy, that border officials receive appropriate authority to do their work while respecting civil liberties and due process and that the CBSA be adequately funded to combat counterfeiting without compromising its other important responsibilities to protect Canadians and defend our borders.
Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-56, which is important even though it has some problems and should be improved. We need to debate this today.
Government members need to recognize certain issues. I hope that they will do so in committee, and that they will agree to adopt some important amendments.
For example, there is the fact, as I mentioned to my hon. friend from Scarborough Southwest, that this bill does not cover goods in transit. I am sure that our American neighbours would not be impressed if, for example, a counterfeit shipment travelling from Asia to Vancouver and then on to Los Angeles was not seized here. We are saying that it is their problem and we are not going to take any responsibility for it. That is not what we would ask of them in return. That is something that needs to be fixed.
Additionally, as legislators, we should not simply be ramming through flawed legislation just because the government has a majority. What we see here is a bill that has sat on the order paper for three months now, since it was introduced. The government has not moved it an inch since then. It has not brought the bill forward until today, near the end of the session, when the government is bringing forward its 45th or 46th time allocation.
The government is trying to rush through a whole series of bills, having the House sit until midnight for the last four weeks of the session, and not really giving any of these bills the kind of consideration that they deserve. The government is not allowing for the possibility that any of them might really be improved in committee. As my hon. colleague said, when was the last time that we saw the government side actually accept an amendment from the opposition? That is worrisome.
There are also questions about who would bear the cost of seizure, storage and destruction, particularly when it comes to small businesses. They are concerned about products coming into the country that are counterfeits of what they produce or that affect their copyright. I hope that we will get some clarity on these issues and the legislation that is under consideration in the brief period we are going to have.
I have also heard concerns about the increased powers that would be given to border officers, without any oversight from the courts. We have to keep in mind, as my friend said, that last year the government cut $143 million from the Canada Border Services Agency. Therefore, there is less ability there to do those kinds of jobs, but the government is giving them more to do. They are trying to do the jobs they have and the government is giving them much greater responsibility, and a very complicated responsibility, in assessing which goods coming in may be counterfeit or in breach of copyright and which ones are not.
We need to make sure that this legislation does not result in illegal or illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We also have to ensure that border officials receive the proper training to deal with these very complicated matters. Sometimes, it is a question of what is copyrighted and what is not. We know from the discussion we had on the copyright bill last year that it can sometimes be complex, even for the courts. To ask our border officials to do this without much training and without giving them decent resources to provide that training is unreasonable. How is it going to work effectively if we add to their workload on the one hand, while reducing their resources on the other? These officials do a tremendously important job and we need to give them the tools they need to be able to do that job.
People like Professor Michael Geist, who is an expert on these issues and the chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, are raising copyright issues around this bill. Some voices—not a lot, I will admit, but some—even argue that this legislation may be a backdoor way of bringing back ACTA. I do not think that it is. There is very little in this bill that relates to it, but I appreciate those concerns and respect them. We should examine those concerns and hear from witnesses on topics like that at a thorough examination of this bill in committee.
It is clear that there are many issues, which we, as members of Parliament, have a duty to carefully examine in relation to this bill. That is why it will require the thorough assessment that I just spoke of when it goes to committee.
I hope the government does not simply employ its usual bullying tactics of ramming through another bill because it can. That is wrong and the government knows it.
I also hope we take the time to hear from many voices who support this so-called combating counterfeit products bill. Of course, we have to wait and see. The proof is in the pudding. When it actually gets into effect, we will see how well it does that. I think it will have some positive effect, but it will work better if we can improve it at committee.
Recently I met with members of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating, who want to discuss Bill C-56 as part of their Parliamentary Awareness Day. They made some very coherent arguments in favour of this legislation. I think most, if not all, members of this House would agree with them.
Bill C-56 amends the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act to add new civil and criminal remedies. It would add new border measures in both acts in order to strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark rights, and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies and counterfeit trademark goods.
Whether it is hockey sweaters, radio parts, or the jackets my friend talked about, all kinds of things come in and look like the real thing, but they are not. That is why it is important to be aware of and to deal with this. It has an impact on our economy and our jobs in Canada. We ought be mindful of it.
This would also amend the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, expand the scope of what can be registered as a trademark, allow the Registrar of Trade-marks to correct errors that appear in the Trade-mark register, and to streamline and modernize the trade-mark application and opposition process, all of which is positive.
As an aside, I wish we could see similar kinds of measures to examine the question of official marks, which are very problematic. One can have a group within a province, an association of some type of profession, for example, an association of massage therapists. They were given an official mark for Canada. The idea of these marks is that they can apply all across the country. There could be two groups of massage therapists in Nova Scotia. If one of them gets approved by the people in Ontario and the other one does not, then only one of them gets to use certain phrases that go along with the official mark. That makes no sense at all when the first group was limited to one province. There is a need to examine and amend the official marks legislation as well.
Our caucus recognizes the health and safety risks to Canadians, as well as the detrimental effects to the economy posed by counterfeit goods entering Canada. We believe this bill needs to be amended, but with a little co-operation from the government we believe that can be achieved at committee. The Liberal Party recognizes the need to provide new enforcement tools to help strengthen Canada's existing enforcement regime for counterfeit goods.
My colleagues on the industry committee will recall seeing the counterfeit Canada Goose jackets we heard about a few minutes ago, and hearing about the horrible stuff that can be in these fake jackets. It certainly is not the kind of thing that is going to keep people warm in the deep-freeze of Canadian winters. We have all heard stories of counterfeit circuit breakers being installed in government buildings, or of faulty Christmas tree lights causing house fires. These are counterfeit products that are dangerous for Canadians.
To give an idea of how widespread this problem is, let us consider the fact that 1,800 cases of counterfeit electronic parts, apparently made in China, have been discovered in U.S. cargo planes, helicopters and other military aircraft. Yes, I said military aircraft. Imagine what that is like and how scary it would be for those operating one of them, particularly in a place of conflict or danger.
This is a very big issue for government, businesses and consumers. With regard to consumers, counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs can be an issue. The drugs are improper, and it could be that the doses are too low or it is the wrong material entirely. That is pretty scary as well.
In April, the RCMP, provincial and local police conducted an operation at a flea market in Hamilton, and they seized about $100,000 in counterfeit goods. That included designer purses, jeans, sunglasses and DVDs. We do not think of these as endangering public safety or health, but they certainly have an impact on jobs in Canada.
Overall, the retail value of counterfeit products seized by the RCMP has increased over fivefold from 2005 to 2012, from $7.6 million to $38 million. This is just the estimate, of course.
The Liberal Party believes that Canadian businesses must be protected to ensure the well-being of the domestic enterprises and the health and safety of Canadians. It is also important, of course, to protect the jobs of Canadians and the integrity of the Canadian economy as a whole.
We would like to see a robust public education program regarding the possession, production and distribution of counterfeit goods. We would like to investigate and further study the challenges that the Internet and e-commerce pose as a loophole to the seizure and reduction in the presence of counterfeit products. We are talking about seizing shipments at the borders. When things are coming in one at a time by mail, by UPS, or whatever, it is a much more difficult for our border services to deal with.
With the current government's ongoing deficits, we question how the Conservatives would fund this new prevention and investigative system, particularly with the $142 million cut to CBSA last year. Border officers are by no means copyright experts. They would be given new and increased powers that are not overseen by the courts, which may lead to illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights. That is certainly a problem. We also believe that small businesses should be exempted from the costs that would be imposed by the bill.
Several areas of concerns, other than those I have mentioned, have been raised. With the increased number of seizures due to increased powers being given to border officers and the RCMP, how would the government fund such extensive investigative legal operations, particularly in view of the cuts I talked about? Should genuine or non-counterfeit products be seized and destroyed, how would the government compensate companies and individuals? How would the government determine whether importers of counterfeit products are aware that these products are counterfeit? Why are there no provisions for counterfeit goods being transshipped through Canada?
Bill C-56 does strive to reduce the presence of counterfeit trademark goods being sold and distributed in Canada by providing new enforcement tools. The bill would bolster Canada's enforcement regime at the border, and domestically, and would address negative impacts of counterfeit goods by giving border officers the authority to detain suspected commercial shipments and contact rights holders. It would allow Canadian businesses to file a request for assistance with the CBSA, in turn enabling border officers to share information with rights holders regarding suspect shipments. Those are valuable and worthwhile things, especially if people have the resources to do it.
The bill would provide new criminal offences for commercial possession, manufacturing or trafficking of counterfeit trademark goods. It would provide legitimate owners with new tools to protect their rights and take civil action against infringers. It would create new offences for a trademark counterfeiter. It would provide better tools to investigate commercial counterfeiting.
We support the intent of the legislation, and we will support it at second reading to have it sent to committee. We support where it wants to go. However, we think it needs to be improved, and I hope my hon. colleagues would be open to amending and improving the bill at committee.
Mr. John Carmichael (Don Valley West, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the second reading of Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act.
Counterfeit goods hurt our economy. They undermine innovation and the integrity of Canadian brands. They threaten economic growth and they threaten job creation. Moreover, they threaten the health and safety of Canadians.
The bill before us takes important steps to modernize Canada's intellectual property legislation to address counterfeiting. I would like to speak to the impact this bill will have on those who have created a copyrighted work or have invested in a registered trademark. I would then like to demonstrate how our measures will protect Canadian consumers and families while targeting commercial counterfeiting.
Bill C-56 introduces changes in four key areas: border enforcement, greater civil tools to enforce intellectual property rights, reduced red tape burdens on rights holders and improved criminal offences. These are all worthy objectives and deserve our support, which it seems we are achieving tonight. They will help protect legitimate businesses from unfair competition by those who minimize costs and maximize profits through counterfeiting.
It is difficult to obtain a precise estimate of how big a problem counterfeiting truly represents in Canada. The rights holders are often reluctant to report that their products are being counterfeited. They are concerned that their brand image will suffer as a result.
The RCMP calculates that between 2005 and 2012, over 4,500 cases of IP crime were investigated in Canada. During that period, the retail value of counterfeit goods seized by the RCMP increased fivefold, from $7.6 million to $38 million.
Sales of counterfeit items represent lost income for a legitimate rights owner for a genuine product. Given that many incidents of counterfeiting are not reported, we can assume that the actual cost in lost sales to rights holders is much more.
Counterfeiting costs the legitimate rights holders in other ways. It costs in terms of the effort to maintain customer relations with consumers, who may be dissatisfied with the quality of a product, not realizing that it was not produced by the legitimate rights holder. It also has a cooling effect in terms of innovation. It makes rights holders more reluctant to invest in the development of new, innovative products if they know that their research will only serve to enrich others who will knock off cheap counterfeit versions of their products. The counterfeiters have no R and D costs. They have no advertising costs. They are piggybacking on the investments made by the legitimate rights holders.
It costs in terms of giving serious and organized crime a foothold in the marketplace. According to Interpol, the profits are so high in counterfeiting that it serves as a magnet to those who seek ways to finance other criminal activity, including drug trafficking, human smuggling and robbery. Some people may believe that counterfeiting is a victimless crime. This is clearly untrue.
Over the years, many hon. members have devoted their time and knowledge to studying the challenge of counterfeiting. I would remind the House that both the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security studied the problem in 2007. Again, last year, the industry committee called witnesses to testify about the impact of counterfeiting and other intellectual property issues.
I am sure that hon. members were attentive to the tabling of our committee's report in March on Canada's IP regime. It makes several recommendations regarding counterfeiting and piracy of trademarks and copyrights.The committee recommends, for example, that legislation should introduce both civil and criminal remedies for trademark counterfeiting. The bill before us would create such a regime for both civil and criminal remedies. It would provide rights holders with expanded civil causes of action. Holders of registered trademarks would be able to stop counterfeit goods earlier in the supply chain, before they reached the market. Under the current system, rights holders can pursue civil action only if the offender has sold or distributed a counterfeit product. In other words, the manufacture or possession of counterfeit products is not against the law.
Under clause 21 of the bill before us, “A person shall not manufacture, cause to be manufactured, possess, import, export or attempt to export any goods”. Clause 21 also addresses the increasing phenomenon of counterfeiters shipping the knock-off products separately from the counterfeit labels. The practice is to attach the labels at the last minute so as to avoid detection. Under the bill before us, rights holders can pursue civil remedies against those who manufacture or ship labels intended to be later attached to those counterfeit goods.
The committee report calls for a combination of civil and criminal remedies. On the criminal side, the bill would ensure that selling, distributing, possessing, importing or exporting counterfeit goods for the purpose of trade would be prohibited and subject to fines and possible jail time. In addition, new criminal offences for possessing and exporting pirated goods for commercial purposes would be added to the Copyright Act.
In its report on Canada's intellectual property regime, the standing committee recommended that Customs officials be allowed to share information with rights holders regarding suspected goods. The bill would grant border service officers the authority to search for and detain suspected counterfeit goods and to inform trademark owners of the detention.
Under the current regime, a rights holder must obtain a court order to stop a suspected shipment. Under the current system, rights holders must know, among other things, that counterfeit goods are coming from a particular location in an approximate time period, and they must also provide enough information to identify the goods, as required by the court.
There are many ways in which this system is inadequate for the rights holder. Perhaps the rights holder knows that goods are coming from a particular factory but cannot identify when or how. Perhaps the trademark holder does not gather enough evidence to convince a court to act. Perhaps the Canada Border Services Agency encounters suspected counterfeit goods, but under the Customs Act, does not have the authority to take action or notify a trademark or copyright owner in the absence of a court order. Perhaps the rights holder does not know that a shipment is coming, and under the current regime, the trademark holder remains in ignorance. In each of these cases, enforcement at the border is not an option.
This bill before us would remedy that situation by granting border services officers the authority to detain suspected counterfeit goods on their own initiative. It would also facilitate detention through the request-for-assistance system. Through this system, rights holders would be able to provide Canada Border Services Agency with information about their copyright or registered trademark as well as contact information. The border services officer would use this information to help identify and detain suspected counterfeit goods and would have the authority under the Trade-marks Act or the Copyright Act to detain them. Through the consequential amendments to the Customs Act contained in this bill, the border services officer would then have the authority to contact the rights holders to share relevant information regarding these goods to determine whether the goods were indeed counterfeit, and that the rights holder would have the option of pursuing civil action.
In other words, the CBSA would be able to provide the rights holders with limited, necessary information that would help in a civil case.
The bill before us would give the rights holder, the CBSA and law enforcement the tools required to crack down on counterfeiting. As a result, we would reduce the damage that counterfeiting inflicts on the Canadian economy, including reduced sales for legitimate businesses and lost tax revenue for governments.
I would also like to draw the attention of the House to the impact of the bill on consumers and the protection it would afford to individual Canadians.
The legitimate businesses whose products have been copied illegally are not the only victims of counterfeiting. Because counterfeit products forgo safety regulations, certifications and quality controls, the consumer who purchases them has also been victimized.
For example, purchasers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals have no way of knowing whether the active ingredient is the required dosage for their prescription. Purchasers of counterfeit batteries do not know that the product may be prone to exploding or leaking. Purchasers of counterfeit children's toys may be putting children in danger of choking hazards or toxic paints. Purchasers of counterfeit electronic items may be buying products that could ignite or explode.
Consumers have become the victims of counterfeit products in many different ways, but today I would like to remind the House that it is in no way the intention of this bill to victimize them any further by confiscating products they have purchased for their own personal use.
Let me remind the House of where the laws governing counterfeiting are made stronger and clearer.
Under the current law, there are many gaps in the ability to go after counterfeiters in either the criminal or civil courts. There is no action that can be taken for goods that have not yet reached the marketplace. An individual is not violating a trademark owner's rights by manufacturing or importing counterfeit goods that will be sold.
It is possible to import counterfeit goods to sell in Canada, it is possible to have a warehouse full of trademark-infringing goods to be sold in the future and it is also possible to make counterfeit goods to sell in Canada or counterfeit labels that will be put on those goods.
Presently it is unlawful to sell counterfeit goods on the street or in a store. It is also unlawful to sell goods with a mark that might be confused with a registered trademark. This bill would close any loopholes by giving trademark owners the ability to stop counterfeit goods at all stages of the distribution chain, from manufacturing to retail sale. It would also create a civil action for selling or offering for sale labels or packaging that is to be applied to counterfeit merchandise.
I want to be very clear that these provisions are designed to target the commercial operations of counterfeiters. They provide federal agencies and rights holders with the tools to confront criminals who gain commercially from the sale of these goods. We believe that the best way to stop illegal counterfeiting is to crack down on commercial counterfeiting at its very roots.
The measures apply only to those who knowingly possess counterfeit goods for commercial purposes. They are not targeted at the private, non-commercial activities of individuals. They are not designed to prosecute individuals who have purchased counterfeit or pirated products. We are not going after individuals who may own a pirated DVD or a counterfeit watch bought from a sidewalk vendor. Counterfeit items found in an individual's luggage for personal use will not be seized by border service officers.
In fact, the bill provides a specific exception at the border for individuals who happen to have counterfeit or pirated goods that are intended for personal use as part of their personal baggage. This exception is in no way intended to encourage the personal use of counterfeit goods, but it protects Canadians and enables border services officers to focus their attention on the root cause, which is the commercial abuse of trademarks and copyright, a growing problem in Canada and around the world.
I expect that the new civil and criminal measures included in the bill will give rights holders and law enforcement the tools they need to bring commercial counterfeiting cases before the courts. This will raise the profile of the problems that counterfeiting has created in Canada's economy and the health and safety risks they pose to consumers. The measures in the bill are designed to help federal agencies and rights holders target their efforts to confronting criminals who gain commercially from the sale of these goods.
Many Canadians regard buying counterfeit goods as unethical, as our industry committee was told in meetings throughout the past quarter, although some see it as a victimless crime. However, awareness is growing, and I believe there will be significant public support for reducing the damage done to Canadian jobs and the health and safety risks to consumers that are caused by these counterfeit goods.
I would remind the House that the bill before us responds to many of the recommendations made by the committee. It would enable border <services officers to detain counterfeit items and to share limited information with rights holders. It would introduce new civil and criminal remedies for trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. It would grant an exception to consumers who bring across the border counterfeited or pirated goods for their personal use. It would provide additional criminal offences and tools to strengthen Canada's enforcement laws.
The bill represents an important step in the government's ongoing efforts to create the marketplace framework laws, including intellectual property laws, that foster innovation, jobs and economic growth in Canada. I would ask hon. members to join me in protecting Canadian consumers' health and safety and in protecting the work of innovative Canadian entrepreneurs and the jobs they create.
I hope all hon. members will join me in supporting swift passage of Bill C-56.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an extreme honour to rise in this great House representing the people of Timmins—James Bay and to speak of their concerns.
I am pleased to speak tonight to this bill dealing with counterfeit goods. This is the kind of work we really need to do in Parliament.
The issue of the threat of counterfeit and bootlegged goods is major for economic innovation. It is certainly a question of intellectual development of technologies, such as those in the mining sector.
People in my region were concerned about Falconbridge, the great former Canadian company that was taken over under the Conservative government's watch. People were concerned at the time that it would be taken over by a foreign state-owned enterprise. They were concerned about the intellectual property. Falconbridge had made exceedingly progressive development with respect to ore bodies. These are issues of other interests taking over the intellectual property and undermining Canadian innovation.
We have to deal with the issues of knock-offs, counterfeit goods and unsafe products that are coming in at the border.
We have to put what we are actually talking about in context. We are talking about copyright and trademarks. We are talking about bootlegged items. We are also talking about generic goods and competition.
It is important that we are able to differentiate between the criminal knock-off elements and bootlegged products. Certain rights holders will claim counterfeit or copyright infringement because they feel it is a threat to their economic business model.
One of the fascinating things about innovation is that today's corporate best citizens were yesterday's pirates. Probably the best example of the most militant when it comes to taking on piracy is Hollywood and the Motion Picture Association of America. It lobbies strongly in the United States and the United States is more than willing to twist the arms of any of its allies around the world if they are seen as being a threat to Hollywood.
The market did not go out to California because the weather was nice. The market was in the east. Hollywood was set up because it was beyond the jurisdiction of the Thomas Edison corporation, which had the copyright on motion picture cameras. The market went out to Los Angeles because it was basically a free country there. It was outlaw country. Hollywood was set up outside the jurisdiction so the Thomas Edison corporation could not get them on stealing intellectual property and Hollywood developed. It is an interesting story.
John Philip Sousa tried to stop the development of the roller piano because it was seen as a threat to the livelihood of live musicians. We do not have roller pianos anymore. The American Music Publishers Association denounced the development of the gramophone because it undermined the need for roller pianos.
The pirates who were taking away from live musicians were then threatened by the development of the record player. People only had to buy the record player. They did not have to worry about the copyright that was being paid to the publishers.
Then radio came along. The record industry went after the radio industry because it believed the radio industry was stealing its intellectual property, which was in fact quite accurate. Between 1928 and 1931, the sale of recorded music dropped by 90% in the United States. Part of that drop was a result of the depression, but the other reason was the technological threat posed to the music industry, which was faced with two options at that time. The first option was to try to shut down the commercial use of radio. The other option was to remunerate the artists for what was being played on the air. The record industry rebounded.
FM radio was invented in the 1930s. It was certainly much superior to AM radio. For about 40 years congress did not push for the development of FM radio because RCA had bought up all the licences for AM stations. FM radio was seen as a threat to RCA's business model.
I am not in any way diminishing the issue of counterfeit goods. What I am talking about is the complexity of the issue that is going to face our people at the border. I am very glad we are going to have laws that deal with this because it is where the shipments are coming across.
However, we are asking our border guards to differentiate at times between very complex issues and sometimes there are competing interests. For example, we had a landmark case in the United States under the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, between two garage door opener companies. I think it was Chamberlain Group, Inc. that had invented a garage door opener. If people lost their garage door openers, they were stuck and had to buy a whole new system. Then Skylight Technologies, Inc. came along and said that it would make a generic garage door opener. That was considered a bootleg product and it went through the United States court system.
It is interesting. The U.S. has very heavy protections for intellectual property. However, if we look at what the U.S. courts have ruled on intellectual property, very similar to Canada, France and Europe, it is the balancing act between innovation and sometimes things that are seen as economic threats and actual economic innovation.
In Bonita Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., there was a unanimous court decision by Justice O'Connor, who said:
|| From their inception, the federal patent laws have embodied a careful balance between the need to promote innovation and the recognition that imitation and refinement through imitation are both necessary to invention itself and the very lifeblood of a competitive economy
Two years later, Justice O'Connor repeated similar views in the Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co. He said:
|It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly observed this is not “some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme”.... It is, rather, “the essence of copyright”...
What we are hearing might seem somewhat contradictory, in that copyright is not just a protection to the creator, but it is also a limitation on the rights of the creator to say that an innovative economy is going to develop through imitation.
This goes back to the beginning, in 1841, when Lord Macaulay, during the copyright debates, referred to the people trying to bring laws in as the “knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men”. People were actually ripping off the books and selling them cheaply on the streets of London, because it was the book wars at that time.
Lord Macaulay also said that it was important they would not just create monopoly rights for a small clique of book owners because the development of the English identity would not be possible unless they opened up the market, that they had to create enough of a space to allow the innovation and the proper remuneration to the creators, but they could not create a simple monopoly right that would limit future competitors, today's pirates who are coming in and wanting to get into the market.
I am using the word “pirate” in the sense that we are defending the people who are dealing in bootleg products and bringing in unsafe products.
What I am talking about is the need for us to also recognize that when we have trademark and counterfeit and copyright protection, we will have conflicts that go through the courts between some of the upstarts and some of the big players. It is not in the interests of the big players to ever have competition. We have to ensure that happens. Therefore, when we look at our laws, we want to ensure they happen in a form we can differentiate.
I mention this again because a lot of this will be dealt with at the border where there will be a lot of judgment calls being made. It certainly is important that we give our border officials the ability to seize the goods at the border that need to be seized.
It is funny. When I look at the government's record on standing on intellectual property, it has been a little less than competent. We have a number of examples.
In December 2006, the famous member for Beauce met with the U.S. ambassador, David Wilkins, according to what came out in the WikiLeaks documents. He promised him that our copyright legislation would be just in line with the United States and even promised to show the legislation to U.S. officials before it was brought to Parliament. That would have been an extremely terrible breach of the privilege of the members of the House.
Fortunately, the member for Beauce never got the chance because he went and lost other documents at his girlfriend's house, and so he went back to the backbenches. That little incident did not happen.
We are being told that we need this legislation because of the U.S. 301 watch list. This watch list is a special trade list for countries that are far beyond the norm—the outliers. The countries that are on the 301 watch list are like Yemen and North Korea. They are the countries that the U.S. trade officials say are beyond the laws of intellectual property. They are countries where bootleg products and corrupt practices are the norm.
In April 2009, the special assistant to the now President of the Treasury Board, Zoe Addington, the director of policy for the minister, met with the U.S. trade officials. Again, this comes to us thanks to WikiLeaks, “In contrast to the messages from other Canadian officials, she said that if Canada is elevated to the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL), it would not hamper — and might even help — the [Government of Canada's] ability to enact copyright legislation.”
This is staggering. The right hand of one of the key ministers of the government tells American officials to put us on the most notorious watch list as though none of the intellectual property standards in this country were legitimate at all and that we are a complete outlier.
What does that do for Canada's international trade reputation? Here is a government that promotes trade to Canadians in the House. Although the Conservatives do not have much to show for it, they are always promoting their trade agenda, yet they go to our number one trading partner and beg them to put us on an international watch list as an outlier country. Can members guess what happened? A couple of weeks later, Canada was added to the 301 watch list as a country that could not be trusted because of its abuse of intellectual property.
Now, we did not hear a peep from government members standing up for the Canadian industries that are actually trying to work in the United States and Europe. They did not defend the fact that we did have intellectual property rights and that we did respect intellectual property. No, the Conservative government was promoting us as an outlier.
However, it was interesting when the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents the biggest intellectual property groups in the United States, such as the Googles and Yahoos, went before the United States trade representative to give a special hearing and spoke up for Canada. There was no Canadian representation there, but we had the Computer and Communications Industry Association saying that the very legitimacy of the U.S. 301 watch list was obviously being put in question by the dubious plan to have Canada listed as an international outlier. They said that the attempt to use trade policy to force through domestic policy was fundamentally flawed.
This is what we have seen again and again with the Conservative government.
However, continuing on with intellectual protection, do members remember the famous iPod press conference? The present Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and the President of the Treasury Board, the one who was begging the United States to damage our trade reputation, stood at a mall tilting at windmills. It was like they were Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, raising their fists for consumers, saying that they would stop that dreaded NDP $75 iPod tax. I think they meant the $21-billion NDP iPod tax or whatever it was, but they would never allow this iPod tax. This was a job-killing iPod tax. They stood out there like two ridiculous figures doing this dance while people at the mall were wondering what they were talking about.
They were talking about Canada's long-standing levy on blank cassettes and CDs, which was seen as a model around the world for allowing some manner of remuneration to artists for the massive amount of copying that was going on. This was actually considered an extremely progressive step.
I met with the Copyright Board and found out what it was looking at. There was no such thing as a $75 job-killing NDP iPod and carbon tax. No, it was talking about a $3 levy on a $200 iPod that would have gone into a fund for artists because we know that there is all manner of copying going on.
That fund, according to the Copyright Board, would have created a $35-million fund for the artists to continue their work. We see how the entertainment industry in Canada and North America has been devastated by the development of digital culture. This is not against digital culture, but the market has not been able to recover. We need new models to re-establish the incredible arts community, but we had these two ministers doing a song and dance of deceit over this $75 tax, they were calling it. At the time, nobody believed it.
The Edmonton Journal said that the New Democratic Party's position on the levy was “perfectly reasonable”, and that the Minister of Industry misrepresented its content and that the NDP's position was thoughtful and it upheld basic Canadian values. The National Post said, “The government's nonsensical, 'Boo! Hiss! No new taxes!' response…is just dumb”.
Of course, we did not know just how dumb it was when it turned around and, wait for it, what did it put on the iPod? It put on a tax. It put its own iPod tax on, so boo hiss dumb. How dumb can the Conservatives get if they get their two key ministers to stand out there and do a ridiculous song and dance to defend consumers while they are undermining the rights of artists and taking $35 million out of the recording industry that is promoting Canadian entertainment, and then turn around and put an iPod tax on.
The government has failed in some key areas of intellectual property. I am glad to see that we are going forward right now and dealing with the issue of counterfeit. I hope that the Conservatives will actually be able to see through some of the problems in terms of ensuring that we have the resources.
I would like to follow up on my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who asked a very straightforward question. If the Conservatives are cutting $143 million from border security, how will they be able to deal with the counterfeit and bootleg products that come in? I talk to rights holders and they tell me that when they go to a mall in Toronto and see piles of bootleg DVDs and CDs, who do they call? The RCMP? They do not have the resources. The Toronto police will not do anything, so what it creates instead is a culture where the rights holder is forced to go to litigation.
If it is a big player, it can go to litigation, but if it is a small player, it is very difficult. If the player cannot stop the product, if it is not going to seize the product, but can go to litigation, it is a recipe that puts rights holders continually at a disadvantage.
I would like to think that within this House we could work on a bill that would ensure that there are other resources to seize the products that need to be seized, but that we are not getting caught up in battles between rights holders as to what is legitimate and what is generic. We have also seen in Europe where medicines have been seized. It was claimed they were counterfeit when they were not counterfeit; they were generic. These are important things because they have actually become part of trade disputes, and our front-line officers will have to deal with it.
That being said, in the New Democratic Party, we want action on the bootleg goods that are threatening not just the health and safety, but the innovation of our economy. It will be the balance. Going back through copyright and trademark infringement laws across the world could be issues that we need to have balanced. Fortunately, we see the word “balance” in the dictionary. If we were looking up antonyms we might see the Conservative Party of Canada.
What we need to have here is, out of the work of all the committee members in this chamber, to ensure that we have the right balance and then we have the resources and the tools. If we say we will be serious about dealing with the counterfeit and bootleg products that are undermining our economy, then the police and the appropriate authorities would have the power to deal with this as it comes through.
Mr. Mark Adler (York Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today. It is a privilege to speak in support of Bill C-56, combating counterfeit products act.
One of our government's top priorities has been to help build safer communities for all Canadians. Now, more than ever, safe communities and economic prosperity go hand in hand. That is why our government has a robust agenda in place to disrupt fraud and to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities face severe penalties. That is why, for example, we passed Bill C-59, so that criminals convicted of white-colour crimes can no longer be released from prison after serving only one-sixth of their sentence.
Similarly, counterfeit crimes are becoming more prevalent. They are a tangible threat to our economy that undermines innovation and the integrity of Canadian brands. It is not so simple as when one's aunt or cousin goes to China or Taiwan and buys a knock-off watch or purse, or when one buys something similar out of the trunk of a car in Toronto. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Counterfeiting threatens economic growth and job creation, as well as the health and safety of all Canadians. With this legislation, we are standing up for Canadian businesses and consumers to ensure they do not become victims of counterfeit crime by vast criminal organizations.
Bill C-56 deals with counterfeit goods and the ability of our border services and law-enforcement officials to take on this steadily rising problem. By counterfeit, we mean fake replicas of an original product. More specifically, it is an unauthorized reproduction of goods that are protected by a trademark. By registering these rights, the trademark owner is protected against the unauthorized use of the intellectual property. That means that any reproduction of the intellectual property owner's trademark is protected by Canadian law. Copies produced without the consent of a copyright holder are commonly known as pirated goods.
Let me be crystal clear: counterfeit goods are illegal. However, until now, rights holders have not had strong recourse to do anything about the theft of their intellectual property. The ability to enforce intellectual property rights and apply penalties on those manufacturing and profiting from intellectual property infringement has not been as comprehensive as is required in today's globalized world. Bill C-56 intends to rectify this. Commercial large-scale counterfeiting and related crimes pose a very serious threat to the health and safety of Canadians. They involve a vast array of products, ranging from clothes to medications to toys, cosmetics, batteries, electronics, books and multimedia.
Counterfeiting is on the rise in Canada, as it is in the rest of the world. These activities used to be localized, centred on high-end luxury designer goods. They were knock-offs closely resembling legitimate goods. However, this has developed into a worldwide industry that is much more dangerous than before. This is due to the technological process and the increase in global trade. Another reason is the perception by some that counterfeiting and piracy are victimless crimes. I assure members that they are not.
Canadians are often the innocent victims, purchasing goods they believe to be legitimate and safe. However, Canadians need to be confident that the products they buy are genuine and safe and will not cause harm to themselves or their families. The harm associated with the trade in counterfeit goods is significant. It not only includes health and safety risks posed by goods of inferior quality, but decreased consumer confidence in the marketplace, lost tax revenue for the government, and lost profits for intellectual property owners who suffer as a result of such infringement.
Bill C-56 would target the manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit and pirated products, those who profit from this crime. We are going after large-scale operations that victimize Canadian consumers.
Our government knows that the most effective way to stop the proliferation of counterfeit goods is by targeting those who create and sell the goods. Bill C-56 is designed to ensure that federal agencies and rights holders focus their efforts on those criminal operations that seek financial gain from the sale of these goods and not the individuals who purchase these goods for personal use.
For several years, Canadian businesses and industry associations have been relentlessly recommending changes to Canada's intellectual property legislation to better address the modern practices involved in counterfeiting. Our government consulted, and we listened. In 2012, the recommendations were discussed during hearings of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and we are making strides in addressing these needs.
We highlight the importance of protecting intellectual property to foster an environment that encourages economic prosperity, innovation and competition. In the rapidly changing global economy, protecting intellectual property is essential for international trade and overall economic growth. It is critical to ensuring that Canada remains competitive. The RCMP calculated that more than 4,500 cases of intellectual property crimes were investigated in Canada between 2005 and 2012. The retail value of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by the RCMP increased from $7.6 million, in 2005, to a staggering $38 million in 2012, a fivefold increase.
Other countries are also reporting an upward trend in both counterfeiting cases and total retail values. This is important. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is convinced that organized crime groups are involved in counterfeiting in Canada, especially as these crimes see high profit margins and low risks of being caught. Organized crime groups typically use the Internet to acquire and sell counterfeit goods and are mostly involved in distribution operations, which are usually routed from the United States and Asia.
The exponential growth in the use of technology such as the Internet has increased the often unsuspecting consumer's accessibility to products which may be counterfeit. Counterfeiting is an issue of safety for Canadian consumers, as well as an issue of ensuring economic prosperity for Canadian businesses. We know that there is great profit to be found in counterfeit goods. Sophisticated organized crime groups involved in the lucrative sale of illegally produced counterfeit products may subsequently reinvest their products into other illegal activities, such as drugs and firearms, which threaten the safety and security of our communities.
The legislation before us today would go a long way to enhancing our efforts to combat this serious crime. The best way to stop illegal counterfeiting is to curtail the commercial distribution and sale of counterfeit and pirated goods in Canada. This bill would increase the capacity of the Canada Border Services Agency to deal with these crimes at the point of entry into Canada. It would allow border service officers and law enforcement officials to disrupt the availability of counterfeit and pirated goods in our markets.
The Canada Border Services Agency will now have the authority to detain these goods and alert the companies that invested in research and development to seek remedy in the courts. This would result in diminishing the financial incentive of organized crime groups seeking high profits with low risk. The bill would also help reduce trade in counterfeit goods by providing new enforcement tools to strengthen Canada's existing intellectual property rights enforcement regime both at our borders and within Canada, as well as bolster our existing protections against commercial counterfeiting activities. At the same time, it would ensure robust protection for Canadians who own or travel with items for personal use.
In the last couple of years we have taken concrete action to protect intellectual property, including passing the Copyright Modernization Act. However, more needs to be done, which is why this bill is imperative. Currently, a number of Canadian laws protect intellectual property rights.
As I mentioned earlier, an intellectual property right generally gives the holder protection against unauthorized use of their product. The Trade-marks Act and the Copyright Act allow intellectual property owners, be they individuals or companies, to institute civil proceedings when their rights have been infringed upon. However, these civil proceedings are so difficult, long and costly that the majority of victims feel that it is pointless to undertake them.
Bill C-56 intends to change that. It would provide rights holders with new tools to protect their intellectual property rights and take effective civil action against infringers. It creates new offences for trademark counterfeiting similar to those already in place for copyright piracy. As well, it would provide new criminal offences for the commercial possession, manufacture or trafficking of trademark counterfeit goods and copyright-infringement copies.
With this bill, rights holders would be able to file what is called a “request for assistance” with Canada Border Services Agency, which in turn would enable border service officers to share information with rights holders regarding suspect shipments. Border service officers would also have the authority to detain suspected shipments and share information with the rights holders. The bill would also strengthen the Trade-marks Act to support enforcement activities and better align Canada's intellectual property regime with international standards.
Counterfeiting is a very serious intellectual property violation that hurts us and like-minded countries. Canada has pledged to provide effective legal protection in accordance with the international agreements with our allies, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.
National security and economic prosperity go hand in hand, and protection of our intellectual property is integral to this. Once passed, Bill C-56 would provide new tools to border service and law enforcement officers to enhance the security of Canada. It would reduce the presence of counterfeit goods in Canada, thereby protecting the integrity of our economy, supporting Canadian growth and job creation and helping to protect Canadians from the health and safety risks posed by harmful counterfeit goods.
In summary, this new legislation would protect Canadian consumers. It would protect Canadian manufacturers and Canadian retailers. It would protect the Canadian economy from the health and economic threats presented by counterfeit and pirated goods coming into our country.
Our government focuses on what matters most to Canadians, and our government will continue to stand up for Canadian consumers and businesses, ensuring that they do not fall victim to trademark counterfeiting. We will continue to create strong, modern rules to protect our economy and the health and safety of Canadians.
The bill before us today is just one more way we are moving forward with our plan for safe streets and communities, which is one of our key priorities on behalf of all Canadians. This plan focuses on strengthening legislation, tackling crime, supporting victims' rights and ensuring fair and efficient justice.
Today, with this legislation, we are covering off all the bases of the plan. We are strengthening current legislation by introducing new tools for rights holders to protect their intellectual property rights and take civil action against infringers. We are tackling serious and organized crime and are closing off one more avenue of financial profit for those who undertake illegal activity. We are supporting the rights of victims, not only those innocent Canadians who buy the counterfeit products but those rights holders whose trademark rights are illegally infringed. We are ensuring fair justice by giving rights holders the ability to pursue civil action.
Now is the time to implement legislation that will definitively address this issue. I therefore urge all members of the House to support the bill before us today and to work toward its expeditious passage.