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As content creators await the passing of Bill C-11, some say it’s still too ambiguous

It’s been years since he sat in a classroom studying the way a bill becomes law, but over the last several months Nathan Kennedy has taken on an unexpected political crash course as the proposed online-streaming legislation winds its way through the House of Commons and Senate.
Content creators who typically avoid politics have spent the last year diving into the parliamentary process as they’ve watched the Liberal government’s controversial online streaming act move through the bill’s various stages. This combination of 2017-2022 photos shows the logos of Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat on mobile devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP

It’s been years since he sat in a classroom studying the way a bill becomes law, but over the last several months Nathan Kennedy has taken on an unexpected political crash course as the proposed online-streaming legislation winds its way through the House of Commons and Senate.

The content creator from Hamilton, Ont., has found himself thrust into the parliamentary process because of the potential impact that Bill C-11 could have on his livelihood.

“I want to understand what the impact to my broader reach will be, whether it’s on TikTok or YouTube, because that impacts my business, who I do business with, and am I attractive to sponsors from international markets,” Kennedy said.

To his 600,000 followers across various platforms he’s known as @newmoneynate.

In 2021, he started earning enough money talking about personal finance online that he quit his full-time job as a district manager.

Bill C-11 is awaiting a final vote in the Senate, and is likely to become law in the next several weeks.

But even after almost a year of debate and revisions, some content creators say the proposed law is too ambiguous, and they have no new assurances about what it will mean for them.

“The government hasn’t been able to provide any meaningful information to industry about the actual application of this proposed law,” said Kai Hutchence, CEO of Massive Corporation Game Studios in Regina.

“They say a lot of things, but most of it is extremely vague. They don’t provide a clear example of what they would do on given platforms.”

Hutchence relies heavily on YouTube to promote digital products to international customers.

The bill will require big tech companies that offer online streaming services — such as YouTube, Netflix and Spotify — to contribute to Canadian content and increase its discoverability so that CanCon is easier to find through search engines, applications and websites.

If companies don’t comply, they could face steep penalties from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which will be in charge of enforcing the new provisions.

“A lot of people have some sort of existential fear around being limited in some sense by some governing body,” Kennedy said.

“And there’s collateral damage — called creators — that could be impacted by this.”

In the past year, it’s become common for content creators to lean on one another for advice. Some have flown to Ottawa to speak to lawmakers. Others have even contemplated moving to the United States.

Google Trends, a website that tracks popular searches, shows people’s interest in Bill C-11 has grown in the last year, with inquiries seeking an explanation of the bill, whether it has passed and why it is bad.

Creators say there is disinformation about what it all will mean, and the debate has been politicized, with some who oppose the changes being called Conservative.

“The anxiety that (this bill) has provoked in the creator cannot be understated,” said J.J. McCullough, an LGBTQ content creator, from his home in Vancouver.

“I think one thing a lot of (internet) creators feel very deeply about is that they do not want to live under a regulatory framework that governs television and radio in this country.”

Like McCullough, some who have built careers on the internet say they’ve done so within a free enterprise model that works and doesn’t need fixing.

“I became popular by making content people want to watch, it’s as simple as that. That’s the only way you become popular on YouTube,” said McCullough, who voiced his concerns about the law to Parliament.

“We want to make content whose success or failure is determined by the taste of a global audience, not by Ottawa’s conception of what is the right kind of content for Canadians to consume. We find that very paternalistic, politicized, ideological and condescending.”

Kennedy worries that discoverability requirements would affect his business model. If his videos don’t meet future CanCon standards, he said they could be de-prioritized by tech companies.

“A lot of times if you don’t perform well domestically, you might not make it internationally,” he said.

Hutchence said the entire process has shown him the government “has become completely irrelevant to the individual.”

“The powers that be do what they want. There’s been no process to involve us,” Hutchence said.

Kennedy said he has come to accept that the bill will pass, but he’s holding out hope the CRTC will work with content creators before it begins regulating the internet.

“It does make going to the United States more attractive,” he said.

“People don’t really think of content creators as a career, and if there’s a better career opportunity for me in the U.S. then I have to consider that.”

—Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Online-streaming bill closer to passing after House OKs most Senate amendments