Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We took the clips, and so what? say Conservatives, citing "fair dealing"

The Conservative Party, whose minority government is doggedly pressing along on  reform of copyright law in this country, has shown its true colours in defence of recent television attack ads including clips lifted from the CBC. Its views should give pause even to those who think they're on the right track with proposed changes to copyright law. It probably sends a shudder through those who fear the outcome of those changes.
In the face of a letter from the CBC to all political parties saying it was wrong for anyone to use such material in political ads, the Conservative Party maintains that its use without permission, or even without asking, is "fair dealing" and cites the use of similar C-SPAN footage from the U.S. in its 2009 attack ads. The story was reported this afternoon on the CBC and is available on its website. 
“The American public affairs channel C-SPAN allowed fair use of a similar clip of Michael Ignatieff in a 2009 Conservative Party campaign,” a Tory spokesman said. “It determined that the clip at issue was freely available and in use, as is the CBC’s material....We take the position today that C-SPAN took in 2009: our ads fall within the fair dealing provisions in copyright law.”
In Canada, "fair dealing" as defined by the Copyright Act is more restrictive than the "fair use" provisions in the United States. For instance, in the U.S. if you using footage for educational purposes, you don't need to seek or receive permission; in Canada, public perfomance rights need to be obtained. And, to boot, C-SPAN gave permission, which the CBC wasn't even asked for.
The use of such footage for partisan political purposes can hardly be considered "fair dealing"; these guys aren't quoting a passage in a book review, for heavens sakes. They're appropriating footage from a public broadcaster in order to savage their opponents. That should concern all of us, in print, online, on TV or in any form of expression.



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