CRTC Chair Finally Admits That, Yes, Bill C-11 Does Cover User Generated Content

After endless denial, finally, an admission from the CRTC chair that bill C-11 does cover user generated content.

It’s been a long running fact that Bill C-11 does regulate user generated content. We’ve known this since the legislation was tabled back in February. It’s plain as day, black and white, that the CRTC does, indeed, have the power to regulate user generated content:

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.

(2) In making regulations under subsection (1), the Commission shall consider the following matters:
(a) the extent to which a program, uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service, directly or indirectly generates revenues;
(b) the fact that such a program has been broadcast, in whole or in part, by a broadcasting undertaking that
(i) is required to be carried on under a licence, or
(ii) is required to be registered with the Commission but does not provide a social media service; and
(c) the fact that such a program has been assigned a unique identifier under an international standards system.
(3) The regulations shall not prescribe a program
(a) in respect of which neither the user of a social media service who uploads the program nor the owner or licensee of copyright in the program receives revenues; or
(b) that consists only of visual images.

It was never really up for debate or up for interpretation for the reader. It’s right there in the bill. On the outset, we legitimately thought that the debate would be around why this is a bad idea and what can be done to rectify the situation. The Liberal party and their supporters, however, had other ideas.

What ensued was tweet storms where Liberal MPs attacked creators and experts alike for pointing out the obvious that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content. All that stemmed from a notorious Heritage committee where a thin skinned Liberal MP tried everything in his power to silence debate and, eventually, throw up walls of denial that required a Conservative MP to raise a point of order to stop him from attacking the witnesses.

From there, the government then released cartoons to try and mislead Canadians. The Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, himself, was busted making fake claims that the legislation would somehow miraculously save musician’s in an effort to divert attention. That effort flopped hard as well. Then, Liberal MP’s went for broke and accused opponents of being part of a massive conspiracy to spread misinformation about Bill C-11.

The media, for their part, tried to salvage the situation by making big claims about the legislation, reporting these claims as established fact. We responded, at one point, by simply deleting the misinformation. Other times, we tackled the disinformation head on, pointing out why the information is either straight up false or misleading. Some even went so far as to try and play this whole debate off as a debate between the Liberal government and the Conservative party along with a handful of uppity blogs and an annoying law professor. That, of course, completely denied the nature of the debates in the first place.

Ian Scott, the Chair of the CRTC, even recently tried to deny that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content. Of course, the claim was a bizarre one where he basically said that it doesn’t regulate user generated content because it regulates user generated content. By that point, we were pretty much just having to face the fact that the Liberal party and its supporters were never going to stop lying about the legislation.

Now, we are learning that Scott has finally admitted that, yes, Bill C-11 regulates user generated content. It was a rather roundabout way of doing this, but it was an admission nevertheless. From Michael Geist:

First, Scott was asked about the regulation of user content, confirming what has been obvious for months despite denials from Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. The following exchange with Conservative MP Rachael Thomas got Scott on the record:

Thomas: Bill C-11 does in fact leave it open to user generated content being regulated by the CRTC. I recognize that there have been arguments against this, however, Dr. Michael Geist has said “the indisputable reality is that the net result of those provisions is that user generated content is in the bill.” Jeanette Patel from Youtube Canada said “the draft law’s wording gives the broadcast regulator” – in other words you – “scope to oversee everyday videos posted for other users to watch.” Scott Benzie from Digital First Canada has also said that “while the government says the legislation will not capture digital first creators, the bill clearly does capture them.”

So all these individuals are individual users creating content. It would appear that the bill does, or could in fact, capture them, correct?

Scott: As constructed, there is a provision that would allow us to do it as required.

Was that so freaking hard to admit? As Geist commented, this basically puts an end to the debate. It took months to get here, but the government has finally admitted what everyone else with a semblance of common sense and basic level of literacy knew all along.

Now, in an ideal world, the debate can finally move on to how to fix the legislation so that user generated content is properly protected. One possibility is a rewording of the text of the bill that we highlighted above. Either a provision in there that explicitly states that user generated content and digital first creations would be excluded or simply removing the problematic sections altogether. Either way could be productive in this debate.

Still, there is little reason to believe at this point that the admission will mean we automatically move to that next step. Some might still try the denial and accusation rout instead. What’s more is the fact that simply getting the CRTC out of the user generated content regulation business altogether won’t solve all of Bill C-11’s problems. You still have the lack of clarity of how Canadian creators can even benefit from the legislation, the forcing of designated “cancon” content on users in Canada, the completely outdated rules about who qualifies in a modern world, and a whole lot more.

At any rate, there is reason to hope that there is one extremely frustrating headache is finally gone from this debate. The admission that there actually is a problem provides this hope. In a debate that has been, at times, absolutely brutal, it’s nice to see something positive – even if it’s just a subtle amount of admission by someone at some point on the other side. We’ll take what we can get.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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