Liberals in Full Meltdown. Now Picking Fights With Michael Geist Over Bill C-11

The heat is growing over Bill C-11. After picking fights with creators, Liberals are now picking fights with Michael Geist.

Liberals have long ignored digital first creators in the process of both Bill C-10 in the last government and Bill C-11 during this government. Precious little, if any, opportunity was afforded to creators that this legislation would affect the most. This, of course, has frustrated many online creators who feel that they are going to suddenly lose their livelihoods. All of this getting sacrificed at the alter of corporations and established players wanting to freeload off of the platforms.

Recently, Liberals have doubled down on their hostility towards creators by openly attacking them on Twitter. Supposedly, this is all coming from representatives at the Heritage Committee that is supposedly supposed to defend the interests of Canadian creators. So, for some, it was quite shocking to see them expressing open hostility towards them.

Now, Liberals have escalated things even further. It seems that they are now picking fights with university professor, Michael Geist. Chris Bittle commented with this:

No one was targeted, professor. It’s disappointing that you have to engage in hyperbole to argue your point.

Seems the all the opponents of the legislation have left is conjecture, hyperbole and misinformation. Disappointing for you, sir.

Obviously, the accusations are practically confessions here. After seeing all the arguments supporting the legislation, non have been successful at selling the legislation in the first place. So, flinging insults is all supporters of the bill have left. so, at this point, it seems that Liberals have decided to just go big on the only tool they have left in defending the legislation: insults and bullying.

Geist, unsurprisingly, defended himself by making numerous points against the legislation:

The concerns I’ve identified with Bill C-11 are neither hyperbole nor misinformation. You asked which provisions open door to user generated content regulation. That would be Sections 4.1(2) and 4.2. Further discussed here: 1/7

Moreover, Bill C-11 about far more than large Internet streamers. Canadian Heritage officials have literally identified everything from podcasts to audiobooks to thousands of streaming services. No thresholds in the bill. 2/7

Further, the concerns of the digital-first creators on the impact of the discoverability rules are absolutely valid. First, not at all clear how they’ll benefit in Canada since there is no system for user-generated Cancon. 3/7

Second, even if they can be identified as Cancon, this post explains why the policy is likely to result in reduced revenues globally for those creators. There is a reason no other country in the world has established this policy. 4/7

The uncertainty will Bill C-11 is also enormously problematic. Without a policy direction in advance, myriad of questions about exclusion of video games, IP standards, contribution requirements, etc. And who decides those issues? 5/7

That would be the CRTC. The same CRTC with a chair that is subject to complaints about bias, a process that is hard to navigate for all but the largest lobby groups and companies, and proceedings and appeals that can take years. 6/7

Meanwhile, we have Cancon rules that treat “Gotta Love Trump” as Cancon but exclude Disney’s Turning Red, Amazon’s Maple Leafs series or Netflix’s Jusqua’au Declin. If we want Canadian stories, those rules the place to start. 7/7

The Liberals response was to just keep attacking Geist:

Perhaps but your tweet was. I’m told you are a highly respected academic so why engage in a hyperbolic mischaracterization of what happened in committee. It’s beneath you, sir.

The Liberal then went on to have an even further meltdown after that:

Yesterday at Heritage Committee, @CPC_HQ used a study on Status of the Artist Act to spread doubt & stoke fear about Bill #C11 among those who make a living online (online creators). 1/7

Bill #C11 is about obligations for the big online streaming platforms that have become the new gatekeepers in the age of cord-cutting and the rise of online streaming. 2/7

The legislation is also about regulating the content that gets posted, but who is counting?

If they benefit from our audiences and from our creators, they should give back! To ensure Canadian culture remains vibrant, diverse and a source of good jobs. 3/7

The legislation, of course, does nothing to compel large platforms to “give back” to all creators. What it does do is compel them to contribute to a pool of cash which is then divvied up by large legacy players like CTV, Global, and other large players who have deep roots in legacy mediums like newspapers and television broadcasting.

I celebrate that Canada has successful online creators. How, they are the ones who made it big. They aren’t representative of all creators.

For every online creator who has a million followers with sponsorships & revenue sharing, there are thousands more who get pennies. 4/7

It’s hard being an artist or a creator right now: COVID and digital disruption have increased precarity.

We are hearing a lot from groups claiming to speak for all online creators, but who have nothing to say about what platforms owe to creators or to Canada. 5/7

So, naturally, when creators did speak up, the Liberals chose to openly attack them for having the audacity to raise concerns about Bill C-11. You know, because that makes perfect sense.

Let’s talk about fair compensation for online creators, rights to a safe workplace (free of harassment), rights to their content & audience data, rights to organize & be heard! 6/7

This was brought up because… uh… OK, we don’t know why that was brought up. At what point did Bill C-11 discuss or even bring up rights to a safe workplace for small online creators? Believe me, I’ve read the bill and I didn’t find that anywhere in it.

Oh, but compensation for creators. Hey, that sounds great. I’d like a little extra money for the content I create. Coincidentally, this was actually asked in government about how small online creators could possibly benefit from this legislation from the compensation side of things. The Liberal response? “I don’t know“. But, no Mr. MP, please tell me how does that money go to a small creator like myself? On behalf of the many creators out there, I’m all ears and please cite the legislation while you are at it. We’d like a little assurance that the talking point isn’t just made up.

Then there’s the “rights to their content”. First of all, we’re not sure what part of Bill C-11 that this comes from. What we do know is that we are pretty sure that current copyright law already covers that pretty darn well.

As for “audience data”, that part of the comment is just plain bizarre. For one, what part of Bill C-11 is that in reference to? Secondly, how is “audience data” a “right” that creators have, exactly? Indeed, numerous platforms like YouTube already offer analytical data to creators through their YouTube Studio service. It’s free as far as we know. What’s more is that creators can employ numerous different services (not just Google Analytics) to figure out what kind of audience they have should they create their own website. Where exactly is this information being withheld?

The “rights to organize and be heard” is, of course, particularly ironic considering how often they have been trying to shut down debate about this legislation in the first place. We’ve already seen the numerous gag orders imposed when it was still called Bill C-10. Combine that with the attacks on critics and creators who spoke out about the bill and it’s just laughable that he, of all people, is wanting people to be heard.

Last point: #C11 *only* sets obligations for the big platforms, not creators. Let’s see if @RachaelThomasMP @MGeist @SWBenzie have *anything at all* to say about that. 7/7

Obviously, this is not true. Did the legislation specifically state “This legislation only applies to [insert large platform here].”? No. Does the legislation state, “This legislation applies only to platforms with [insert incredibly large volumes of traffic count here]”? No. What does the legislation say? It says:


(r) online undertakings shall clearly promote and recommend Canadian programming, in both official languages as well as in Indigenous languages, and ensure that any means of control of the programming generates results allowing its discovery; and


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.


Regulations — programs to which this Act applies

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.

Ultimately, the text of the bill begs to differ with the MP more than anything else.

The fact that criticisms towards the legislation is leading to such an epic meltdown on the Liberal’s part is telling of just in over their heads they are. No defence, to date, has ever been successful. They have resorted to simply attacking and/or blocking people who criticize the bill likely thanks to having no other way to defend the bill. What’s more is that they know the bill has no social credibility and have turned this into a PR crisis. It’s all gone completely insane now. If I was someone charged with managing the PR of the Liberal party, I’d be immediately calling Bittle and telling him, “For the love of God, stop tweeting.”

The only question now is how much bigger of a trainwreck is the Liberals willing to let this build up to.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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