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Canada urged to respond faster as digital landscape evolves




“The government must ensure Canadian creators can continue to tell Canadian stories to Canadian audiences, and audiences around the world for that matter,” said Reynolds Mastin, president and chief executive of the Canadian Media Producers Association. He applauded some of the measures already introduced by the Liberal government, but said more needs to be done.

“The alternative is companies from south of the border limiting our viewing options, and ultimately dictating what Canadians can watch,” Mastin said.

“That’s not a pretty picture.”

While the Trudeau government has started that review, and pledged millions of dollars in support for Canadian audiovisual productions and local journalism, the European Union is already considering dramatic changes to digital copyright rules that would protect its cultural industries and compensate creators.

Pablo Rodriguez, who replaced Mélanie Joly as heritage minister earlier this year, was not available for an interview about Canada’s cultural policies until next week, his office said. In an emailed statement, Rodriguez’s press secretary Simon Ross did not say why the review — which was announced in 2017 — isn’t slated to finish until after the next election.

“The starting point in this review is that all players must contribute. There is no free ride. But, we will not take an approach that will increase costs for Canadians. Our culture needs a global solution to address the challenges they face and that’s exactly what we have asked an expert panel to provide,” Ross said.

“We want strong Canadian companies and platforms that show great Canadian content.”

Last month, the European Parliament adopted a new Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market — or Copyright Directive, for short — that requires internet companies to police the content uploaded to their platforms, and to pay publishers for featuring their content. For example, under the directive, publishers could ask for paid licences when a platform like Facebook shares their content.

The idea has been endorsed by some Canadians — including Torstar chair John Honderich in an opinion piece earlier this week — as a potential method of protecting legacy media outlets and artists against ongoing disruption from internet giants.

But the Copyright Directive was not without controversy. Internet companies lobbied heavily against it, as did advocates for a free internet, who argued that the clampdown would stifle the free flow of ideas and creativity online.

On the other side of the debate were high-profile musicians, such as Paul McCartney, who argued their work was being republished without consent or compensation. While a billionaire Beatle might not elicit much sympathy, many less established artists and small companies are in the same boat trying to compete in the digital age.

After intense lobbying and debate, the European Parliament endorsed a compromise proposal last month, and member states will now hammer out a final deal. The proposal maintained the two most contentious aspects — that platforms must actively police copyright infringement, and that they must compensate copyright holders for their work.

But experts on digital trade and media law are skeptical that the European model could work in Canada.

“I don’t think anything similar would fly in Canada,” said Emily Laidlaw, who teaches internet law at the University of Calgary. “It’s requiring these companies, these platforms. to identify and remove illegal content. Basically, they’ll have a role of policing.”

Apart from pushback from tech companies, another potential obstacle is the newly signed trade agreement with Mexico and the United States, the USMCA. That deal limits internet platforms’ liability for their users’ content — a so-called “safe harbour” rule.

Would that prevent Canada from adopting European-style digital copyright rules?

“We’re still trying to sort that out,” said Michael Geist, the chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.

“I do think clearly extending that sort of safe-harbour approach, no liability for third party content, does run counter to some of the European rules which are trying to increase liability … or, at least, responsibility for some of those platforms.

“On the other hand, the USMCA is fairly explicit that (the safe-harbour rule) doesn’t apply to intellectual property. So … it wouldn’t appear that this would necessarily preclude other steps.”

But while European countries are moving forward with the debate, Canada has largely stalled. The Liberal government has made a number of significant investments in Canada’s cultural industries, but a consultation on updating copyright laws will not wrap up until 2020 — after the next federal election.

Pierre Nantel, a Montreal-area MP and heritage critic for the New Democrats, wants Canada to follow France in pressing foreign entertainment companies to pay tax in the countries where their profits are generated.

“Our job … is to protect Canadian culture. It’s not about making it easier for these companies, or have these internet companies run all the way to the bank laughing,” he said.

Conservative MP Dan Albas also has concerns about Ottawa lagging on new copyright regulations. It’s too easy to rip off copyrighted textbooks in Canada now, he said, and cable providers are losing business because of pirated technology.

But for the Conservatives, any changes the government ends up proposing will need to avoid stifling innovation and creativity, while also taking into account smaller artists and creators who make their livings online.

Aside from the copyright question, critics have accused the Liberals of failing to address a number of other critical issues facing Canada’s cultural industries, including journalism.

The Liberals’ 2017 cultural plan revamp included a commitment from Netflix to invest $500 million in Canadian productions, as well as expanded federal funding to the Canadian Media Fund that supports homemade audiovisual programming. In their last budget, the Liberals also committed $50 million in assistance over five years to support local journalism, although the government has yet to announce where that money will go.

But industry critics were disappointed in the plan, which fell far short of the intervention recommended in The Shattered Mirror, a report commissioned by the federal government.

John Hinds, president and chief executive of News Media Canada, said he believes the Liberal government has no interest in directly financing Canadian journalism. His organization has called on the government to boost the Canadian Periodical Fund, which supports Canadian magazines, by $350 million and allowing daily and community newspapers to apply.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, was more upbeat about what the Liberals have done for the entertainment industry workers he represents.

He said the cultural exemption from free trade rules that was preserved in new USMCA deal will allow Canada to maintain subsidies for audiovisual productions of national interest through instruments like the Canada Media Fund, which the Liberals have beefed up with $172 million over the next five years.

Now Waddell hopes Canadian content rules for radio and TV can be extended to the digital realm to cover streaming services like Netflix, CraveTV and Amazon Prime Video. Like Nantel, he also wants Ottawa to change the rules so that sales tax is applied to these services, to make a level playing field with Canadian competitors.

“It’s certainly something that we’re going to be putting forward to the expert panel” reviewing the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts, he said.

But that panel isn’t slated to make its final report until 2020. For the NDP’s Nantel, that timeline doesn’t capture the urgency for industries that work at the heart of Canadian culture.

“If we don’t want to make the move, we will disappear. Point blank,” he said.

“There’s nothing else to say.”

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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