The long legislative road of Bill C-11 comes to an end later today as nearly 2 1/2 years after the original Bill C-10 was first tabled in the House of Commons by then-Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, the Senate will vote to approve the bill. I’ve been asked repeatedly this week about what now lies ahead, but I think it is worth one more look back. I have long believed that politics invariably involves compromise as governments look to maximize the political benefit and limit the political risk from any given policy. The emphasis on compromise is why stakeholders rarely walk away entirely happy on most issues that feature a diversity of views, whether it is copyright, privacy, or Internet regulation. Yet with Bill C-11, compromise from the government never came.
Fair Dealing by Giulia Forsythe (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dRkXwP
Government Gets the Law Wrong as it Finally Makes the Case Why it is Rejecting the Bill C-11 User Content Regulation Fix
With Bill C-11 in the final stretch – Senate approval could come this week – the government finally provided a more detailed explanation for rejecting the Senate’s user content regulation fix. Indeed, after weeks of false or empty justifications for the rejection, Senator Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, at long last tried to make the case for rejecting the amendment. Leaving aside the fact that if there were problems with the amendment, it was open to the government – and is still open to the Senate – to fix any perceived problems by amending the amendment, the reality is that Senator Gold’s explanation gets the law wrong. It is sad that as the bill nears passage, the government doesn’t seem to understand or misleads on the impact of its own legislation. I realize that another long post isn’t going to change that, but the thousands of Canadian creators who spoke out on their concerns deserve better.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 163: Cohere AI CEO Aidan Gomez on the Emerging Legal and Regulatory Challenges for Artificial Intelligence
ChatGPT burst onto the public scene late last year, giving artificial intelligence its “aha moment” for many people. AI is now seemingly everywhere, attracting enormous attention and excitement alongside concerns, legal threats and talk of regulation. The potential of AI is evident to just about everyone, but the challenges associated with bias, copyright, privacy, misinformation and more can’t be ignored. Cohere AI is a Canadian-based AI firm that is widely viewed as one of Canada’s AI stars for its large language models that enable companies of all sizes to integrate AI technologies. Aidan Gomez, who worked on the “T” in ChatGPT, is the co-founder and CEO of Cohere AI. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about AI and his views on the myriad of emerging legal and regulatory issues.
Bill C-11 Estimates Revealed: Internal Government Documents Show No Impact on Net Employment, Admit Streamers Already Invest Millions in “Unofficial Cancon”
The government’s support for Bill C-11 has often been framed on economic terms with Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez arguing that the bill will “create good jobs for Canadians in the cultural sector”. I’ve long maintained the government’s claims that the bill will generate billions of dollars in new money was massively exaggerated and that a far more likely scenario would be that the bill would simply lead to a reshuffling of existing expenditures.
Using the Access to Information Act, I have now obtained a copy of the government’s internal estimates for the economic and production impact of Bill C-11 (methodology, memorandum, PPT), which confirm many of my suspicions. While the government is pinning its hopes on massive spending from Internet streamers such as Netflix, it admits that even if the bill did not pass it would not affect net new employment in the sector. Moreover, internally the government recognizes the claim that Netflix and foreign streamers don’t contribute to Canadian content is false, as it has identifies a new category of “unofficial Cancon” which would qualify as Cancon under every measure but for the fact that it is owned by companies like Netflix and Disney. And as for the payments from social media companies that the government insists are so essential that it has fought for years to include user content regulation in the bill? The estimated economic benefit represents just one percent of its total projection for Bill C-11 with pure guesswork about what percentage of content on the platforms might require contributions.
Why the Senate Should Restore the User Content Amendment and Send Bill C-11 Back to the House of Commons
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.