The Senate committee studying Bill C-11 has ramped up the hours devoted to clause-by-clause review with amendments related to user generated content currently up for debate. However, earlier today, just prior to addressing the user content issue, the committee shockingly adopted an amendment that adds age verification for online undertakings to the Broadcasting Act. The amendment comes as a policy objective, meaning that it will fall to the CRTC to determine how to implement it. The implications are enormous since broadly defined the policy would require every online service that transmits or retransmits programs over the Internet (broadly defined to include all audio and audiovisual content) to establish age verification requirements to prevent child access to programs with explicit sexual activity. If the CRTC implements, the policy will surely be challenged as unconstitutional.
From Bad to Worse: Senate Committee Adds Age Verification Requirement for Online Undertakings to Bill C-11
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s claim that Bill C-18, the Online News Act, was a hands-off approach was never really credible, but the clause-by-clause review of the bill has taken the government picking media winners and losers to another level. It was always readily apparent that the bill represents an unprecedented government intervention into the Canadian media sector with the extensive power wielded by the CRTC as it sets regulations and the ground rules for the mandatory arbitration process. Further, the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s estimate on the benefits that might arise from the bill – hundreds of millions of dollars of which more than 75% would go to broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers and the CBC – provided a reminder that there was big money involved of which relatively little would go to the newspaper sector.
In recent weeks, however, the government’s role in picking winners and losers has become even more pronounced. Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner’s ill-advised comment that online news outlets weren’t real news was rightly criticized (leading to an apology and near total silence from Hepfner ever since) but skeptics feared she was merely saying the quiet part out loud since the reality of Bill C-18 is that it is the lobbying product of large media outlets, who are set up as the prime beneficiaries.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 149: Ryan Clements on the FTX Collapse and Canada’s Approach to Crypto Regulation
The stunning collapse of FTX, one of the world’s leading crypto exchanges, has not only shaken the crypto world but called into question the future of blockchain and digital assets. In a year of repeated failures and crashes, the calls for increased regulation are getting louder. Ryan Clements is a law professor at the University of Calgary, where he holds the chair in Business Law and Regulation and specializes in the regulation of fintech, blockchain and crypto-assets. He’s written extensively on crypto regulatory issues, including an expert report on Canadian cryptocurrency governance for the Public Order Emergency Commission. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to provide some background into the growth of crypto, the collapses of Luna and FTX, and where Canada sits on the regulatory spectrum.
Money for Nothing: Government Quietly Expands Bill C-18 Eligibility to Broadcasters That May Not Even Produce News Content
Later today, the Canadian Heritage committee will continue its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-18, the Online News Act. The committee is virtually certain to expand the eligibility of news outlets, responding to concerns that the current criteria may exclude smaller, independent outlets from benefiting from the bill’s mandatory payment/arbitration system. However, earlier this week, just as the committee was hearing that the bill covers quotes with links to news content by users in Facebook posts, it quietly expanded the scope of the definition of “eligible news business” in a manner that opened the eligibility door to some organizations that may not even produce news content. As a result, the bill faces another potential trade challenge as it evolves into a straight subsidy model in which the bulk of the payments go from Internet companies to Canadian broadcasters with little regard for value or any notion of actually use of news content.
A Tale of Two Readouts: U.S. Escalates Trade Concerns With Canadian Digital Policy as Canada Seeks To Downplay the Issue
Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met yesterday to discuss Canada-U.S. Trade issues and concerns regarding Canada’s digital policy – most notably a proposed digital sales tax and Bills C-11 and C-18 – continue to mount. The U.S. raised digital policy concern over the summer, specifically citing Bill C-11 with a reference to “pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services.” The latest readout suggests that the concerns are growing, as the U.S. now cites both Bills C-11 and C-18 by raising “pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services and online news sharing and discriminate against U.S. businesses.”