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Bill C-11: A threat to freedom of expression

Montreal, June 14, 2022 – On November 22 last year, the federal government introduced Bill C‑11, the Online Streaming Act, in the House of Commons. Its goal is to allow the CRTC to regulate online streaming services. The Netflixes and Disneys of the world, as well as platforms like Spotify and YouTube, are targeted by the bill. It will potentially cover almost all audio and audiovisual content accessible online in Canada. A new MEI publication warns against the possible economic, cultural, and legal consequences of this bill.

“The goal of Bill C-11 is to correct the current legislation’s blind spots and expand the CRTC’s empire. If adopted in its current form, Canadians could see a massive bureaucratization of today’s most dynamic spaces for creativity and expression,” says Samuel Bachand, lawyer at the LIS law firm.

Economic, cultural, and legal consequences

According to the authors of the publication, this piece of legislation gives the CRTC a great deal of latitude to indirectly control content generated by individual users. There is a very real risk that streaming platforms and social media will be pushed toward a highly regulated environment.

“Expressive content like podcasts and video clips, which currently enjoy full freedom of expression, could fall under the CRTC’s authority and suffer the consequences of CRTC orders targeting the platforms that host them. There is reason to worry about the potentially harmful consequences of imposing a burdensome government mechanism in an area where freedom and the almost total lack of regulation have worked wonders so far,” explains Mr. Bachand.

It is difficult to predict exactly how the CRTC would use these new powers, or even whether it would use them at all.

“If the government really has no intention to regulate the independent content that Canadian citizens share online, it should amend the law and close this regulatory loophole before it is adopted,” concludes Gabriel Giguère, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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