YouTube Creator Liaison Says That Bill C-11 Can Still Regulate User Generated Content

The YouTube creator liaison has posted a video saying that Bill C-11 can still regulate user generated content despite the change.

Earlier this month, we reported on a major fix to Bill C-11. Specifically, it changes Section 4.2 to more clearly regulate the very content that the government pretended that it wanted to regulate. Specifically, they claimed to want to go after commercial music on platforms like YouTube when they are available on Spotify as well. Yes, it’s an oddly specific demand while demanding such a sweeping and vague provision, but that is one of the conclusions the government somehow conjured up in justifying their push to crack down on freedom of expression.

What the Senate successfully did was look at both sides of the debate and conclude that if the government wanted to regulate commercially available music on YouTube, then the law should reflect that. If digital first creators are worried that provisions that stipulate that money changing hands somewhere along the line will negatively impact their careers, then those provisions get taken out. To paraphrase university law professor, Michael Geist, it took everyone’s arguments at face value and changed the wording to reflect everyone’s interests.

The reaction to the change has been a very universal one – overwhelmingly positive. Yes, there are still numerous problems with the bill, but it looked as though the biggest problem was finally fixed. Indeed, when I read and re-read the provisions all the while opening it up to anyone else to come up with their own interpretation, I couldn’t find a way to interpret 4.2 to mean that user generated content would get swept up in the bill. What’s more is that no one stepped forward in the comments section or messaged me on social media (as of this writing of course) saying that they have found a way to interpret that section differently and that it still regulates user generated content.

Recently, however, the YouTube Creator Liaison (in other news, YouTube creators have a liaison) posted a video saying that it’s still possible for user generated content to be regulated. This despite the changes. Here’s the video:

The comments come in at 1:40 where he offered a description of the events that unfolded in the senate. He says that the government hasn’t changed the level of discretion the CRTC has. This appears to be in reference to 4.2 and not anything in the subsections (such as 4.2 (a) and so on). In response, he says that the CRTC can still regulate user generated content. He warned that creators will not have certainty in the coming years because of this.

After that, he spoke about how YouTube doesn’t want creators to move out of Canada as well as some basic facts on where the legislation is likely to end up next.

For me, I’m personally not entirely sure how he was able to get that interpretation. The only thing I can think of is that maybe he is wanting provisions in the bill that explicitly forbids the CRTC from regulating user generated content. Maybe something along the lines of “The Commission shall not consider… content that is not uploaded by the platform that is produced by a third party creator.” or something along those lines. This may be where the language about certainty partly comes from, but I’m not entirely sure on that.

Now, I never claim on being right on everything. I may have an uncanny track record of being right on things a lot of the time, but I sure as heck never claim to be perfect either. So, maybe there is a chance that he sees something in the bill that I do not. Who knows?

For me, personally, I think the real threat that user generated content gets regulated, at this stage, comes from when both government Houses come together and agree on a specific version of the bill. At that point, it’s entirely possible that the government will echo the initial criticisms that user generated content being out of the bill represents a “loophole” for “big tech” (a criticism that is obvious BS of course) and push hard to get the old wording of Section 4.2 back in the bill. That is where I see the Section 4.2 fix being vulnerable.

Where I do agree with the YouTube Liaison, however, is the awful precedent this sets around the world. This will only serve to incentivize other countries to demand that their own hand-picked content get preferential treatment on various platforms that exist today. The practical effect is that everyone suffers because you fragment the global audience even further. If France demands that French content gets promoted, that is a big francophone audience that is suddenly much more off limits to francophone creators in Quebec for instance. No amount of “but we create good content” is really going to fix this.

Obviously, a big piece of the puzzle missing in all of this is going to be the government directive after this. The problem is that the government has basically locked this directive up in some high security safe or secure space to make sure the public never sees this as if it was some sort of national security top secret document. It won’t see the light of day until after it is far too late to make any changes to the legislation. So, we won’t really know the full plan the government plans on setting out until after the bill has come into force.

At any rate, there are still a lot of moving parts left to see set in place. We won’t get a whole lot more answers until the new year. So, we’ll have to wait and find out if the YouTube Liaison really is seeing something we are not seeing. Still, it is interesting to see someone still interpreting the bill as something that allows for the regulation of user generated content.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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