Other Observers Begin Pointing Out Bill C-10 Time Crunch, Google and Internet Archive Speaks Out

After pointing out the seemingly impossible timetable for Bill C-10, others are joining in on this observation. This as Internet Archive and Google speak out.

Time running out has proven to be the ultimate killer of bad surveillance and copyright bills. This happened with the bad bills of the Martin Liberal government and the Harper Conservative governments respectively. It’s a big reason why Canada never really had mass file-sharing lawsuits (though some companies tried to pretend that was a thing), American style dragnet surveillance, and a French HADOPI style three strikes law. The damage each policy would have had to Canada would have been immense, but time restraints can be thanked for so many of these laws never coming to be.

The most Canada ever got is anti-circumvention laws. That has really put a crimp on innovation. The only other damaging policy is the copyright term extension to life plus 70 years (as opposed to life plus 50 years). Creativity has suffered because of that. Still, considering this is largely the extent of the damage the international corporate lobbyists have been able to inflict on Canada since 2005, Canada has been able to avoid a lot of damage to human rights, innovation, and creativity.

So, if a Canadian DMCA and lawful access can die on the order paper, why can’t speech regulation legislation? After the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the Heritage Committee exceeded its authority, and consequently, struck many of the amendments from the legislation, we could see time becoming an issue. So, on Thursday, we pointed out that this time crunch could prove to be extremely problematic for the survival of Bill C-10. This because the legislative break could see an election. If an election hits with no passage of Bill C-10 before the break, it’s game over for the legislation.

Yesterday, it appeared as though even Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault knew this. In response, his ministry tried to “introduce” the legislation into the Canadian senate even though the bill only just barely made it into the House of Commons. It was a bizarre moved that seemed to rub senators the wrong way. In response, at least one senator called the move “insulting”.

If anything, there was an indication that the Canadian Senate had keen interest in studying the bill further rather than simply rubber stamping the legislation. This is critical because of you thought the House of Commons sitting calendar looked bad for Bill C-10, the Senate calendar looks even worse. Next Thursday is not a sitting day and Friday is a day where they might have a sitting day, but it’s unclear if they really will have that one day. With senators getting quite irritated over the situation, a one day study and passage is exceedingly unlikely.

Now we are learning that other observers are starting to take notice of this. Michael Geist noted the extremely tight timeline yesterday:

Liberal Senator @dennis_dawson states what has become increasingly clear in recent days on Bill C-10: the Senate wants a real review of the bill and there is no time for that before the summer break. If there is an early fall election, Bill C-10 will die.

With running out of gag orders in the bag of tricks Guilbeault has, and trying to “introduce” the legislation in the senate even though it barely reached the House of Commons, what’ll be interesting to see is if the Minister is willing to try anything else at this point. It was clear since the Speaker’s ruling that the timeline was going to be exceedingly challenging. Now, with a mere three days left for the House, it is becoming more and more clear by the day that the threat of time is becoming even more prominent. If there was something more that the Minister can do to magically make the timeline work for the passage of this bill, we’d be quite surprised.

At this point, you’d have to blow through every amendment vote and debate on Monday, then have the legislation introduced into the Senate, go through all the studies, debate, and questions the Senate wants to do. Then, have the bill passed the same day, bring it to the House of Commons on Wednesday where it would receive Royal Assent. That is an extremely laughable and unrealistic thing to hope to accomplish. Even if you were to convene an emergency debate during the break to try and pass this legislation, it’s unlikely to really produce any results in the end. If there are any experienced legislative observers reading that timeline, I’d expect them to at least be giggling at the proposed timeline at least.

Google and Internet Archive Speaks Out

Google has added some comments to the overall conversation when it comes to speech regulation. Google, of course, has already commented earlier this month. In doing so, they added an interesting thought to the debate. That thought being that if Canada starts demanding discoverability within through own borders, what do you think is going to happen when other governments start demanding the same? Indeed, that is a reasonable question to ask.

Obviously, Google has quite the tightrope to walk in this debate as well. On the one hand, they are financially motivated to be against this legislation given the many other provisions that would force it to pay into various Cancon funds. On the other hand, they can’t exactly leave the Canadian creators that use their services like YouTube out to dry in all of this. By pushing against this legislation through the fact that it would have detriment effects on Canadian creators, they actually are taking the best possible line they could possibly take in all of this.

Interestingly enough, Google recently released a study that showed what impacts their services have had for Canadian creators. YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, tweeted the study that was published.

The link in question goes to a posting on Google Blog Canada. Part of that reads as follows:

At its core, YouTube is built around connection and community. In a year of great change, we saw Canadians come to the platform to tell their stories, grow their businesses, explore new interests, keep learning, or simply for a laugh.

After a year where our online lives were front and centre like never before, we turned to Oxford Economics to independently quantify YouTube’s contributions to Canada. The result is YouTube – From Opportunity to Impact, a report that examines the economic, societal and cultural benefits of YouTube in Canada throughout 2020, based on direct feedback from our creator community and users.

The report confirms that YouTube continues to be a place where Canadians go to understand our world, tell their stories and connect with others. And the COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the importance of the platform as a source of information for Canadians. The report shows that nearly three quarters (74%) of YouTube users agree that the platform has been helpful to them since the start of the pandemic. In addition to being a reliable source of information, 58% of users agree that YouTube has had a positive impact on their mental health or physical wellbeing.

YouTube’s open platform has enabled creators to both contribute to the Canadian cultural landscape and build economic opportunity for themselves and their communities. These creative entrepreneurs are finding success on their own terms and building thriving businesses that span all types of genres and topics.

Simply put, the YouTube creator economy has a real and positive impact on the wider Canadian economy. The report estimates that in 2020, YouTube’s creative ecosystem contributed approximately $923 million to Canada’s GDP. In that same period YouTube supported the equivalent of 34,100 full-time employment jobs across Canada.

The study itself points to a number of statistics like those mentioned above. It also mentions a number of Canadian creators including non other than Linus Tech Tips. For those who don’t know, Linus Tech Tips is a hugely popular YouTube channel boasting 13.6 million subscribers. The study points to the channels humble beginnings of Linus starting off with a borrowed camera where he shot video’s in his home. Now, he has employed staff and is working out of a studio in Vancouver. The channel itself offers many insights into technology such as how to build PC’s, how benchmarking works, build challenges, commentary on tech news, and a whole bunch more.

We’ve actually watched a number of these video’s such as the absurd $100,000 PC build:

… the video where Linus games on a 25 year old laptop:

… rating the worst gaming rigs on his own staff:

… the hilarious video of testing whether or not a PC can get killed by static electricity:

… and even the cardboard computer case challenge:

So, it only made sense that we reach out to Linus Tech Tips for comment on this. We designed our two questions so that it was possible to answer without stepping into any kind of political debate. Specifically, we asked what it was like for them to be specifically mentioned in the study itself and if they had any thoughts on Bill C-10. Sadly, despite being fans of the channel, we did not hear back. In some respects, this is pretty par for the course for being in the thankless job of journalism anyway. So, this is really nothing new for us.

Meanwhile, it seems that Internet Archive Canada is also speaking out on Bill C-10. In a Tweet, internet archive said that they, too, oppose the legislation.

We stand with our friends @OpenMediaOrg and @mgeist opposing Bill C-10. Automatic content filtering is an old, bad idea that doesn’t support a #FreeInternet for Canadians. Read our position @internetarchive:

What is a bit peculiar here, though, is that the link points to a posting talking about content filtering:

The Government of Canada continues to consider fundamental changes to its copyright laws. In its latest proposal, what’s old is new again, as Canada once more considers automatic content filtering online. Internet Archive Canada strongly opposes these proposals, and submitted a formal response to the Government explaining why.

Unfortunately, these are not new ideas. For over a decade, website blocking, automatic content filtering, internet bans, and other draconian copyright measures have been urged on governments around the world. With political leaders looking at large technology companies with a new eye, both the United States and the European Union have expressed a new openness to these previously rejected ideas. Now styled as attempts to reign in “big tech,” what is really at stake is the free and open internet, which offers so much to the individual user and makes websites like archive.org possible.

Fortunately, while the Government has outlined a variety of potentially troubling changes to Canada’s Copyright Act, it has also stated that “[s]ignificant changes” to Canada’s copyright law are “not presently being contemplated.” In the circumstances, Internet Archive Canada is simply asking the Government to recognize the tremendous significance of these kinds of proposals and refrain from enacting them at this time. Many others have done the same; indeed, our friends at Open Media asked all Canadians to voice their concerns.

Now, the tweet makes it clear that they are in opposition of Bill C-10. The posting, however, is actually talking about some of the background discussions going on for copyright reform. For some time now, the Canadian government has been in the crafting phase of copyright reforms. Among the discussions were Internet censorship (often referred to as site blocking). Throughout 2018 and before, there was a push by corporations in Canada, encouraged by multinational corporations, to get the CRTC to mandate a blacklist of websites that ISPs are obligated to block. After Canadians stood up to oppose this legislation, the CRTC ultimately rejected the push.

As late as March of this year, there has been a push to bring back the Internet censorship in Canada. This started to mutate out of a debate going in in the CRTC over how to block botnet activity. Copyright lobbyists saw this as an opportunity and demanded that anything they didn’t like should be censored as well. This despite it being painfully clear that censoring websites at the behest of corporate interests was not feasible in Canada. Technologically, it’s impossible to enforce this in any effective way given what happened in the UK in 2019, and the network neutrality fiasco in the US in 2018, the natural response for consumers when government starts trampling on Internet freedom is to look towards the security of VPN’s.

At any rate, content filtering is actually a separate debate. Given the political realities of today, the threat is, for now, an even more distant threat. Copyright reform hasn’t even been introduced yet. While site blocking is actually a separate issue from the speech regulation bill, it is still a consistent position in that the Internet Archive is against the regulation of content. A bit confusing of a message, but consistent and an understandable position.

At any rate, the situation with free speech is continuing to get better and better as Bill C-10 is increasingly going down in flames. If the clock runs out (which seems like an all but certain thing now), the only hope the legislation has left is that an election isn’t called, proving many political analysts wrong in the process. The speculation is that an election is going to happen, but it’s by no means a sure thing at this point. So, even if the break happens with no passage of Bill C-10, it’s not fully dead yet at this stage. Still, the fate of the bill would be out of the hands of the Heritage Minister at that stage. An election means the legislation is dead. If there is no election, the speech regulation effort lives to fight another day. Regardless, free speech is likely to live on in Canada for at least a few more months the way things are going. Given the last two months, this situation is a very welcome change.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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