Music labels, streamers concerned about impact of C-11's requirement to push Canadian content

The law requires streamers such as Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music to promote 'certified Canadian content' and make it more accessible. 

Music labels, streamers concerned about impact of C-11's requirement to push Canadian content
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Regulations of Canada's Online Streaming Act could lead people to start "spoofing" their location to avoid being forced to listen to Canadian music, major record labels say. 

The Act, also known as Bill C-11, became law in April. It attempts to modernize Canadian broadcasting regulations to include modern streaming sites, giving the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) authority to make demands of online streaming platforms, including Spotify, Netflix, Apple Music, and YouTube. The law requires those sites to promote "certified Canadian content" and make it more accessible. 

According to a new report in The Globe and Mail, major music labels are concerned about the possibility that the CRTC will impose Canadian music on listeners — even when it's not to their taste. Streaming is by far the most popular method of listening to music in Canada, and according to Spotify, it represents 79% of the market for recorded music. 

Patrick Rogers, chief executive officer of Music Canada, which represents labels including Universal, Sony and Warner, told the Globe that the labels support promoting Canadian content, but are concerned about possible demands from the CRTC like mandatory inclusion of Canadian music in personalized playlists.  

“We’re the music industry — we know what happens when we stop serving our fans. They go elsewhere,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on and we want to help make everything more Canadian the best that we can. But it’s not by finding ways to interrupt people’s experience.”

According to Rogers, forcing unwanted Canadian content on consumers could result in them using VPNs to access the same streaming platforms abroad. Another concern is that consumers will simply turn to illegal websites to pirate music, resulting in a loss of royalties to the labels and artists. 

According to Music Canada, 28% of Canadians, including 42% of 16-24-year-olds, currently obtain music from unlicensed sites.

Streaming giant Spotify is also concerned that pushing Canadian content could result in the defection of users. “It is essential that any regulation does not override user preferences and that users are provided with personalized recommendations to suit their tastes,” the company told the Globe. Spotify's algorithmically created playlists are a key feature, suggesting new music to users they are likely to enjoy. 

Rogers clarified he wasn't concerned that “no one's going to like” Canadian music, but rather that the promotion of specifically Canadian content could confuse the algorithms. 

C-11 has been heavily criticized by those fearful for the state of free speech on the internet in Canada. Commentators like Rebel News' Ezra Levant have consistently criticized the law for providing a means for the government to censor its political critics. The CRTC even explored the possibility of banning Fox News.

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