The hearings on the Online News Act – Bill C-18 – wrapped up last week with a final session in which I had the unexpected opportunity to appear and again raise concerns with the bill. My focus this time was on how the bill mandates payments for links and why that approach is a threat to freedom of expression in Canada. This week’s Law Bytes podcast takes you inside the hearing room as it features my opening statement and clips from exchanges with MPs from several parties that touched on everything from innovation to copyright reform to the rules for final offer arbitration. My full opening statement is posted below.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 145: Why Bill C-18’s Mandated Payments for Links is a Threat to Freedom of Expression in Canada – My Appearance Before the Heritage Committee
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez Tweets Video Suggesting it Shows Creator Support for Bill C-11, But the Video Pre-Dates the Bill By Nearly a Year
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s credibility took another hit yesterday with an exceptionally misleading tweet on Bill C-11. The tweet featured a video of artists encouraging Canadians to seek out Canadian content, which Rodriguez used to tweet “I’m hearing so many stories from artists about how Bill #C11 will make a real difference for artists. This is what it’s all about: supporting diverse Canadian culture, artists, and stories.” Leaving aside the fact that thousands of digital creators have vocally opposed the bill with warnings that it will result in serious harm to their careers and livelihood, the artists in the video were not speaking about Bill C-11. We know that because the video was launched in April 2021, pre-dating Bill C-11 by nearly a year and created before the government started the ruckus by removing Section 4.1 protections for user content from Bill C-10.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 144: Keldon Bester on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Problem with Canadian Competition Law
The proposed Rogers-Shaw merger was back in the news last week as Canadian Industry minister Francois Philippe Champagne held a mid-week press conference to announce that the original deal was dead, but that a reworked deal that brings in Videotron might be a possibility if certain government expectations on restrictions on transferring spectrum licences and consumer pricing outside of Quebec were met. Keldon Bester is a co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP), a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an independent consultant and researcher working on issues of competition and monopoly power in Canada. He’s been one of the most insightful and outspoken experts on the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss where things stand and the big picture weaknesses of Canadian competition law and policy.
Making Sense of the Indifference to Bill C-18’s Cutting Out Small Media Outlets While Giving Hundreds of Millions to Bell, Rogers and the CBC
Bill C-18, the Online News Act, appeared to be headed to clause-by-clause review this week. But the mounting attention on the bill – notably Facebook’s revelation that it would consider stopping news sharing in Canada if the bill passes in its current form – may have persuaded MPs to add several additional hearings, including one on Friday that will feature both Facebook and OpenMedia. The Facebook issue adds to the growing concerns with the bill, particularly the exclusion of many small media outlets due to restrictive eligibility criteria and a Parliamentary Budget Officer estimate that over 75% of the benefits – hundreds of millions of dollars – will go to broadcast giants such as Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Corus, and the CBC. Newspapers will be left fighting over the remaining scraps, if they’re eligible for anything. Indeed, as many small media outlets have noted, eligibility requirements to have QCJO status or regularly employ at least two journalists means that many small weeklies or digital startups will fall outside the system.