Canadian content creators are starting to break their silence on Bill C-10 – and have found themselves in opposition to the legislation.
One of the common refrains made by organizations representing large corporate interests is that they represent the interests of creators. The messaging is that creators generally speak through the voice of these organizations whether they are the superstar creator or the small independent creator.
That myth was shattered clear back in 2006 in Canada with the creation of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC). At the time, artists were frustrated with the then Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) (now Music Canada) and actively clashed with the organization over file-sharing lawsuits. The fallout intensified when Canadian record labels left CRIA at the time. This left the organization with a representation roster that focused almost exclusively on foreign multinational record labels.
While the CMCC may be defunct now, it left a permanent rift between Canadian creators and the corporation organizations that claim to represent them. It is significant because creators rarely step into the politics of copyright and technology. While it may be wise to some degree to stay out of politics, on the other hand, it has damaged relationships with fans who were left with the impression that creators are just greedy and will sue anything that moves. The reality is that creators have a wide range of voices ranging from being in line with the large multinational corporations to being completely cool with things like file-sharing. What happened in 2006, at minimum, proved the point.
Fast forward to now and we are seeing that play out with Bill C-10. As we noted yesterday, major corporate organizations who claim to speak on behalf of creators everywhere were pushing to remove 2.1 and 4.1 from Bill C-10. While they have changed their tune since people realized the damage it could cause on the Internet, the aim was to effectively make it legally, at best, difficult to be a creator online without being subject to heavy regulation. As we earlier noted, section 2.1 exempts the user from regulation while the now deleted section 4.1 exempts the content they produce.
While we have not been shy about voicing our opposition to the legislation, we are not the only Canadian creator who is voicing their concern over the legislation. YouTuber and columnist, J.J. McCullough, is joining the ever growing chorus of voices against Bill C-10. He notes how Canadian content regulations make sense for traditional forms of media. After all, there are limited channels and outlets, so maybe there needs to be a requirement to have Canadian content air while they are at it. With the Internet, it’s different because it’s basically a global community where a user can easily be a creator. We should know because we are one beyond writing news.
He then goes on to note how Canadian producers have been doing quite well on YouTube:
And on YouTube at least, Canadians have done very well indeed. Technology reviewers Lewis Hilsenteger and Linus Sebastian, fitness influencer Maddie Lymburner, backyard engineer James Hobson, children’s entertainer “Papa” Jake McCormick, cartoonist Dominic Panganiban, gamers Evan “Vanoss” Fong and Andre “TG” Rebelo, science guys Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, and vloggers Azzy Bajrami and Cristine Rotenberg together have a combined subscriber count of more than 125 million, and are certainly among the best-known Canadians to a sizable chunk of the world.
Not good enough, the state responds: Canadian success isn’t sufficient unless what’s being made is ostentatiously Canadian in some overtly ideological way. Bill C-10 contains a laundry list of identity politics categories it believes good Canadian broadcasting must “serve the needs and interests” of, suggesting the guy who makes videos about Minecraft won’t be doing his patriotic duty until he works in some commentary about Indigenous reconciliation or the importance of the French language. Creators who play along will presumably see their content promoted on YouTube’s home, explore and possibly even subscriber tabs, to “invite Canadians,” as Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault recently put it, to watch more good, patriotic programming.
But it’s worth sparing a thought for the next generation of creators, who may be forced to pursue their dreams on a very different playing field. As Guilbeault has noted with jealousy, about three-quarters of YouTube videos are watched through the site’s recommendation algorithm, in which an AI system promotes content it thinks you will enjoy based on past viewing habits.
If Bill C-10 passes, satisfying the needs of audiences — the formula that has produced countless Canadian YouTube success stories, including my own — may soon take a back seat to satisfying government regulators. Those of us who have benefited from a golden era of creative freedom online should feel obligated to ensure it continues for others.
What is worth pointing out is the fact that this issue is actually not as left vs. right as you might think. This despite the Conservative party being against it and the Liberal party being for it. From a core ideological standpoint, both wings of politics should easily find themselves opposing this.
From a right leaning standpoint, it’s easy to oppose this. After all, Bill C-10 represents a massive market intervention by the government. They want to interfere with how algorithms allow people to discover content on private companies. That, alone, should be enough for right leaning people to say, “OK, heck no. We don’t want it.” What’s more is that the Canadian government also wants to have a say in how creators produce content as well. Basically, they want an editorial say for anyone who wants to produce content online. At that point, right leaning individuals should be saying, “Kill this legislation with fire, bury it six feet under and salt the earth at the burial site.”
From a left leaning standpoint, it’s just as much of a slam dunk to be opposed to this legislation. If your video is deemed “not Canadian enough”, then the government is saying that it should have an ability to censor your content. This is an exceedingly powerful tool for censorship that can also be abused. What if a government, especially a Conservative government, decides to use this new found power to target political opponents online? The government could theoretically order the takedown of content creators who discuss things like climate change or union related measures. After that, tie up your voice for weeks or months in bureaucracy while the government moves forward with what legislative agenda they want. At that point, left leaning individuals will be reacting to this with something like, “yeah, break out the torches and pitchforks.”
Hopefully, this is a sign that more creators are going to speak out about this legislation. It’s extremely difficult to voice such things in the first place because, for a lot of creators, that isn’t their field of expertise. If we’re talking about video editing techniques, wave forms, sculpting materials, or color wheel theory, there’s going to be creators that can offer an encyclopedia of knowledge for that. Something along those lines are their focus. Throw those same people into discussing the legislative process and nuances with bills, and there’s going to be people who just throw their hands up and say, “yeah, not my thing. Sorry.” Honestly, you can’t fault them for that.
Still, it’s going to be difficult to have those voices heard at this point. However, it is possible to have those voices join the debate. The more that join, the better.
Further information: J.J. McCullough’s YouTube channel