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Government policy tells CRTC to exclude social media users from online streaming bill


Canadians who make content online are to be excluded from future regulations that the Liberal government is imposing on digital giants, a new draft policy shows.

The government's online streaming bill, which passed in April, aims to force platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute to and promote Canadian content -- a requirement traditional broadcasters already follow.

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission must now develop regulations to implement the bill's intentions.

Draft policy released by the government on Thursday instructs the CRTC to leave out social media users, including local businesses, who upload content online, even if they use commercial songs.

For example, a person who records a makeup tutorial or dance trend while with a Harry Styles song in the background would not fall under the regulations.

The draft policy states that the measures will not apply to such users because their content is mainly meant for the internet.

TikTok said it is encouraged by that instruction.

"We will continue to advocate on behalf of our creators throughout the CRTC consultation process to ensure that these protections are enshrined in the final rules," a spokesperson for TikTok said in a statement Thursday.

Platforms will likely be regulated for streaming music promoted by record labels or commercial artists, when that content is also broadcast on other platforms -- like on the radio.

A senior official within the Heritage Department said the key to understanding which broadcaster will be regulated is knowing if commercial content that is on their platform also appears in other media, such as on TV, radio or other digital streaming services.

For example, a television show can appear both on Netflix and on cable, and a live sports game could stream on social media platforms, TV and radio.

YouTube, which has opposed the changes, said it is committed to keeping intact the ecosystem of its platform, which relies on creators.

"That's something we're committed to preserving," a spokesperson for YouTube said in a statement on Thursday.

"We are reviewing the policy direction, and will continue to advocate for the interests of Canada's digital creators and audiences through the remaining stages of this process."

The draft policy said people who make local podcasts or stream video games online will also be excluded from the bill's regulations, which are set to take shape over the summer before a final policy directive is released in the fall.

Digital media giants that fall under the regulations will have to promote Canadian content, and are encouraged to put forward their own ideas on how they can do that.

The Heritage Department said it wants input from digital platforms on how they can promote Canadian content, but they say it could come in a variety of ways -- from billboards promoting artists to designating sections of their sites to local music and stories.

The government's draft policy states that the solution should minimize the need for companies to alter their algorithms in order to comply with the law.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who sponsored the bill, has said the law is intended to help highlight local stories and music on streaming platforms, many of which are based in the United States.

"We've said it from the start: if you benefit from the system, you should contribute to it. With the Online Streaming Act, we're acting to support our creators, our artists, our independent producers and our culture so that they thrive in the digital age," Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday.

"Canadians deserve to see themselves in what they watch and listen to, and this legislation is an essential step forward in ensuring that our cultural industry and our talent shine."

The government's directive also asked the commission to prioritize parts of the bill dealing with redefining Canadian content, advancing Indigenous storytelling and achieving better representation from Black and LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Conservative Heritage critic Rachael Thomas said she believes the legislation amounts to government censorship that "gives the Liberals the power to control what we can see, hear, and post online."

"Only Pierre Poilievre and the common sense Conservatives will repeal Bill C-11 and protect the individual rights and freedoms of Canadians," she said in a statement Thursday.

A senior official with the Heritage Department said on Thursday that going forward, any government can change the bill's regulations following public consultations.

The CRTC will hold public consultations on the Liberal's draft policy in the weeks ahead, in which people will have the opportunity to provide input.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.



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