Bill C-11 took a major step forward late last week as the government cut off debate yet again and forced a vote on an amended bill that rejected the Senate’s fix to concerns about user content regulation. The vote has sparked heated debates on social media, including mistaken insistence by some that the bill does not affect user content (it clearly does) or that it will censor what Canadians can say online (it will not). The reality is that Bill C-11 has important freedom of expression implications not because it will limit people’s ability to speak, but because government regulation may affect their ability to be heard. Given those implications – and the government’s inability to cite a credible justification for rejecting an amendment to address the problem by excluding user content from potential regulation – I believe the Senate should send the bill back to the House once more by restoring the amendment.
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Why the Senate Should Restore the User Content Amendment and Send Bill C-11 Back to the House of Commons
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 156: Senator Paula Simons on Why the Government Should Accept the Senate’s Bill C-11 Fix on User Content Regulation
Bill C-11 is in the hands of the government as Canadians await a decision on which Senate amendments it will accept, which might be rejected, and then how the Senate responds. A key question involves a fix to the regulation of user content provision, which provides that sound recordings are in, but user content is out. Senator Paula Simons, an independent Senator from Alberta nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Senate in 2018, co-crafted the compromise amendment and has been one of the most engaged and informed Senators throughout the Bill C-11 legislative process. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the hearings, her amendment, and what may lie ahead for both Bill C-11 and the upcoming Senate review of Bill C-18.
SOCAN Tosses Senators and Digital Creators Under Legislative Bus With New Bill C-11 Misinformation Campaign
SOCAN, a leading Canadian music copyright collective, has launched a misinformation campaign seeking to convince the government to reject a Bill C-11 Senate-backed amendment designed to ensure that the bill covers sound recordings but excludes user content from CRTC regulation. SOCAN has written to all MPs arguing that the amendment should be rejected on the grounds that it could hamper the regulation of “future online services, whose model for delivery of content is not yet known.” In other words, its primary argument is not that the amendment harms its interests today, but rather it is possible that it might restrict some unknown future application. Given its inability to identify a current problem with the amendment, the SOCAN campaign actually serves to confirm that it is consistent with the government’s objectives.
My Appearance Before the Senate Transport and Communications Committee on Bill C-11: The Senate Starts Review As Bill Receives House Approval
The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications started its Bill C-11 pre-study yesterday just hours before the the bill passed third reading in the House of Commons. The bill quickly moved to first reading in the Senate, though at this stage it would appear that there will be just one more hearing involving departmental and CRTC officials before the summer recess. The House vote was widely expected as the government received support from the NDP on several occasions to limit debate. The Bloc and Green MP Elizabeth May also supported the bill, while it was opposed by the Conservatives and Green MP Mike Morrice.
I was pleased to appear before the Senate committee together with former CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein as part of its first panel of the day. The questions and answers touched on a wide range of issues including discoverability and public support for the sector. My opening remarks are posted and embedded below:
Is the Government Seeking to Short Circuit the Senate Review of Bill C-11?
The review of the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) heads to committee next week as the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage plans to devote roughly 20 hours to hearing over the next two weeks. I have received an invitation and may appear as soon as next week. While the House of Commons committee study is just getting underway, the Senate has been debating the possibility of conducting a “pre-study” of the bill at its own committee. Pre-studies are somewhat unusual since they are conducted before the bill has formally been referred to the committee or, in the case of the Senate, even passed the House of Commons. In fact, Bill C-10, the predecessor to Bill C-11, started with a pre-study which ultimately undermined the overall committee study that many believed was inadequate.