New laws come with surprises to our everyday life; a well-intentioned law may negatively impact people, especially when governments draft legislation concerning the digital sphere, online platforms, and emerging technologies. Activists are of the view that the Canada Online Streaming Act will negatively impact people.
This brings the point of the topic, “Is Canada’s Online Streaming Act Draconian?” Why are people reacting to Bill C-11 with such passion? Let’s delve into what passing Bill C-11 means to Canadians.
What is the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11)?
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez officially introduced the Online Streaming Act on February 3, 2022, and received Royal Assent on April 27, 2023. The Online Streaming Act effectively makes the legislation, also known as Bill C-11, a law in Canada and the latest version of Bill C-10.
This updated version modernizes the 1991 Broadcasting Act for the current internet landscape. In 1936, Canada created a Broadcasting Act that outlined the role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) as the country’s broadcasting content regulator; the Broadcasting Act was last amended in 1991 when the internet had not yet got broad penetration across the globe.
What is the main reason for the Canadian Streaming Act?
Bill C-11 amends the 1991 Broadcasting Act, empowering CRTC to oversee the online streaming of all audio and visual content. The new Streaming Act will expand the regulatory powers of CRTC to include “internet activities,” such as TikTok, YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, podcasts apps, and the rest.
Aside from expanding the CRTC’s role in the broadcasting industry, Bill C-11 will further promote Canadian content (CanCon). The Canadian Radio-television Commission, in a publication titled “Myths and Facts About Bill C-11,” explained the commission’s new role as follows;
- To regulate broadcasters, including providers of both traditional broadcasting services and online streaming services.
- A content or digital creator will not be regulated, just as creators, artists, and producers are not today. Anyone who creates audio, video content, or podcast is not a broadcaster according to the Modernized Broadcasting Act (Content creators include YouTubers, influencers, or people who make individuals making content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram for other users to enjoy, a podcaster that produces audio streaming content on platforms like CBC Listen or Spotify; and producers making content they can sell to an online streaming service like Netflix).
- The CRTC will not regulate social media users and user content; it will only oversee broadcasters, broadcasting services, and online streaming services that make programming available to the public.
- Bill C-11 will not affect content posted by social media users. A person who uploads audio or video content to a social media platform is not a broadcaster under the Modernized Broadcasting Act.
- The Modernized Broadcasting Act will enhance the promotion of Canadian content and Indigenous creators via traditional broadcasting media and online streaming services.
- CRTC will not censor or change the content Canadians listen to and watch online. The purpose of Bill C-11 is to render support to Canadian and indigenous content, ensuring its availability on radio, TV, and online streaming services.
- Bill C-11 will not regulate algorithms; the bill will encourage innovation and make Canadian and Indigenous content easier to locate.
- Companies will continue to sell their services using their business models and plans.
- The CRTC will not regulate online video games.
However, critics are concerned about the Canada Online Streaming Act disabling foreign companies from streaming into Canada and extending CRTC’s authority over online content.
When will Bill C-11 come into effect?
The Canadian Senate has passed Bill C-11; the bill has also received royal assent and has become law. However, CRTC has to create a plan to implement the new powers of Bill C-11.
Like any new regulation in Canada, there must be wide consultations with the citizens, businesses, artists, and content creators. After developing the plan, it will be published in the Canada Gazette.
The citizens can then read and proffer suggestions with the intention of revisions to the Bill. The CRTC still has to consult on how to enforce Bill C-11 after the updates.
It is still possible to amend the policies and regulations of Bill C-11 depending on how people react to the eventual work.
Is it possible to bypass the effects of Bill C-11 using a VPN?
Online streaming borders on browsing; you will need an internet service provider (ISP) to assign you an internet protocol (IP) address. Without your IP address, you can’t surf the web or stream.
A virtual private network (VPN) will mask your identity, encrypt, and enhance DNS/IPv6 leak protection. It’s a necessary tool for you to bypass the effects of Bill C-11; as a Canadian, nobody should restrict you to content you can listen to or watch online.
Fortunately, you can add VPN extensions to most web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. If you use Opera for your online streaming, you don’t need to add VPN extensions since it has an in-built one.
A VPN extension will make it easy to quickly toggle and configure your VPN while you want to stream online. The only catch with your VPN connection is that it will only apply to information shared on the particular browser, and your browser may not support the encryption of online gaming.
Since Canada’s Online Streaming Act may eventually lead to geo-blocking content from foreign countries, VPN becomes a crucial tool you need to live your life the way you want; even with some streaming websites such as Netflix and Hulu that usually geo-block content to some countries, you can watch your favorite movies and listen to your choice music.
A paid and free VPN will allow you to choose, encrypt, and mask your IP address; it becomes almost impossible to discover which country you are streaming from.