of oh-no,-canada department
Last year, we wrote about the Canadian government’s efforts to pass a bill regulating social media content such as broadcast television and, soon after, their work on new “harms in line” which (among many provisions) would require platforms to report certain content to the law. national law enforcement and intelligence services. These efforts and the government’s general approach to Internet issues have formed a trend that has led University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist to label it the most anti-internet government in Canadian history. Both efforts stalled in the face of the 2021 election, but now the Liberal Party government, having won re-election and secured a co-operation agreement with the rival New Democratic Party, is resuming and effectively expanding its push for new internet legislation.
As Geist points out in a Twitter feed, There’s a lot going on. The online streaming law is back as Bill C-11, promoted by the government with some misleading cartoons and predictably unclear and contradictory messages. The most significant concern with last year’s version of the law was that it would open the door to regulating individual social media content creators (think streamers, YouTubers, podcasters, etc.) under the same framework. than the big broadcast and streaming companies. The new text seems to close that door, with language that exempts those users, but the government complaint that this means that the law would not apply to them at all is incorrect, because their content could easily be regulated. It is because there is exceptions and exceptions to exceptions on what the law covers, partly based on whether the content is “commercial” which, as we have discussed for years, is not such a simple delineation. Whichever way you slice it, Canadian individuals who create content online are certainly at risk of having to face obligations under the law.
Despite this, one MP dismissed all the concerns as “YouTube talking points”, while another claimed that the government’s official guidance to the broadcast regulator, which will only be made public only after the bill comes into force, would appease everyone. concerns about this and others. Obviously, this is not very reassuring and it contradicts the government’s assertions that the very text of the bill already excludes these problems. As was the case last year, inconsistencies abound.
There will be more to say about Bill C-11 as it moves through committee, but for now we have to move on, because this is just one piece of the puzzle. -head. As we mentioned recently, the government has also introduced a bill that would force tech platforms to pay news outlets to tune into their coverage. As we noted, this has been tried many times around the world for years, and it has never worked – at better (or worse, depending on how you look at it), it allows a few very large publishers and broadcasters to extract some revenue while only increasing the barriers to entry for smaller news outlets. And the Canadian version contains some of the broadest possible terms: it does not specifically cover links, excerpts or copies, but any action where “access to news content, or any part thereof, is facilitated by any means”. Like Geist Explain:
This is certainly meant to cover linking, but the broad language almost surely extends beyond linking to a specific article. Indeed, a link to the general home page of the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Globe and Mail or many other Canadian media sites can be said to make news content easier to access, especially since the provision adds that it may simply be a “portion of” and the facilitation may occur “by any means”.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, insisted on opposing his bill to the Australian code on the same question. the Australian Standard treats three activities as making content available: reproducing the content, providing a snippet of the content (designed to target short story blurbs) or links to the content. Although this too is questionable (the Australian code has in fact never been used), it does not cover the simple facilitation of access.
Would the Supreme Court uphold a law whose effect might be to limit the facilitation of access to information? Also, how does the whole framework of Bill C-18 fit within the jurisdiction of the federal government? It’s not broadcasting, it’s not telecommunications, and it’s not copyright. While the government claims powers over anything internet-related, it believes there are no real limits to its jurisdiction.
And there will be much more to say about that bill as well, but for now we have to move on once more, because there are still other issues on the table. First, digging deep into the government’s 2022 budget, we learn that copyright terms in Canada are extended at 70 years after the death of the author, against 50. This is not uniquely a matter of internet policy of course, and it was unfortunately unavoidable, as it was a commitment in the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement, but the details and the approach still matter. There are important decisions to be made regarding How? ‘Or’ What this extension is implemented (the parliamentary commission in charge of revising the copyright law recommends that the additional 20 years of protection require the registration of rights holders), but by entering the change in the budget (which Prime Minister pledged not to do with important legislation) seems designed to avoid any real scrutiny or discussion. The details will come in an upcoming budget implementation act, where they will also be buried among all sorts of unrelated issues.
And as if all that weren’t enough, online harm legislation is also waiting in the wings. The government has recently exceeded a self-imposed deadline for introducing a new bill, but Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says it is still in the works with the help of a newly formed panel of experts. Optimistically, we can hope this indicates that the government is really tackling some of the problems with the approach outlined in its technical paper last year, which would establish a massive new regulatory regime with astonishing powers and procedures of public complaints conducive to abuse, while making no mention of protecting Canadians’ free speech, even if it required platforms to report them to law enforcement for their speech – but given the track record of this government, it’s hard to imagine that everything we get won’t still be riddled with dangerous issues and defended with misleading claims.
A lot could happen as each of these efforts develops, but the writing is on the wall: the government will try its best to regulate the internet one way or another. With the current ruling party’s position essentially secured until 2025, it’s going to be an interesting (and dangerous) few years for the internet in Canada.
Filed Under: c-11, canada, copyright, copyright term extension, internet, link tax, streaming