TikTok stars say they may head to U.S. or spoof an American location to avoid form filling over 'Canadian content' rules – The Globe and Mail

TikToker Oorbee Roy sits atop the bowl at Ashbridges Bay skatepark in Toronto.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail
Canadian TikTok and YouTube stars say they don’t want to have to fill in forms to prove they are producing Canadian content when Bill C-11 becomes law, with some saying they would be prepared to move to the United States or spoof an online location there to avoid extra bureaucracy.
They say having to certify their work is Canadian to satisfy a regulator after the online streaming bill passes through Parliament could dampen the spontaneity of their craft.
The online-streaming bill, which is now being discussed in the Senate, would modernize and expand Canada’s broadcast laws to include platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and TikTok. It would require platforms, alongside traditional broadcasters, to promote certified Canadian content to make it easier to find.
Comedian Darcy Michael, who has three million followers on TikTok, said extra bureaucracy to prove his content is Canadian will “dampen the desire to create” and put Canadians at a disadvantage to Americans “doing similar work online.”
He has already talked with his husband about relocating to the United States, where he used to work, or using a VPN, which allows internet users to spoof an online location. Most of his followers are in the States.
The B.C.-based comedian said people making their living posting videos want clarity on how to qualify as Canadian content after the online streaming bill becomes law.
“If I have to be Canadian content, does that mean every time I might create something I have to apply for that piece to be Canadian content? I shouldn’t have to. I am Canadian content. I’m creating on Canadian soil, as a Canadian about my life in Canada,” he said.
“I don’t know how else to prove it other than I’m a gay married stoner. Those are three things you can’t necessarily sing loudly about in other countries.”
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Vanessa Brousseau, an Indigenous TikTok creator who posts videos about traditional crafts, said she shouldn’t have to prove she is Canadian when her Inuk and Ojibwe ancestors have lived here for thousands of years.
Ms. Brousseau, whose @resilientinuk TikTok account, which also features songs and posts about her missing sister Pamela Holopainen, has received 2.6 million likes, said it would be “insulting” to have to prove her content was Canadian.
Under the current broadcast law, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission requires producers of films and TV programs to fill out a 30-page form to certify a work is Canadian.
Roy makes a living posting videos of her skateboarding.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail
Oorbee Roy, a 47-year-old mother who makes a living posting videos of her skateboarding, sometimes in a sari, said if the paperwork in Canada turns out to be too arduous she might route her videos through the United States, where she was born and used to live, using a VPN.
The criteria for what qualifies as Canadian will be drawn up by the CRTC, after Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said he will ask the regulator to review its definition.
Patricia Valladao, a spokeswoman for the CRTC, said it was too early to say how the certification process for Canadian content would work.
“We strongly encourage interested parties – like TikTok users – to monitor our announcements and participate in public processes,” she said. “Any decisions on who would have to register and how would only follow those processes, and people should make no assumptions about how the Commission may rule beforehand.”
Monica Auer, a former CRTC employee who is executive director of Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, said the certification process for Canadian content would almost certainly include “form filling.”
She said videos over five minutes long need to be officially certified as Canadian under current CRTC broadcasting regulations with a 30-page form.
Many videos on YouTube are longer than five minutes. TikTok this year extended the possible length of its videos to 10 minutes and says the number of longer videos is growing.
Morghan Fortier, creator of Super Simple Songs, a preschool YouTube channel with around 30 million subscribers worldwide, said certifying content as Canadian on platforms would be a mammoth task.
“We are likely talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of videos uploaded daily to these platforms,” she said. “No organization currently exists in Canada … that could process that amount of applications.”
But Laura Scaffidi, spokeswoman to Mr. Rodriguez, said individual users of social media would not be affected by the bill.
“Canadian social media creators are talented and creative, but this bill is not about them. Bill C-11 is about making streaming platforms pay their fair share towards Canadian music, TV shows and movies.”
Steve de Eyre, director of public policy and government affairs at TikTok Canada, said “even if TikTok videos didn’t have to be individually certified by the CRTC, the creators would still be required to meet all criteria for Canadian content certification.”
“The responsibility for verifying and enforcing this would effectively be passed on to the platforms,” he added.
Jeanette Patell, head of government relations at YouTube Canada, said creators will have to demonstrate to platforms that each video meets complex Canadian eligibility requirements.
“This regulatory burden would disadvantage small and emerging creators, and impact their creative process,” she said.
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