Latest from Michael Geist - Page 2

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has tried to deflect public concern with the regulation of user generated content under Bill C-10 by claiming the intent is to make the “web giants” pay their fair share. Yet according to an internal government memo to Guilbeault signed by former Heritage Deputy Minister Hélène Laurendeau released under the Access to Information Act, the department has for months envisioned a far broader regulatory reach. The memo identifies a wide range of targets, including podcast apps such as Stitcher and Pocket Casts, audiobook services such as Audible, home workout apps, adult websites, sports streaming services…
Over the past week, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has repeatedly been told that Canadian cultural groups are among the strongest supporters of freedom of expression and would never think of supporting legislation that undermines that foundational democratic principle. Yet the reality is that some of the same cultural groups that now downplay the impact of Bill C-10 on expression, lobbied the government to remove all user generated content safeguards. In other words, rather than support freedom of expression for all Canadians, some envisioned using the Broadcast Act to regulate both users and user generated content. For example, Canadian…
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday held a special hearing with experts to discuss Bill C-10 and concerns about the freedom of expression implications of regulating user generated content. I was pleased to appear before the committee and took questions from MPs from four of the five parties (only the Liberals did not ask me any questions). I have two posts on the appearance: this post features my opening statement and a second post links to a special edition of the Law Bytes podcast with the audio of my appearance. The full text is posted below. There are at…
With yesterday’s Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meeting with experts on Bill C-10 and its implications for freedom of expression, this is a special Law Bytes episode featuring my opening statement and engagement with Members of Parliament. The discussion canvassed a wide range of issues including how regulating user generated content makes Canada an outlier worldwide, the impact on net neutrality, and why discoverability requirements constitute speech regulation. There is a second post that features my opening statement to the committee. The podcast can be downloaded here, accessed on YouTube, and is embedded below. Subscribe to the podcast…
The global struggle for access to COVID-19 vaccines took a dramatic turn recently as the Biden Administration in the United States unexpectedly reversed its longstanding opposition to a patent waiver designed to facilitate access to vaccines in the developing world. The shift seemingly caught many by surprise. Pharmaceutical companies were quick to voice opposition and U.S. allies found themselves being asked to take positions. That was certainly the case in Canada, where the Canadian government has steadfastly refused to support the waiver with repeated claims that it had yet to make a decision. Ellen ‘t Hoen, is a lawyer…
The Department of Justice yesterday released its updated Charter statement on Bill C-10. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the department argued that the bill is Charter compliant. That conclusion was never in doubt as the statement is quite clearly more a political document than a legal analysis. The only real questions were whether the department would seriously grapple with the freedom of expression implications of treating all user generated content as a “program” subject to regulation by the CRTC and if Minister of Justice David Lametti would come to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to answer questions…
The Canadian government’s support for net neutrality has long stood as a core principle of its approach to the Internet. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would defend net neutrality and expressed concern about the attacks on net neutrality in the U.S. That same year, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly made net neutrality a foundational part of Canadian cultural policy, stating that “as a government, we stand by the principle of net neutrality.” ISED Minister Navdeep Bains adopted the same position, stating “Net neutrality is one of the critical issues of our times, much like freedom of the press…
Last night, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault posted a remarkable tweet that should heighten concerns about Bill C-10, forthcoming online harms legislation, and the government’s intent with respect to free speech. In the weeks since it opened the door to treating all user generated content as a “program” subject to CRTC regulation, there has been mounting public criticism and concern about the implications for free speech. While the tech companies have remained relatively silent, Canadians have been speaking out. Those voices now include the Government of Saskatchewan, with Minister of Justice Gord Wyant writing to Guilbeault to urge the federal…
This past week Bill C-10, Internet free speech, and the government’s digital policy agenda went mainstream as a lead topic in government, the media, and among many Canadians. This week’s Law Bytes podcast departs from the standard format as I explain why the bill has suddenly become a hot topic, how the government has been inconsistent and at times incoherent in its attempts to justify the bill, and why the concerns regarding freedom of speech and CRTC over-regulation are absolutely justified. The podcast can be downloaded here, accessed on YouTube, and is embedded below. Subscribe to the podcast…
The government’s defence of Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, took another hit over the weekend with what might have been the worst interview yet by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault (and that includes the CBC interview ten days ago that people are still talking about). In the span of eight minutes, Guilbeault managed to cite the wrong section in the bill, indicate that social media users with a large number of followers would be regulated, and justify the regulation by assuring that it would come from the CRTC, rather than the government directly. What was left at the…
For the past week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised to address widespread concern over Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. After the issue emerged as an increasingly prominent part of House of Commons debate, Guilbeault stated; we also want to make sure that the content that people upload on social media won’t be considered as programming under the act and that it won’t be regulated by the CRTC. And that’s why we will be bringing forward another amendment that will make this crystal clear. That statement was repeated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in…
The uproar over Bill C-10 has rightly focused on the government’s decision to remove safeguards for user generated content from the bill. Despite insistence from Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault that users will not be regulated and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that users will not be required to make Cancon contributions, the reality is that the removal of Section 4.1 from the bill means that all user generated content is treated as a “program” under the Act and therefore subject to regulation by the CRTC. That regulation is extensive and can include “discoverability” requirements that would allow the…
The past week has seen a groundswell of public concern over Bill C-10 and the government’s plan to regulate user generated content. I have given numerous interviews, many of which do a nice job of distilling the key issues in an accessible manner. These include: CBC, All in a Day with Alan Neal John Gormley Show Evan Solomon Show I’ve also appeared on several podcasts, including: Uncommons with Nate-Erskine Smith Political Traction with Amanda Galbraith The Long Way with Daniel Proussalidis And don’t forget my column in Macleans on the government’s plans and this week’s Law Bytes podcast featuring Cara…
Appeared in Macleans on May 3, 2021 as The Real Consequences of Steven Guibeault’s Battle with the Web Giants My new Macleans op-ed notes that government legislation tends to attract a wide range of responses. Some bills grab the spotlight and become sources of heated debate for months, while others fly under the radar screen with few Canadians taking notice. Until recently, Bill C-10, the government’s Broadcasting Act reform bill, fell into the latter category. Introduced last November as part of Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s mission to “make web giants pay”, the bill was steadily and stealthily working its…
The public debate on Bill C-10 recently took a dramatic turn after the government unexpectedly removed legal safeguards designed to ensure the CRTC would not regulate user generated content. The resulting backlash has left political columnists comparing Canada to China in censoring the Internet, opposition MPs launching petitions with promises to fight back against the bill, and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault struggling to coherently answer questions about his own bill. Cara Zwibel is the Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and one of Canada’s leading experts on freedom of expression. She joins the Law