As YouTube Warns of Dangers of Bill C-11, Liberals Suggest that Tweaks Are An Option

As YouTube warns of the consequences of Bill C-11 for creators, Chris Bittle suggests tweaks might be an option.

The scandal plagued Bill C-11 legislation has taken some dramatic turns in recent days. Between online creators getting attacked during committee meetings, Liberals hurling insults on Twitter, and an ensuing Twitter meltdown by the same MP, Liberals have been seemingly acting more and more like Donald Trump not getting his way.

Of course, while Liberals are trying to insult their way out of being cornered by facts and evidence, experts and observers have continued to stick to what the legislation would actually do. Citing things like past comments made by the CRTC, the text of the bill (such as section 4.1 and 4.2), and continued to hammer the facts in the battle to keep the Internet free and open for Canadians.

Indeed, large media outlets are one of the few entities that stand to gain from this. So, they have been trying to spin this story as a bill that does little more than ‘get large platforms to operate on the same rules as cable TV’ – seemingly unaware that this talking point alone actually highlights what is so heavily flawed with the legislation in the first place. Trying to implement broad rules that are identical between old technology cable TV channels and the modern Internet is like trying to take rules surrounding navel ships and applying them to land motor vehicles. Totally different technology and not something that would actually work in any practical sense.

Recently, YouTube has been warning about the dangers of Bill C-11. They highlight what pretty much everyone else has been saying: the bill is extremely bad news for digital first creators who stand to lose a heck of a lot. From Mobile Syrup:

YouTube says Bill C-11 could cause Canadian creators to lose foreign revenue if the government forces the promotion of Canadian content.

The Canadian Press reports a briefing from the company that says the legislation, also known as the Online Streaming Act, will downgrade the popularity of Canadian content around the world, cutting into the earnings of creators.

The Canadian Press reports YouTube is still concerned the CRTC will have the authority to regulate user-generated content.

“Clearer definitions and more precise language are needed to ensure the bill doesn’t unintentionally scope in digital creators and negatively impact the thousands of Canadian creators on YouTube and the millions of Canadians who use YouTube every day,” Jeanette Patell, head of government affairs and public policy at YouTube Canada, told the publication.

The concerns, of course, are well founded. It’s plain as day in the legislation. As we highlighted back in February, Section 4.1(2) and Section 4.2 plainly says that the legislation regulates content that is uploaded onto the Internet (ergo user generated content). From the text of the bill:

Application — certain programs
(2) Despite subsection (1), this Act applies in respect of a program that is uploaded as described in that subsection if the program
(a) is uploaded to the social media service by the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or by the agent or mandatary of either of them; or
(b) is prescribed by regulations made under sec­tion 4.‍2.

4.‍2 (1) For the purposes of paragraph 4.‍1(2)‍(b), the Commission may make regulations prescribing programs in respect of which this Act applies.

For clarity, when the act mentions “the Commission”, this is in reference to the CRTC.

So, in short, YouTube isn’t stupid. They see what will inevitably happen with this legislation. They know Canadian creators are going to get royally screwed in all of this. Pointing out that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content is like pointing out that water is wet. The only people involved in this debate that don’t understand that are people whose paychecks depend on them not understanding that or people who have taken a head in the sand approach to all of this for whatever motivating reason.

Now, we are learning that embattled MP, Chris Bittle, the Liberal that lashed out at multiple people when the facts grew too inconvenient for his support of Bill C-11, is seemingly starting to take a step back in all of this. A report out today suggests that Bittle is opening up to the idea of amending the legislation. From CTV:

The federal government has signalled it is open to MPs tweaking a bill that would subject streaming companies, such as Netflix, to the same rules as traditional Canadian broadcasters.

Chris Bittle, parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister, said in the House of Commons on Tuesday there is “room” for MPs to amend the bill after it goes to committee for scrutiny.

On Tuesday during Commons debate, Tory MPs indicated they planned to table amendments to the bill, which they say is flawed.

Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara said the bill will “make clear that digital-first creators will be excluded.”

I hate to say it, but we’ve been down this road before with Bill C-10 in the last government. When controversy was swarming the Liberal government over Bill C-10, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said that he wanted to make it “crystal clear” that user generated content would not be included. The resulting action, however, showed that the government was actually doubling down on regulating user generated content.

What’s more is that Bill C-10 did have amendments proposed, but Liberals along with the Bloc and NDP voted against fixing the legislation as if to make it clear that the intention of the bill was to, in fact, regulate user generated content. This was voted against not, once, not twice, but three times. So, it was no accident that user generated content back then was going to get regulated.

While the idea of the Liberals warming up to the idea of amending the legislation sounds promising on the surface, the past suggests that this may be history repeating itself all the same. It would be great to be proven wrong and that Section 4.1(2) and 4.2 gets repealed, but that seems unlikely after everything we’ve seen so far. After all, lobbyists paid a considerable amount of money to wipe out the online competition, letting those pesky online producers off the hook seems to be something that those lobbyists would find unacceptable.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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