YouTube says bill could cover users' videos, despite minister's assurances

·3 min read

OTTAWA — YouTube has warned that cooking videos made in people's kitchens and other home videos could be regulated by an online streaming law, despite assurances from the heritage minister that this will not happen.

Speaking publicly for the first time about Bill C-11, Jeanette Patell, head of government affairs at YouTube Canada, said the draft law's wording gives the broadcast regulator scope to oversee everyday videos posted for other users to watch.

She told the National Culture Summit in Ottawa that the bill's text appears to contradict Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez's public assurances that it does not cover amateur content, such as cat videos.

The issue of whether the bill covers user-generated videos is likely to be closely discussed by MPs when the proposed legislation, which is passing through Parliament, goes to committee for closer scrutiny.

The online streaming bill, known in Parliament as Bill C-11, contains a clause excluding from regulation videos uploaded by a user for other users to watch.

It is followed by qualifying clauses saying the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can make regulations relating to "programs," which YouTube claims would give the regulator the discretion and scope to oversee a wide range of content, including home videos.

Patell told the summit that if the government wants an "option in the future" to regulate YouTube users' videos, "that's a conversation we need to have."

"It’s incumbent on us to have clarity in the law," she told the summit.

Patell indicated that YouTube accepts that full-length professional music videos should fall within the bill's scope, but she said she wants the legal text of the bill to explicitly reflect the minister's insistence that amateur videos will be exempt.

In February, when the bill was unveiled, Rodriguez said "cat videos" or social-media "influencers" would not be covered by it.

A spokeswoman for the minister said the government has been very clear that user-generated content does not come within the scope of the bill and the text reflects that.

"We have been extremely clear: Only platforms have obligations. Users and creators will not be regulated. Platforms are in, user-generated content is out," said Laura Scaffidi.

The bill would make online streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Spotify and YouTube, promote a certain amount of Canadian content and contribute financially to the Canadian cultural sector. .

It also gives the CRTC wider powers over digital platforms, so they are regulated along with traditional broadcasters.

Patell said in an interview that the bill “provides the CRTC the discretion to regulate user-generated content like a fan doing a cover song or someone making cooking videos in their kitchen or doing how-to-fix-a-bike videos."

Jack Blum of Reel Canada, which created National Canadian Film Day, said regulations making global platforms promote Canadians' creative work are essential because otherwise Canadian stories are "extremely difficult to find."

"The vastness of the platform makes it virtually impossible to have a presence with Canadian stories," he said. "The marketplace will not service Canadians because Canadians are not a big enough piece of the market."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2022.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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