Canadian Broadcasting Company Hits Conservative Party With Questionable Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
from the attacking-partisan-hackery-with-copyright-hackery dept
The Canadian Broadcast Company is back on its copyright bullshit. The publicly-funded broadcaster sure seems to enjoy the benefits of fair dealing — Canada’s fair use counterpart — but it doesn’t seem to like others availing themselves of same copyright exception while using clips from CBC broadcasts.
Over the years, the CBC has made some extremely dubious copyright-related claims. It tried to enforce its self-crafted licensing terms to forbid anyone from quoting CBC broadcasts and publications without its explicit permission. It backtracked pretty quickly when everyone chose to ignore its stupid policy and its petty demands for licensing fees. It granted an exception to “bloggers,” whatever that means, and then quietly stopped griping about licensing fees.
A few years later, it made Techdirt headlines again by threatening podcast apps for “rebroadcasting” its podcasts — something accomplished by the apps utilizing the CBC’s podcast RSS feed. In essence, the threat letters claimed the loading of a URL into a podcast app violated CBC’s copyright. It was pretty much the same thing as claiming Google violated CBC’s copyrights by showing CBC URLs in its search results. Once again, everyone shrugged off the CBC’s idiocy and returned to their daily business of not actually violating CBC’s copyrights.
Here it comes again. Only this time there’s a lawsuit attached, so it’s going to be a bit tougher to shrug it off. Michael Geist reports the CBC is suing the Conservative Party of Canada for including short CBC clips in its YouTube videos.
The CBC has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Conservative Party over the use of clips on its Not As Advertised website and the use of debate clips on its Twitter feed. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in federal court, claims that a campaign video titled “Look at What We’ve Done” contained multiple excerpts from CBC programming in violation of copyright law. Moreover, the CBC also cites tweets that included short video clips of between 21 seconds and 42 seconds from the English-language leaders’ debate. The CBC argues that posting those clips on Twitter also constitutes copyright infringement.
The CBC does not appear to be in the right here. ([extremely Fry face] not sure if pun intended or not.) Fair dealing would seem to allow this use of CBC clips, especially in the context of creating videos criticizing liberal politicians. What appears to be driving this case is the CBC’s dislike for the Conservative Party, rather than any solid legal footing. Even the isolated clips embedded in Conservative Party tweets could be considered fair dealing since their use (21-42 seconds each) is clearly minimal and does not devalue the content nor prevent CBC from monetizing its copyrighted content.
That being said, Canada’s fair dealing exception might have to tangle with another law, one pertaining to fair coverage of elections. If so, the Conservative Party might come out on the losing end because it edited clips to conform to its partisan narrative, rather than simply distribute unedited footage from CBC programming.
From the lawsuit [PDF]:
The respondents’ use of copyright-protected material in the Infringing Material diminishes the reputation of CBC/Radio-Canada, its journalists and producers, and takes advantage of their respected integrity and independence in a way that undermines public confidence in Canada’s national public broadcaster at a critical time: during a national election campaign in which their coverage must be seen, more than ever, as trustworthy, independent and non-partisan.
Selectively editing various news items together to present a sensational and one-sided perspective against one particular political party may leave a viewer with the impression that CBC/Radio-Canada is biased, contrary to its obligations under the Broadcasting Act.
This is a stretch. This assumes people not familiar with the Conservative Party will assume the edited clips were assembled by the CBC to make certain politicians look bad. That these edited clips would most likely be found with the Conservative Party’s name attached makes it far less likely the uninitiated will view these as a partisan hack job performed by the publicly-funded CBC.
This argument flows directly into the CBC’s claim of violated moral rights. Supposedly, the edited clips have “damaged” the reputation of the broadcast’s producers and journalists, turning them into mouthpieces of a partisan group. In an era where politicians are even quicker to claim journalists are partisan purveyors of fake news, it’s a legitimate concern. But it’s also overblown in this context, where CBC clips are being used to highlight statements made by politicians, rather than by CBC journalists.
But here’s the ultimate concern: the CBC is acting against its own interest by engaging in litigation that could further narrow the scope of the fair dealing exception. The CBC is definitely a beneficiary of fair dealing as it allows CBC to assemble broadcasts using a variety of sources without having to worry too much about being sued for copyright violations. This is an extremely short-sighted move that may pay off in ways the CBC doesn’t particularly like, even if it secures a judgment against the Conservative Party. Be careful what you sue for. You just might get it.