Since the Canadian copyright law reforms in 2012, education and libraries have increased spending on licensing and a non-partisan House of Commons study found no need to create new restriction on education and library copying rights. Yet with misinformation flooding the copyright debate, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations recently spoke out in an effort to set the record straight. Victoria Owen, a leading expert on copyright and libraries, is the chair of the CFLA copyright committee. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the CFLA statement and copyright law in Canada.
Fair Dealing by Giulia Forsythe (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dRkXwP
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 180: Victoria Owen Sets the Record Straight on the State of Canadian Copyright Law and Content Licensing By Libraries and Educational Institutions
The temperature over the government’s Internet legislation has increased this week as many Canadians wake up to the consequences of Bills C-11 and C-18. CRTC regulations on mandated registration requirements arising from the Online Streaming Act and the possibility that Google will follow Meta’s lead and remove news links for search results in Canada due to the Online News Act have placed the spotlight on harmful effects of the government’s approach. In response, Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge has become more vocal on both social media and mainstream media in defence of the government’s approach. Unfortunately, her comments included repeated errors (suggesting that independent media has not reached any deals with Internet platforms which is not remotely accurate), maligned digital creators (saying that Bill C-11 wasn’t about them), were contradicted by the CRTC, or featured outright misinformation. I posted a pair of threads fact-checking the Minister, which are posted below. There can obviously be different views on the Internet regulation, but the Minister ought to know her file and stick to the facts.
Limiting Public Participation: Why No One Should Be Surprised at the CRTC’s Internet Services Registration Requirement Ruling
The CRTC’s decision to require registration for a wide range of Internet sites and services that meet a $10 million revenue threshold, including podcasters, adult sites, and news sites, appears to have taken many Canadians by surprise. For anyone who closely followed Bill C-11, this was entirely expected given that the bill adopts an approach in which all audio and video content anywhere in the world is subject to Canada’s Broadcasting Act. I listed many of the sites that are now caught by the regulations back in 2021 based on an internal Heritage memo that identified many that no one would reasonably describe as web giants. In other words, this isn’t an outlier. Rather, it is how the government crafted the law with a “regulate everything” default and the expectation that the CRTC would establish some exemptions. But even if most Canadians were only vaguely aware of the exceptionally broad scope of Bill C-11, they might still have missed the regulatory process that led the CRTC to establish the $10 million threshold and acknowledge that this is the first step in a bigger regulatory plan. That is because the Commission intentionally limited public participation and rejected efforts to extend the timeline for submissions on the grounds that the issue was “industry focused and relatively narrow in scope.”
Last week, the CRTC issued the first two of what are likely to be at least a dozen decisions involving the Online Streaming Act. Those decisions are already sparking controversy, but as the Commission focuses on Bill C-11 and perhaps soon Bill C-18, there is mounting concern that its other responsibilities are falling by the wayside that its independence from the government is starting to show cracks. Peter Menzies is a former Vice-Chair of the CRTC and frequently commentator on broadcast, telecom and Internet regulatory issues. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the current state of the Commission, which has never seemed more important but also seemed more out of touch and incapable of meeting its duties.
Countering Copyright Misinformation: Canadian Libraries Speak Out Against Ongoing Campaign to Undermine User Rights
Last month, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations released a much-needed statement that sought to counter the ongoing misinformation campaign from copyright lobby groups regarding the state of Canadian copyright and the extensive licensing by libraries and educational institutions. I had no involvement whatsoever with the statement, but was happy to tweet it out and was grateful for the effort to set the record straight on what has been a relentless misinformation campaign that ignores the foundational principles of copyright law. Lobby groups have for years tried to convince the government that 2012 copyright reforms are to blame for the diminished value of the Access Copyright licence that led Canadian educational institutions to seek other alternatives, most notably better licensing options that offer greater flexibility, access to materials, and usage rights. This is false, and when the CFLA dared to call it out, those same groups then expressed their “profound disappointment” in the library association.