The Online Streaming Act, in the works for more than two years, has raised sharp criticism, especially from netizens, who claim that it basically amounts to a noose around their necks and is a clear violation of freedom of the press.
Canada’s new Online Streaming Act, formerly known as Bill C-11, is raising controversy online, as critics accuse it of online censorship, while the Justin Trudeau government claims it is a vital step for protecting Canadian culture. Passing through a long and difficult legislative process, the bill has finally been turned into law on the 27th of April.
The Online Streaming Act, in the works for more than two years, has raised sharp criticism, especially from netizens, who claim that it basically amounts to a noose around their necks and is a clear violation of freedom of the press. There have been widespread protests against this bill for the entire legislative period. Many online services, such as Youtube and Meta, have threatened to pull their services from the country in response to this law.
What is the Bill?
The Bill allows the Canadian government to regulate digital streaming platforms like Netflix, Youtube, Spotify, and Disney+, and force them to promote Canadian content and content creators, pay a fee to fund Canadian culture, and improve the visibility of Canadian content in their algorithms.
The government says it closes a loophole in the law, which forced radio and other non-digital platforms to broadcast a minimum of 30% of Canadian content but left Silicon Valley free to flout these requirements. The administration says that this law just evens the playing field, and ensures that Canadian culture is not drowned in the tsunami of global content.
They point out that the non-internet version of these laws has been critical for protecting Canadian musicians, actors, writers, and entertainers, and that several worldwide phenomena such as Celine Dion or Drake would never have been discovered without such measures.
Critics say this Law is Highly Undemocratic
A big issue with the Online Streaming Act, many of its opponents contend, is that it places a vast amount of power and legislative autonomy in the hands of the CRTC, the Canadian Radio and TV Commission, which regulates broadcasting and telecommunications. With hazy wording, the CRTC would have near-unlimited power to define and enforce measures as it sees fit. The CRTC is an unelected authority, and thus this would mean a step back from democratic principles.
A further criticism of the Online Streaming Act is its opacity, as many of its measures and definitions are seemingly too broad, and the government has repeatedly refused to clarify them. In fact, when the Senate recommended clarification of these definitions, the Justin Trudeau government pushed back hard against it. Critics say that this will lead to widespread confusion, and choke Canadian online culture in a ‘noose of contradictions’.
It remains to be seen whether this Online Streaming Act will be a good or bad thing for Canadian online culture. For now, many Canadians seem committed to resisting it, with JJ McCullough, a Canadian Youtuber, known for his cultural commentary, requesting people to use VPNs to bypass the oversight of the Canadian government and demonstrate the law’s unenforceability.