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Just How Extreme is Bill C-18?: It Mandates Payments For Merely Facilitating Access to News

Bill C-18, the Online News Act, is less than 48 hours old, but the more you examine the bill, the worse it gets. My previous posts unpacked why the general policy is bad for press independence and competition as well as why the bill features a misguided attempt to require payments for links. Yet the bill requires an even deeper look since it goes far beyond “compensating journalists when they use their content” (as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday in the House of Commons) or even linking to news articles. Rather, the bill requires compensation for facilitating access to news in any way and in any amount.

In doing so, it eviscerates the claim that there is a tangible connection between the requirement to pay for the value of news articles on social media and search platforms (called digital news intermediaries or DNI’s in the bill). Rather, Bill C-18 is a shakedown with requirements to pay for nothing more than listing Canadian media organizations with hyperlinks in a search index, social media post, or possibly even a tweet. At a time when we need the public to access to credible news, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez believes that large Internet companies that engage in the act of facilitating access to news –  not copying, not using, not even directly linking –  should pay for doing so.

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April 7, 2022 10 comments News
Pablo Rodriguez Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/HonPabloRodriguez/posts/389066676372209

Taking Aim at Sharing News Online: Bill C-18 and the Government’s Misguided Requirement to Mandate Payment for Internet Linking

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.

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April 6, 2022 8 comments News
News on the Tablet by Dennis Sylvester Hurd https://flic.kr/p/b2fsCa Public domain

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.

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April 5, 2022 19 comments News
U.S. Consulate General Toronto 4th of July Reception 2014 by U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada https://flic.kr/p/nYiQ3p Public Domain

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.

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April 4, 2022 1 comment Podcasts
Coteau tweet, https://twitter.com/coteau/status/1508910388045361152

Why Has the Government’s Defence of Bill C-11 Been So Cartoonishly Misleading?

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.

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March 30, 2022 23 comments News