The much-anticipated Bill C-11 hearing opens this week at the CRTC. For the next three weeks, the Commission will hear from a wide range of stakeholders, including digital and legacy creators, Internet giants, telecom companies, and consumer groups. This hearing, which builds on an earlier consultation on registration requirements, will address issues that include mandated Internet streaming company contributions and discoverability requirements. What brought us to this moment and what lies ahead? This week’s Law Bytes podcast reviews the lengthy legislative process, the key players at the hearings, and how this consultation fits within the broader Bill C-11 framework.
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 185: Bill C-11 at the CRTC – A Preview of the Upcoming Online Streaming Act Hearing
Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge’s Tries to Re-Write Bill C-11 History: There Is No Quick Implementation and the Government is to Blame
The government plans to release its final policy direction on Bill C-11 today just days ahead of the start of a weeks-long series of hearings at the CRTC on the Online Streaming Act (I am scheduled to appear in early December). Ahead of the release, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge tries to re-write history, urging fast enactment of the legislation and blaming the Conservatives for the delays. Yet here is the reality: Bill C-10, the predecessor to Bill C-11, would have become law back in 2021 had the government not opened the door to regulating user content. Instead, the bill rightly became a source of concern, leading to years of legislative delays that virtually guarantees that nothing will take effect until 2025 at the earliest.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 176: A Mid-Summer Update on Bills C-11, C-18, the Government’s Cabinet Shuffle, and the Brewing Battle over Digital Taxes
Coming off a week in which the government engineered a major cabinet overhaul that saw Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez replaced by Pascale St-Onge, an escalation of the battle over digital services taxes, and which featured significant news on both the Bill C-11 and Bill C-18 fronts, this week’s Law Bytes podcast provides a mid-summer update on recent developments. Barring some urgent news, the podcast will be taking a break in August and return in September.
Culture Lobby Groups Call on Government to Open Door to CRTC Regulation of Video Games, User Content and Algorithms Under Bill C-11 Implementation
Bill C-11 may have receded into the background of CRTC consultations and government policy directions, but Canadians concerned with user content, video game and algorithmic regulation would do well to pay attention. Lobby groups that fought for the inclusion of user content regulation in the bill have now turned their attention to the regulatory process and are seeking to undo government assurances that each of those issues – user content, algorithms and even video games – would fall outside of the scope of the regulatory implementation of the bill. In fact, if the groups get their way, Canadians would face unprecedented regulations with the CRTC empowered to create a host of new obligations that could even include requirements for Youtubers and TikTokers to register with the Commission. With a new Heritage Minister in place, the submissions raise serious concerns about whether the government will maintain its commitments regarding scoping out users, video games, and algorithms.
The most troubling publicly available document comes from a coalition that calls itself ACCORD, representing songwriters, composers, and music publishers. The group has posted its submission to the government’s consultation on the draft policy direction to the CRTC on Bill C-11. All submissions are not yet posted, but I should note that I also submitted a brief document, calling on the government to fully honour its commitment to exclude user content and algorithms from regulation and to establish limits on discoverability regulation.
The fallout from Bill C-11 has been the subject of several posts this week, including the demands from a wide range of services for exceptions to the law and warnings from streaming services such as PBS and AMC that they may block the Canadian market due to the regulatory burden imposed by the law. While those stories focus on the availability of services and content in Canada, a new Variety report points to another negative impact from the bill: less film and television production in Canada, at least in the short term. Throughout the Bill C-11 debate, there were concerns that the large streamers might pause their productions in Canada given the uncertainty over whether they would “count” for the purposes of new CRTC imposed contribution requirements. In other words, the bill could initially lead to less investment in Canada.