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Hepfner Facebook post and Twitter post, https://www.facebook.com/lisahepfnerMP/posts/pfbid029RTDZHA7hTJTZAg8KYztaMtZAYC1WTFdtSRbfKrnaXnsmoZo3AdGtYZnC6tv1sgDl, https://twitter.com/lisahepfner/status/1593679961398906880

The Bill C-18 Fallout: Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner Equates Linking to News Articles on Facebook to Theft

Last month, Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner shocked Canadian online news outlets by stating that “they’re not news.They’re not gathering news. They’re publishing opinion only.” The comments sparked instant criticism from news outlets across the country, leading Hepfner to issue a quick apology. In the aftermath of the comments, Hepfner said nothing for weeks at Heritage committee studying Bill C-18. That bill passed third reading yesterday – I posted on the embarrassing legislative review – and Hepfner was back at it. Rather than criticizing online news outlets, this time she targeted the Internet platforms, saying the bill would make it “harder for big digital platforms like Facebook and Google to steal local journalists’ articles and repost them without credit.” 

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December 15, 2022 9 comments News
Human rights protest, USA - unknown date, (CC0 1.0) https://www.rawpixel.com/image/6111479/human-rights-protest-usa-unknown-date

Shakedown Complete: The Story Behind Bill C-18’s Shameful Legislative Review Process and the Race to Mandate Payment for Links

Later today, the House of Commons will vote to approve Bill C-18, the Online News Act, sending it to the Senate just prior to breaking for the holidays. While Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and media lobbyists will no doubt celebrate the milestone, it should not go unremarked that the legislative process for this bill has been an utter embarrassment with an already bad bill made far worse. The government cut off debate at second reading, actively excluded dozens of potential witnesses, expanded the bill to hundreds of broadcasters that may not even produce news, denigrated online news services as “not real news”, and shrugged off violations of international copyright law. All the while, it acknowledged that mandated payments for links are the foundation of the bill with officials stating that individual Facebook posts accompanied by a link to a news story would be caught by the law. As for the purported financial benefits, the government’s own estimates are less than half those of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who also concluded that more than 75% of the revenues will go to broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers, and the CBC. The end result is a bill that will undermine competition and pose a threat to freedom of expression, while potentially leading Facebook to block news sharing in Canada and Google to cancel dozens of existing agreements with Canadian news outlets.

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December 14, 2022 10 comments News
so what now? by Andrew Fleming https://flic.kr/p/a5iYtc (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Senate Committee Completes Its Review of Bill C-11: What Comes Next?

The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications completed its extensive review of Bill C-11 last week. After a review for grammatical, editorial, and translation issues, the committee is expected to finalize its report back to the Senate later today. While the next steps for Bill C-11 remain somewhat uncertain, the committee should be congratulated for providing a model for legislative review. Indeed, the Senate committee was everything the House committee was not: policy focused, open to hearing from a wide range of witnesses, and willing to engage in meaningful debate on potential amendments. Politics occasionally arose during the clause-by-clause review, but political considerations were never going to be entirely stripped from a highly politicized piece of legislation.  

I may have missed the odd change, but the following amendments were approved by the committee:

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December 13, 2022 5 comments News
Half Off by J Stimp (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/XtBCyj

Big Cost, Smaller Benefit: Government Modelling Pegs Likely Bill C-18 Revenues at Less Than Half of Parliamentary Budget Officer Estimates

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has touted Bill C-18, the Online News Act, as critical for Canada’s media sector, but government’s internal modelling suggests there will be limited benefits for most news outlets. Earlier this fall, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that it would generate $329 million per year, with over 75% of that revenue going to broadcasters such as Bell, Rogers, and the CBC. At the time, I noted that meant that “newspapers will receive less than 25% of the funding or about $81 million to split among hundreds of news outlets.” It turns out that the government believes that vastly overstates the benefit as its own modelling estimates about $150 million in total revenues, less than the 50% of the PBO’s estimate. Assuming a similar apportionment of revenues between broadcasters and newspapers, that would place the benefit at just over $37 million for the entire newspaper sector. In fact, as the government has expanded the eligibility to hundreds of additional outlets, the benefits for each organization shrinks even further.

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December 8, 2022 3 comments News
YT Music app icon on smartphone screen by Ivan Radic https://flic.kr/p/2m1K5Zz (CC BY 2.0)

Scoping User Content Out of Bill C-11: Senate Committee Makes Much-Needed Change, But Will the Government Accept It?

The widespread concern over Bill C-11 has largely focused on the potential CRTC regulation of user content. Despite repeated assurances from the government that “users are out, platforms are in”, the reality is that the bill kept the door open to regulating such content. The language in the bill is clear: Section 4.2 grants the CRTC the power to establish regulations on programs (which includes audio and audiovisual content by users). The provision identifies three considerations for the Commission, most notably if the program “directly or indirectly generates revenues.” The revenue generation provision is what led many digital creators to argue they were caught by the bill and for TikTok to conclude that any video with music would also fall within the ambit of the legislation.

The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications, which has conducted months of hearings on Bill C-11, was clearly convinced that the user content issue needed to be addressed. Last night (hours after the ill-advised addition of age verification to the bill), it agreed on an amendment that, with two key caveats, goes a long way to scoping out user content regulation.

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December 7, 2022 7 comments News