The CRTC’s deadline for the first two Bill C-11 consultations passed yesterday after the Commission rejected extension requests from a wide range of groups. Given the limited time – there was just a single workday from when the CRTC issued its rejection until the deadline – I submitted brief comments (2023-139, 2023-140) focusing on two concerns. First, the very short timeline for submissions did not allow for completion of research into the questions posed by the CRTC, including the appropriate threshold for regulation of Internet streaming services. I argued that the approach may have excluded many interested stakeholders from fully participating in the consultation. Second, I took issue with the CRTC’s framing of the consultation, which it said was “industry focused”, a signal that the consumer related issues raised by regulatory thresholds (including consumer choice and service costs) were viewed as irrelevant by the Commission.
That concern was amplified yesterday as the Canadian Media Fund, which receives public funding, literally gave a trophy to Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez for passing Bill C-11 and CRTC Chair Vicky Eatrides delivered remarks at the Banff World Media Festival in which consumers and the broader public were nowhere to be found. Speaking of implementing Bill C-11, Eatrides stated:
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Bill C-18, the Online News Act, heads to clause-by-clause review this week at the Senate Transport and Communications Committee. The committee’s study of the bill wasn’t as extensive as Bill C-11, but it did hear from a very wide range of stakeholders and experts. Last month, I devoted the Law Bytes podcast to my appearance before the committee, including my opening statement and exchanges with various senators. This week’s Law Bytes podcast takes listeners into the committee room for clips from media big and small, independent experts, Google and Meta, and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.
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The government released its long-promised draft policy direction on Bill C-11 to the CRTC yesterday. The policy direction is open for public comment until July 25, 2023, after which the government will release a final version that gives the CRTC guidance on its expectations for how the bill will be interpreted. While Canadian Heritage was at pains to emphasize that the draft direction includes instructions that the “CRTC is directed not to impose regulatory requirements on online undertakings in respect of programs of social media creators, including podcasts”, the draft directive confirms that the government misled the public for months on the scope of Bill C-11 and highlights the problem with the CRTC’s rushed effort to establish regulations before the draft policy directive is final. I plan to file a submission by the deadline, but in the meantime offer several thoughts.
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The right to repair would seem like a political no-brainer: a policy designed to extend the life of devices and equipment and the ability to innovate for the benefit of consumers and the environment. Yet somehow copyright law has emerged as a barrier on that right, limiting access to repair guides and restricting the ability for everyone from farmers to video gamers to tinker with their systems. The government has pledged to address the issue and Bill C-244, a private members bill making its way through the House of Commons, would appear to be the way it plans to live up to that promise.
Alissa Centivany, an assistant professor in the faculty of information and media studies at Western University and the principal investigator of a SSHRC-funded research project on the right to repair and Anthony Rosborough, who completing his doctoral thesis at the European University Institute in Florence and is set to take up a joint appointment in Law and Computer Science at Dalhousie University later this year, have been two of the most outspoken experts on this issue in Canada. They join me on the Law Bytes podcast to talk about why the time has come for government action, their experience before a House of Commons committee on the bill, and unpack some of the confusion arising from late breaking amendments.
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