Freezenet’s Submission to the Bill C-18 Senate Hearings

With the Bill C-18 hearing heading to committee for study, you knew we absolutely had to be there – at least in written form anyway.

Earlier this week, I noted that Bill C-18 has been sent to committee. For those getting a sense of déjà vu, yes, this is the same thing that happened with Bill C-11 when you saw all those senate hearings. So, yes, as the Canadian senate is debating whether or not to throw Canadian creators under the bus by passing Bill C-11 without the critical fix in place, we are getting ready to repeat the process of news outlets like us.

To say I have little optimism for this whole process would be an understatement. I mean, by this point, Canadian creators already had their own organization trying to fight against Bill C-11. If real journalists had their own organization to fight against this bill, I would like to think that I would have known about it by now. Yet, despite everything that digital creators had, the government is seem poised to pass Bill C-11 with their concerns pretty much flatly ignored. As I have commented on a couple of times now, I actively wonder what chance do journalists have in having their voices heard in this process.

The way I look at things at this point, the question is, do I say nothing and have the Canadian government attack my livelihood or do I speak out and get ignored? Either way, I’d rather have said something and fought against the governments attempts to ruin my life rather than politely sit down and just let the government try to take it all away. With that thinking, I submitted a brief which you can read here (PDF).

The thinking with this submission is that there are going to be numerous legal experts talking in-depth and at length about why Bill C-18 runs afoul of copyright law. This in addition to how Bill C-18 breaches Canada’s international trade obligations as well as doing nothing to serve the interests of the journalism sector. So, rather than talk at length about caselaw and whatnot, I decided to focus on the practical side of things. I answer questions about how journalism outlets really interact with social media, the potential for platforms to block news links, possible fixes to the bill to reduce some of those fears smaller outlets like myself have, and what some of the misinformation there is out there about the legislation.

What’s more, I did make a request to make an appearance before the hearings. Now, I’m not under any kind of grand illusion that I’ll be selected and I’ll come in and save the day by making such an incredible appearance that I’ll change the course of history forever with this debate. Anyone who does go into this with this thinking is kidding themselves. Ultimately, I’m not even sure I’ll actually be selected. Sure, I did provide unmatched coverage of the Bill C-11 hearings and heavily cover the developments of Bill C-18 and even the online harms proposal, but I’m just a little guy in a big ocean in the end. The powers that be will likely get to take the microphone from me, cup their hand over my mouth and tell Senators that everyone including me wants Bill C-18. Any hint of muffling disapproval will be met with a growling “Shut up, stupid!” from the larger media conglomerates.

Even if I do somehow defy the odds of making it into a hearing in the first place, I have little reason to believe that any of my ideas would actually make their way into the bill. At best, I’ll be able to flip the bird to the lawmakers pushing this bill in the first place before slipping back into overall obscurity. After all, the government is very busy enacting laws that intentionally ruin people’s lives and they don’t have a lot of time for things like insightful commentary or reasonable proposals or whatever other silly things some random internet nobody like myself has to say.

Still, it’s hard to not look at my humble beginnings and just admire how far I’ve come along despite all the obstacles that were thrown my way all these years. I mean, going from just taking up journalism for a lark with the thinking that I’ll be doing it for a week 18 years ago to making submissions (this is not the only one I’ve made) to the government and being gutsy enough to request an appearance is definitely a considerable leap. I mean, if I were to approach my younger self and tell him that, yes, you are on a one week fun side thing, but one day, you’ll be making an appearance before the government talking about the future of online journalism, I think my younger self would have a heart attack and say, “no, not happening. Not in a million years would that happen.” Life can be surprising, sometimes.

Whether or not I get picked, my intention is still the same with these up and coming hearings: to cover them as best as I can and offer insight wherever possible. No one really knows how long these hearings are going to take, but I’ll be happy to cover this stuff anyway – even if the work to keep up with it all can be very overwhelming at times.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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