Hepfner Facebook post and Twitter post, https://www.facebook.com/lisahepfnerMP/posts/pfbid029RTDZHA7hTJTZAg8KYztaMtZAYC1WTFdtSRbfKrnaXnsmoZo3AdGtYZnC6tv1sgDl, https://twitter.com/lisahepfner/status/1593679961398906880

Hepfner Facebook post and Twitter post, https://www.facebook.com/lisahepfnerMP/posts/pfbid029RTDZHA7hTJTZAg8KYztaMtZAYC1WTFdtSRbfKrnaXnsmoZo3AdGtYZnC6tv1sgDl, https://twitter.com/lisahepfner/status/1593679961398906880

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The Bill C-18 Fallout: Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner Equates Linking to News Articles on Facebook to Theft

Last month, Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner shocked Canadian online news outlets by stating that “they’re not news.They’re not gathering news. They’re publishing opinion only.” The comments sparked instant criticism from news outlets across the country, leading Hepfner to issue a quick apology. In the aftermath of the comments, Hepfner said nothing for weeks at Heritage committee studying Bill C-18. That bill passed third reading yesterday – I posted on the embarrassing legislative review – and Hepfner was back at it. Rather than criticizing online news outlets, this time she targeted the Internet platforms, saying the bill would make it “harder for big digital platforms like Facebook and Google to steal local journalists’ articles and repost them without credit.” 

 

 

Much like the claim about online news outlets, Hepfner’s comments sparked an immediate reaction with people such as Jeff Elgie, the CEO of Village Media replying that “they don’t “steal” our content. We willingly publish it on those platforms” and National Observer columnist Max Fawcett similarly stating “they’re not stealing it. They’re sharing it — you know, extending/expanding its reach.” 

The reality is that Hepfner should know that these are just links which include credit and certainly cannot be reasonably described as theft. Indeed, canvassing Hepfner’s own Facebook page reveals that she has regularly posted links to articles from the CBC.ca and Hamilton Spectator (here, here, here, and here). 

 

Hepfner Facebook post and Twitter post, https://www.facebook.com/lisahepfnerMP/posts/pfbid029RTDZHA7hTJTZAg8KYztaMtZAYC1WTFdtSRbfKrnaXnsmoZo3AdGtYZnC6tv1sgDl, https://twitter.com/lisahepfner/status/1593679961398906880

 

Does Hepfner believe these are all examples of theft? If so, is she an accomplice to theft by posting the links in the first place? The links each take the reader to the source, generating potential ad revenue for the CBC or Hamilton Spectator. Is that a lack of credit? Ultimately, why does she think that Facebook should compensate those news outlets for the links that she posted? Or consider that she posted the same link on both Facebook and Twitter on the same day. Consistent with the bill she just voted for, why does she think that Facebook is stealing the link, but Twitter is not? 

Hepfner’s comment not only provide a troubling example of an MP engaging in misinformation about links who has effectively labelled her own Facebook posts as theft, but strikes at the heart of the problem with Bill C-18. As government officials have acknowledged, the entire foundation of the bill is based on paying for links. In fact, when a proposal to remove links from the bill was raised at committee, government MPs described the change as a loophole and voted against it. In the case of the CBC links, the government confirmed that Hepfner could write about the availability of children’s medications (ie. “Great news! CBC reports a million bottles of pain medication are on the way”) but once she added a link to provide a source for the claim, Bill C-18 is triggered.

These examples highlight the absurdity of a law that treats links as compensable and MPs who equate those links to theft. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with Hepfner or anyone else providing a link to a story on greater availability of children’s medicine. In fact, the CBC story has effectively already been paid for by the public and should be shared widely without the government creating barriers to sharing that information. What is wrong is that ill-informed MPs have voted for Bill C-18, creating a framework in which the government is imposing a mandatory payment scheme for some platforms for hosting links. The bill is now headed to the Senate which will hopefully make the necessary amendments to set Hepfner’s mind at ease that her own Facebook posts do not make her an accomplice to theft.

9 Comments

  1. She deleted her twitter post. I guess she didn’t want to leave evidence of her big fat mouth being open with her big fat foot in it again. She really needs to just shut up as every time she opens her mouth she puts her foot in it.

  2. Can you actually call someone who was on CHCH TV a journalist?

  3. Thanks for keeping after this!

    I’m prepared to claim that she has been elegantly taken in by the Facebooks and Googles of this world, who have convinced her and her friends that the should concentrate on copyright law. Of course, when they do, they ignore the problem of FB/Google having a lovely, profitable monopsony. FB/G have a “buyer’s monopoly” on all the eyeballs that the newspapers are competing to attract.
    But no-one’s talking about that! If they did, governments might start looking askance at FB and their friends.

  4. I think both you and Ms. Hepfner are being disingenuous. Her post is clearly about reposting full articles, not about posting links. But of course that’s not what C-18 is about.

  5. Oh bother, Ms. Hepfner has removed the tweet.
    Could you post a copy?

  6. Pingback: Links 17/12/2022: PeerTube Version 5 | Techrights

  7. Perhaps the social media platforms should charge the federal government a per view fee every time the government wants to post a news release. You know, like we used to call advertising.

  8. Pingback: The Bill C-18 Fallout: Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner Equates Linking to News Articles on Facebook to Theft

  9. The most frightening aspect of all this is how ignorant those making the laws are of the unintended consequences of bad legislation.

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