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Show me Common Sense by Adam Fagen https://flic.kr/p/24pgGRY CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Conservatives Double Down on Support for Mandated Internet Age Verification and Website Blocking: Why Can’t Canada Get Common Sense Digital Policy?

Digital policy has been the source of seemingly never-ending frustration for years in Canada. The government chose to prioritize two flawed bills on online streaming and online news, both of which sparked considerable opposition, lengthy delays, and ultimately delivered few actual benefits (Bill C-11 faces at least another year of hearings at the CRTC, Bill C-18 is a disaster that has left many media companies worse off). Its 2021 consultation on online harms was so badly received that it was quickly shelved and has required nearly three years to recover. The policies it should have prioritized such as stronger privacy and competition rules were largely left to languish with Bill C-27 still in committee and now subject to mounting opposition over the decision fold AI regulation with minimal consultation into the bill.

Given that track record, it is hard to be optimistic as the online harms rules get set to take centre stage.

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February 22, 2024 11 comments News
Infoletta Hambach, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fight_capitalism_%26_more_free_money_at_demo_(15893842432).jpg

More Free Money: Media Lobby Campaigning For Even More Government Funding, Grants and Tax Reform

The proverbial ink is barely dry on the disastrous Bill C-18, yet the Canadian media lobby has already moved onto the next targets for government funding, grants, and tax reform. The effort, which is seemingly designed to ensure that government funding or regulation cover the entire cost of news, focuses on extending grants, expanding provincial tax credits, and overhauling the tax treatment of ad spending. It has hard to overstate how dangerous these policies have become as the sector’s addiction to government funding and regulation has come at an enormous cost that erodes public trust and created dependence on the very governments the press is supposed to hold to account.

The slippery slope of this government’s funding the media has been ongoing for years: the Local Journalism Initiative offered tens of millions in grant money, the Labour Journalism Tax Credit created a tax credit worth nearly $14,000 per journalist when established that was more than doubled last year on a retroactive basis to nearly $30,000 per journalist, and the Online News Act (Bill C-18) offered the hope (or more accurately illusion) of hundreds of millions more from Google and Meta. On top of the federal money, the Quebec government offers a similar tax credit system that comes close to ensuring that government money and regulation cover the entire cost of news journalists at print and digital publications in the province. And if that were not enough, the CRTC is working through its plan for Bill C-11, which the Canadian Association of Broadcasters hopes will lead to the creation of yet another news fund, with 30% of contributions from Internet streaming services such as Netflix and Disney going to the news divisions of Canadian broadcasters such as Bell and Rogers.

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February 21, 2024 13 comments News
Screenshot of 21st ANNUAL REPORT ON GOVERNMENT OF CANADA ADVERTISING ACTIVITIES 2022 to 2023, https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/pspc-spac/documents/rapports-reports/2022-2023/adv-pub-2022-2023-eng.pdf

Bid to End Crown Copyright is Back: MP Brian Masse’s Bill C-374 Would Remove Copyright from Government Works

Crown copyright, which grants the government exclusive copyright in any any work that is, or has been, prepared or published by or under the direction or control, has long been the focus on copyright and open government advocates who have called for its elimination. Under the current system of crown copyright that dates back for decades, government departments can use copyright to limit the publication or distribution of public works. While the government moved away from paid licensing to a non-commercial licence in 2010, commercial uses are still subject to permission and licence. The issue was one of the most controversial at the 2019 copyright review with the committee split on the issue: the government supported the creation of an open licence, while both the Conservatives and NDP backed its elimination altogether.

While debate over crown copyright continues (this 2019 Law Bytes podcast episode with Amanda Wakaruk and Jeremy de Beer focused on it), NDP MP Brian Masse has been a consistent advocate in favour of its elimination. There have been bills to eliminate crown copyright that date back to the 1990s, but Masse has introduced several crown copyright bills in recent years. Last week, he did it again with Bill C-374.

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February 14, 2024 6 comments News
House of Cards by Victoria Pickering CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/SVn4VL

The House of Cards Crumbles: Why the Bell Media Layoffs and Government’s Failed Media Policy are Connected

Bell’s announcement this week that it is laying off thousands of workers – including nearly 500 Bell Media employees – has sparked political outrage with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau characterizing it as a “garbage decision.” The job losses are obviously brutal for those directly affected and it would be silly to claim that a single policy response was responsible. Yet to suggest that the government’s media policy, particularly Bills C-11 and C-18, played no role is to ignore the reality of a failed approach for which there have been blinking warning signs for years. Indeed, Trudeau’s anger (which felt a bit like a reprise of his Meta comments over the summer) may partly reflect frustration that his policy choices have not only not worked, but have made matters worse.

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February 10, 2024 15 comments News
RealID notice, TSA pre-check line, Dulles Airport, Washington, DC, USA by Cory Doctorow CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/Rswr4J

Bill S-210 is Just the Beginning: How a Canadian Digital Lobby Group is Promoting a Standard to “Foster Widespread Adoption of Age Verification Technologies in Canada”

This week’s Law Bytes podcast features a revealing discussion with Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, the chief architect and lead defender of Bill S-210 or the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act. It may be the most dangerous Internet bill you’ve never heard of since it contemplates measures that raise privacy concerns, website blocking, and extend far beyond pornography sites to include search and social media. The bill started in the Senate and is now in the House of Commons, where last year Conservative, NDP, and Bloc MPs voted alongside a small number of Liberal MPs in favour of it at second reading and sent it to committee for further study. The government has called the bill “fundamentally flawed”, but there may be sufficient House support to turn it into binding legislation.

While Senator Miville-Dechêne emphasizes stopping underage access to sexually explicit material and her view that that goal merits site blocking and mandated age verification even for some uses of Google and Twitter, a new standards initiative suggests that some envision far more extensive use of mandated age verification systems. The Digital Governance Council is one of several Jim Balsillie-led organizations focused on influencing government digital and innovation policy. Its CEO is Keith Jansa, who Senator Miville-Dechêne identified in the Law Bytes podcast as her source for providing assurance of the privacy safeguards in the bill.

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January 31, 2024 23 comments News