The Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) was the subject of hours of debate yesterday in the House of Commons as the government presses to get the bill out of second reading and onto committee for hearings and further study. Setting aside the claims of “censorship” on one side and “you don’t care about creators” on the other, there were some notable takeaways from the debate, including the government digging in on keeping the policy direction to the CRTC secret, acknowledging (perhaps inadvertently) that the bill does regulate user generated content, and several comments from MPs that promise outcomes that are simply not part of the bill.
Leading off during Question Period was a direct question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about releasing the planned policy directive to the CRTC before the bill receives royal assent so that Canadians can see the details of how the bill is intended to be implemented.
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The House of Commons debate over the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) is likely to continue this week with the government anxious to get the bill out of the House of Commons and into committee for further study and approval. The recent discussion in the House featured Liberal MP MP Mark Gerretsen insisting that the bill does not cover user generated content:
I can assure this member and all Conservatives that nobody is more interested in preserving the content they create in this House than I am: the content that they give me to put out on social media. If I thought for one second that user-generated content would be impacted by this bill, I certainly would not be in favour of it.
I would like to point out to the member that there are several sections in this piece of legislation that explicitly preserve user-generated content: sections 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3(a), 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3(3).
I am curious. This is a simple question. Has the member read the bill, and he has read those sections in particular?
I’m not a Member of Parliament but I have read the bill and those specific sections. The indisputable reality is that the net result of those provisions is that user generated content is covered by the bill. Indeed, the government is gaslighting the public with claims that it does not.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who is hosting a culture summit this week in Ottawa, has said that he is open to modernizing the definition of Canadian content and that he is “open to all kinds of suggestions and ideas.” I’ve devoted many posts to the Cancon definition issue (even creating a Cancon quiz), noting that the current system is a poor proxy for “telling Canadian stories.” This system matters since the government’s Internet regulation policies are ostensibly designed to support Canadian content, but if the existing definitions don’t do that, they cannot reasonably be expected to achieve their objectives.
While I’m supportive of Rodriguez opening the door to reform, I have my doubts the government will make any significant changes to the current system. The challenge is that Cancon policy stands on a shaky foundation that is really three policies in one: an economic policy, a cultural policy, and an intellectual property policy. These three policies are often at odds with one another and used by politicians and lobby groups interchangeably to justify mandated contributions, content regulation, and foreign ownership restrictions. When the data doesn’t support one of the policies, they simply shift the discussion to one of the other policy objectives.
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The Canadian government plans to extend the term of copyright from the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years without mitigation measures that would have reduced the harms and burden of the extension. The Budget Implementation Act, a 443 page bill that adopts the omnibus approach the government had pledged to reject, was posted late yesterday by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s department and could be tabled in the House of Commons as early as today. Page 328 of the bill features the shoehorned amendments to the Copyright Act, including an extension of the term of copyright. While the government is not making the change retroactive (meaning works currently in the public domain stay there), no one seriously expected that to happen. What many had hoped – based on the government’s own committee recommendations and copyright consultation – was to introduce mitigation measures to reduce the economic cost and cultural harm that comes from term extension. Instead, Freeland, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez have chosen to reject the recommendations of students, teachers, universities, librarians, IP experts, and their own Justice Minister.
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The Logic is a Toronto-based news startup that focuses on the innovation economy. Launched in 2018, it has attracted some great reporters with a subscription-based business model that starts at $299 per year. I’ve been a subscriber for several years, dating back to when it began providing extensive coverage of the Waterfront Toronto – Sidewalk smart city project and I was serving as chair of the Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory Board. The site, which tends to produce one or two new articles per day, uses a hard paywall as nearly all articles – other than an occasional Letter from the Editor – can only be accessed by paying subscribers.
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