Saskatchewan-based game developers are warning that if passed, Canada’s Bill C-11 could have negative consequences for their industry.
In part, the “Online Streaming Act” aims to begin regulating internet streaming services like Netflix and Youtube, including by requiring them to promote and recommend Canadian-created content.
Kai Hutchence is the CEO of Massive Corporation Game Studios, known for titles like Queen City Chaos and Cheese Runner.
He worries that if Canada moves ahead and passes the bill, which is currently under consideration by the Senate of Canada’s Transport and Communications Committee, other countries may follow suit with similar protectionary legislation.
“Most game developers don’t simply go with a direct advertising approach. We make videos about the games, about the process of making the games, and so things like Youtube are an enormous part of how we build up the buzz and marketing for digital products like this,” Hutchence told Global News earlier this month.
“If we do this to protect Canadian markets, and exclude other countries’ creators, why wouldn’t other countries react and do the same thing to us. That’s going to hurt Canada more than it helps.”
Hutchence said that while the legislation may result in more content views from Canadians, “99 per cent” of his clients are international.
“If I lose 10 per cent of the Chinese market, and the U.S. market, and the Indian market, this is worth huge amounts to our business and industry,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the government seems to be taking a very isolationist-level view on this, thinking Canada acts in its own world and it simply doesn’t. This is something that could severely risk the ability of our industry to succeed.”
Hutchence also voiced concern over the amount of consultation and debate that has occurred on the bill.
The Liberal government faced protests from Conservative and Green Party MPs after it cut short debate and discussion of amendments in the heritage committee to push the bill through the House of Commons before the summer break.
“If they’re influencing how we can approach customers, they need to discuss that with us and unfortunately what we’ve seen is the federal government has actually fast-tracked this bill to reduce the amount of consultation and discussions around it,” Hutchence said.
“By simply telling us, ‘we’re going to do this,’ and then not giving us any of the details, how can we adjust? This is something that could severely risk the ability of our industry to succeed.”
In an emailed response, a spokesperson from the department of Canadian Heritage said “the Online Streaming Act is about fairness and seeks to ensure that all who benefit from the system, contribute to it.”
“The Government of Canada has and will continue to work with its international counterparts to ensure a good understanding of Bill C‑11. The provisions of Bill C-11 comply with Canada’s international trade obligations.”
Laura Scaffidi, press secretary for Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez, also provided a statement on possible Senate amendments.
“We look forward to these discussions and we are even open to ways to make this bill stronger, in order to better support our artists and creators. But we are not open to doing nothing,” she wrote.
Scaffidi also pointed to a September 14 committee meeting at which Global Affairs Canada Executive Director of Technical Barriers and Regulations Darren Smith was asked about the potential for international retaliation to the legislation.
“We believe that the provisions of Bill C-11 are indeed consistent with Canada’s international trade obligations, including its commitments under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement or CUSMA. The draft legislation has been undertaken in such a way to try to avoid any kind of discriminatory differences between Canadian and foreign service suppliers,” Smith said in the meeting.
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