Last year, the Australian government presented Google and Facebook with an ultimatum: if the companies wanted to continue to allow users to link to news articles, they would be required to compensate news organizations. The Australian plan called for the creation of a mandated code that would create a process to determine the price to be paid for the links. Facebook’s response made it clear that if that was the choice – links with mandated payments or no links – it would choose the latter and block Australian news sharing from its service. While some described this as a threat (including Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault) or a bluff, it turns out the company was serious.
The Copyright Bill That Does Nothing: Senate Bill Proposes Copyright Reform to Support Media Organizations
The Toronto Star reports that Senator Claude Carignan, a Conservative Senator, plans to introduce a new bill that would amend the Copyright Act to create a new compensation scheme for media organizations by establishing a new collective rights system for the use of news articles on digital platforms. I’ve written extensively about why calls for mandated compensation for linking to news articles on social media sites is an ill-advised policy and how the media organizations themselves are responsible for much of the posting. Heidi Tworek has written about the risks of using IP to address the issue, which she discussed on my Law Bytes podcast (Jeff Elgie of Village Media also appeared on a recent podcast episode to criticize the lobbying campaign for new payments).
Circumventing Parliament: How Bill C-10 Dramatically Reduces Parliamentary Oversight and Review Over Broadcast Policy
The 2019 Liberal election platform made Parliamentary reform a central commitment, promising to “give people a greater voice in Parliament, by improving the way Parliament works.” Yet Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, does the opposite, cutting mandated reviews of policy directions to the CRTC in at least half. The implications of the change are significant since it would mean that House of Commons and Senate committees would not longer review policy directions and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault would be poised to enact his secret policy direction without a full review. I have already written about the surprising secrecy associated with the bill including the failure to disclose how the government arrived at its estimated benefits, the secret content of the policy direction to the CRTC, and the removal of cabinet appeals.
Afraid to Lead: Canadian Government Launches Timid Consultation on Implementing Copyright Term Extension
After years of rejecting copyright term extension beyond the international law standard of life of the author plus 50 years, the Canadian government caved to pressure from the United States by agreeing to the equivalent of life of the author plus 70 years in the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement (USMCA). As part of that agreement, Canada obtained a 30 month transition period that would allow for consultation on how to implement the copyright term obligation. That consultation was launched late yesterday, with the two departments responsible for copyright – ISED and Canadian Heritage – launching the consultation and a consultation document. The consultation period is very short with responses due by March 12, 2021. The department says that all responses will be made available online once the consultation is concluded.
Why The Secrecy on Bill C-10?: How the Liberals Abandoned Their Commitment to Consultation, and Transparency in Pushing Their Broadcast Reform Bill
I have not been shy about expressing my concerns with the Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. From a 20 part series examining the legislation to two podcasts to a debate with Janet Yale, I have actively engaged on policy concerns involving regulation that extends far beyond the “web giants”, the loss of Canadian sovereignty over broadcast ownership, the threat to Canadian intellectual property, and the uncertainty of leaving many questions to the CRTC to answer. Yet beyond the substance of the bill, in recent days an even more troubling issue has emerged as Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, his Parliamentary Secretary Julie Dabrusin, and the Liberal government abandon longstanding commitments to full consultation, transparency, and parliamentary process.