We have been blocked.
It wasn’t a battle we asked for. But, like many independent, local media organizations across this country, we’ve become the collateral damage in a war between the federal government and the social media giants.
Chances are, if you’ve arrived at this post, it’s because you followed a link on X (we’re still alive, there), have subscribed to our Friday AF newsletter or are just a regular, loyal reader who reguarly checks back on Urban Affairs. However you got here, thank you. We value your support.
How did we get here? Here’s the take of an editor, author and copyright-protection evangelist. So, understand, I am all about creators’ rights.
For years, writers, illustrators and photographers, and the publishers who distribute their work, have seen their rights eroded. In Canada, first under Stephen Harper, and carried on by Justin Trudeau, the fair dealing clause in the Copyright Act created a lot of grey area in terms of how we get compensated when institutions copy and redistribute our work. Many school boards and universities across Canada have stopped paying licensing fees for the texts they use in schools. This matter has gone to the Supreme Court, and, for years, creators have lobbied the federal government to revisit the legislation. Many creators now only get a fraction of the rights payments compared to what they got a decade ago.
But, instead of bringing in real change that could benefit writers and publishers as a whole, the federal government decided to go after the most low-hanging fruit of low-hanging fruit — the social-media giants. Bill C-18 requires the media giants to compensate media organizations for the links that are on their websites that are shared by Canadians. The argument is that, in the modern world, social-media sites have become our de facto news organizations. And, you know what? That’s true. We often turn to social media to help us in our search for information, no matter the disinformation and hate speech we find along the way. For independent publishers, Meta and X and Google are strange bedfellows; yet, they exploit our work — but we need them. Their platforms are what we use to keep our readers informed about our latest stories. They are often the first lines of communication between the editors and readers. So, while we can all agree that social media sites have been bad actors and that, yes, maybe there is a way to compensate creators for their work that becomes viral on Facebook or Instagram or X, Bill C-18 is a great example of using a thermonuclear weapon to kill a fly.