Hours after the Canadian men’s soccer team officially qualified for the World Cup last month, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez took to Facebook to celebrate the win. The Rodriguez post included a link to a La Presse article on the game (the same link I’ve just posted). Visitors that click on the link are taken to the newspaper’s website, shown a series of ads, offered some encouragement to subscribe, and presented with a series of widgets they can use to also post the link to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. While there is nothing unusual about that in today’s media economy, yesterday Rodriguez introduced a bill that would fundamentally alter the activity. According to Rodriguez, Facebook should pay La Presse for the link that he posted and his Bill C-18, the Online News Act, would create a mandatory arbitration system overseen by the CRTC to ensure that they do.
Here Comes the Online News Act: Why the Government’s Media Shakedown is Bad News For Press Independence and Competition
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez is expected to introduce the Online News Act (technically An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada), his response to a massive lobbying campaign from Canadian media organizations today. Bill C-18 will hand new power to the CRTC to oversee what are effectively mandatory payments by Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook for the mere appearance of news on their platforms. This represents nothing less than a government-backed shakedown that runs the risk of undermining press independence, increasing reliance on big tech, and hurting competition and investment in Canadian media. I will have several posts in the coming days including an analysis of the bill once it drops and a review of the lobbying campaign for the bill, which included over 100 registered lobbyist meetings by News Media Canada over the past three years and skewed coverage of the issue in which the overwhelming majority of news stories backed government intervention.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 124: David Fraser on Negotiating a CLOUD Act Agreement Between Canada and the United States
The CLOUD Act, which allows US law enforcement to use a warrant or subpoena to compel U.S.-based technology companies to provide data stored on servers regardless of where the data is located, was first introduced in the United States in 2018. Canada and the US recently announced plans to negotiate a Cloud Act agreement which would ease cross-border disclosures of data between the two countries.
David Fraser is a lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax and one of Canada’s leading privacy experts. He regularly acts for clients on data disclosure matters and was one of the first to highlight the negotiations and its implications on his Youtube channel. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the Cloud Act, how it might fit into Canada’s privacy law framework, and how Canada should approach the negotiations.
Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act that serves as the government’s follow-up to Bill C-10, was the subject of debate in the House of Commons yesterday as the legislation slowly makes it way through the legislative process. There are still committee hearings to come, but it is readily apparent that many of the concerns that hamstrung Bill C-10 have returned: virtually limitless jurisdictional, overbroad scope, and harmful discoverability provisions. Further, this bill has attracted mounting criticism from Canadian digital-first creators, who note that one of Canada’s biggest cultural exports could be hurt by the bill leading to millions in lost revenues.
While none of these concerns should come as a surprise, what is surprising is how ill-prepared the government appears to be address the criticisms. Indeed, the communications strategy seems based primarily on presuming that Canadians won’t bother to read the legislation and will therefore take misleading assurances at face value. Consider the latest attempt to assuage concerns: a cartoon of Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez providing an assurance that the bill’s changes won’t affect individual Canadians since “the changes only apply to companies.” That cartoon sparked an instant mashup that pointed to the direct effects on digital first creators. Further, the changes don’t apply only to companies. Bill C-11 treats all audio-visual content as programs subject to potential regulation. With exceptions that could easily capture TikTok or YouTube videos, the bill is about far more than just large companies.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 123: Darcy Michael on Why Bill C-11 Hurts Canada’s Digital First Creators
Since the introduction of Bill C-11, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has insisted that he heard the concerns about regulating user generated content and he “fixed it.” Yet the reality is that anyone that takes the time to the read the bill knows that simply isn’t the case. The concerns with the government’s approach have started to attract the attention of Canadian digital-first creators, who fear the plans could lead to lost revenues and reduced promotion worldwide of what has become one of Canada’s most successful cultural exports.
Darcy Michael is a B.C.-based comedian with millions of TikTok subscribers and a globally successful podcast. Last week, he appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to warn about the risks of Bill C-11 and to call for reform. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to tell his story of success online and his fears about what the bill would mean for Canadian digital-first creators.