The debate over Bill C-11 was marked by a massive effort from digital creators to urge the government to exclude user content regulation from the scope of the legislation. While Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez misleadingly insisted that user content was not covered by the bill, it took a policy direction to the CRTC (which is still in draft form) after the bill was passed to make that a reality. Many other groups stayed on the sidelines during the Bill C-11 debates, choosing to instead to wait for the CRTC process to make their concerns known. That started this week with the CRTC’s Bill C-11 consultations on registration requirements and potential exemptions (a post on my submission here) with a myriad of well-known streaming services calling on the regulator to establish additional exclusions from Bill C-11’s requirements.
The calls for exemptions are a function of Bill C-11’s wildly over-broad approach in which all video streaming services anywhere in the world are technically subject to Canadian broadcasting law. Indeed, with Bill C-11 adopting the position that it regulates all audio and audiovisual content (all treated as “programs” under the law), the only real limits are those established by the CRTC. As a result, there are no shortage of submissions seeking exemptions from the law. These include:
- Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which supports the government’s commitment to exclude video games
- Mindgeek, the Canadian owner of Pornhub, which is seeking a full exception for adult content streaming sites
- Apple, which calls on the Commission to exempt podcast and fitness streaming services
- UFC, which wants Fight Pass exempted, arguing that any service without Canadian broadcast competition should be exempted
- PBS, the U.S. public broadcaster, which wants non-profit broadcasters exempted
- Bell, which claims that all online news services should be exempted
- TikTok and Meta, which both argue that social media services should be exempted
- Spotify, which seeks exemptions for podcasts and audiobooks
Given the structure of Bill C-11, none of this should come as a surprise. In fact, an internal Canadian Heritage memo identified many of these services as being caught by the bill, making it clear the bill’s regulatory scope extended far beyond just big tech. When combined with the coming battle over economic thresholds – the CRTC proposed $10 million in revenues, while submissions range from $1 million to $100 million – the fight to be excluded from Bill C-11’s regulatory requirements is only getting started.