Canadians posting videos on platforms are in danger of becoming “collateral damage” of the federal online streaming bill, TikTok Canada has warned.
The video hosting app’s director of public policy told a Senate committee on Wednesday evening that Bill C-11 will hurt digital creators by subjecting them to “burdensome regulation.”
Steve de Eyre, director of public policy and government affairs at TikTok Canada, called on the Senate to “take a sober second look at this bill” and its true impact on digital-first creators.
“As written, any video on TikTok that includes music – which is the majority of content posted on our platform – would meet all three criteria to be considered professional,” he said. “The language [in the bill] does not distinguish between streaming a full-length song, versus using a 15 to 30 second clip in the background of a video.”
Mr. de Eyre told The Globe and Mail: “To ensure Canadian creators aren’t adversely impacted by Bill C-11, it’s important for the Senate to clarify that using a partial clip of a song in a post, or doing a cover song, is not the same as streaming a full-length song.”
He said almost all the content on TikTok is “user generated,” though the platform sometimes pays a musician or other professional to post a video.
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has stressed that amateur videos, such as cat videos, will not be covered by the bill.
Bill C-11 would only cover professional content. This includes professionally produced songs, the minister has said.
The legislation is designed to update Canada’s broadcasting laws to cover platforms including YouTube, TikTok, Spotify, Disney+ and Netflix. It would oblige them to promote and financially support Canadian content. Like traditional broadcasters, the platforms would be subject to regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the broadcasting regulator.
The online streaming bill has passed through the Commons and is now being examined by the Senate’s Transport and Communications committee. Senators have the power to propose changes to the text of the bill before it becomes law.
TikTok’s concerns were echoed by YouTube and Music Canada, the trade association representing Canada’s major music labels including Sony Music Entertainment Canada and Warner Music Canada.
Patrick Rogers, chief executive of Music Canada, told senators on the committee that the current text of the bill gives “wiggle room” for interpretation. He said the bill needs minor changes to the text “to ensure that its outcomes match what is intended.”
But Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman for the Heritage Minister, said the government had been “clear since the beginning” about the scope of the bill.
“Platforms are in, users are out. User-generated content uploaded onto YouTube will not be captured by this bill. Only platforms that broadcast commercial content are in scope,” she said.
“In other words, if a platform broadcasts commercial music, it will have an obligation to contribute to our culture. Whether you listen to a song on the radio or a song on YouTube, that song should be treated in a similar and equitable way. Today, streaming platforms benefit from our market, but have zero responsibility towards Canadian artists and creators.”
The Professional Music Publishers’ Association, which represents francophone music publishers in Canada, said C-11 should be adopted as quickly as possible.
The group’s director-general, Jérôme Payette, told senators that the absence of regulation of platforms was having a major impact on Canadian music, particularly francophone music.
He said revenue from TV and radio is declining and Canadian music is not getting a significant slice of revenue from growing online businesses.
“Unfortunately, the more the platforms gain in importance, the poorer Canadian music becomes and struggles to reach its audience,” he said.
The Heritage department has said the bill will not confer powers to alter platforms’ algorithms, which can influence the options Spotify or YouTube present people with, often based on their past choices.
Music Canada’s Mr. Rogers called on the Heritage Minister to send a policy directive to the CRTC saying the regulator should not interfere with platforms’ algorithms; and that the bill will only cover professional content, not videos posted by members of the public.
Jeanette Patell, YouTube Canada’s head of government relations, said the current text of C-11 would give the CRTC “authority over what content is prioritized and how and where content is presented to Canadians.”
She warned that the bill, as currently worded, would give the CRTC authority to regulate anyone who directly or indirectly has earned revenue from their posts, which is “effectively everything on YouTube.”
Ms. Patell called on senators to make “surgical amendments that create greater precision in the legal text” so that the bill’s powers align with Mr. Rodriguez’s stated aims.
Andrew Cash, President of the Canadian Independent Music Association, expressed support for the bill, which he said would lead to more investment in music in Canada.