CBC: When We Said Blogs Would Need Permission To Quote Us, We Didn't Really Mean It

from the yeah-that's-clear dept

Late last week, a bunch of folks sent in stories about how the CBC up in Canada had new licensing terms for its content that suggested rather draconian (and ridiculous) rules that would apply to any quoting without permission. I didn’t write about it then, because I sort of figured it was the usual situation where a new policy was put in place by people who didn’t even bother to think about it or the implications of what they were saying and what it would mean. This is typical of people who just think of copyright as meaning “we own everything” and don’t bother to understand the nuances of what copyright really means. Of course, after a lot of complaints the CBC is sorta, but not really, backtracking. They’re saying that even though the actual rules say otherwise, bloggers can quote articles for free.

But, of course, all the CBC is really doing is showing that it does not seem to understand these issues at all. When it says something like this, you have to wonder:

“The objective is to bring some clarity and some consistency, and to ensure our brand is properly protected. The guiding principle is to have the rules of use and the restrictions of use as unambiguous as possible so people know what they’re getting into when they use this stuff.”

But, of course, the rules didn’t add clarity or making things unambiguous, they did the reverse. And, the CBC seems to be confused about the purpose of copyright law, when it says the goal is to “ensure our brand is properly protected.” While that may be the purpose of trademark law, it’s not the purpose of copyright law, and using copyright law for that purpose is a mistake that leads to these sorts of ugly situations.

The real issue here is that, once again, you have people making rules who think they understand what copyright is for, and they don’t recognize what it really means at all. And that leads them to say things that make no sense, such as barring all use without permission. In this day and age, when there are so many open discussions on copyright, you would think that those making such a policy change would, at the very least, first explore some of the issues before making such a drastic change in policy.

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Comments on “CBC: When We Said Blogs Would Need Permission To Quote Us, We Didn't Really Mean It”

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Anonymous Coward says:


In monarchical Commonwealth countries, particularly Canada, country-wide government corporations often use the style “crown corporation”, indicating that the conglomerate is technically owned by the reigning sovereign.

The CBC is owned by the Queen of England but paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Crown corporations can also have copyrights to such information as postal codes. For a really long time. Oh Canada.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Likewise New Zealand and Australia.

Though amusing the Kingdom of New Zealand is actually bigger than the Country of New Zealand.

(The rest of it is a bunch of islands that are basically or actually NZ dependencies.)

not that that’s terribly relevant.

I’ve never actually seen ‘crown copyright’ come up here… it probably exists, but it doesn’t seem to cause issues.

of course, this might be because we don’t have crown corporations. we have ‘state owned enterprises’ … which are literally businesses of whatever structure, run as normal business entities, which happen to have the government as the only (or major majority) shareholder. usually used to avoid actually privatizing things, they tend to have heavy regulation regarding minimum standards of service and maximum prices.

up shot of all this is that they have the same copyright abilities as any other business, and if the government uses copyright, so far it’s not been done in a way that makes anyone take notice.

(heck, it’s rare to hear them using something like a state secrets act… they get in more trouble for Not keeping secrets or control of information they’re supposed to :S )

Zaphod (profile) says:

Ummm, protecting brand?

“The objective is to bring some clarity and some consistency, and to ensure our brand is properly protected.”

Ummm, I thought you protected a brand with a registered trademark? Isn’t data un-trademarkable, and by itself, shouldn’t information be unpatentable? (There is a case regarding just that worming it’s way through the courts now regarding DNA)

Are trademarks a U.S.A. only thing? Perhaps you need a little more variety in your attorney pool?

Zap 🙂

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Mother Corp (aka CBC) is madly trying to come to terms with the Internet while signing onto the most egregious of the copyright mavens, coming out editorially in favour of things like three-strikes laws on it’s technology programs and other assorted silliness.

You have a point about the CBC being a mirror image of FOX except that where FOX leans right the CBC leans left.

Maybe they don’t have anyone on the board who was around in the Nixon years but they have more than a few who were around for Trudeau. (To be fair, and Mulroney.)

Like the recording industry and the newspaper biz, the Mother Corp has no idea what to do about the Internet except react in fear and attempt to build a castle in which they are the only ones allowed in or out.



(PS for those of us outside the light and joy that is the Greater Toronto Area, another name for CBC is Toronto Broadcasting Corporation. In short, 30 of 35 million Canadians.)

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Copyright itself is a sword of Damocles

Copyright itself is a sword of Damocles that even artists convince themselves they should covet.

So when I say “Why do you want the power to sue your fans for promoting you or singing your songs?”

They always deny wanting to sue their fans. They just want the power to.

So, similarly, all publishers want the power to sue people who quote them without permission.

But they will deny wanting to sue bloggers.

It’s like people who want a gun to shoot burglars.

They will deny wanting to shoot the neighbour’s kids.

Weapons are seductive.

Copyright is an unnatural weapon created in the 18th century when such unethical devices weren’t so repugnant. No-one needs it. We’d all be far better off without it.

Abolish copyright.

ChuckRunyan (profile) says:

Re: Copyright itself is a sword of Damocles

So I write a book, a very good book, it takes all of my spare time for 5 years. I have it published. Another company takes the book and publishes it themselves. They get to make all the sales because they can inherently charge less for the book. Why? Because my publisher has to pay me something for the work I did to make the book.

I think it is unethical to strip artists of the right to compensation for their creations, which is what abolishing copyright would do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Copyright itself is a sword of Damocles

1) You (and your) publisher have a number of advantages, including being first to market, being the original author (name & shame works quite well in these circumstances), the ability to write sequels or addendum or sign books or sell merchandise or offer a special edition with other perks or give interviews or…

2) There is no such “right to compensation.” It’s imaginary. Get over it.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright itself is a sword of Damocles

Chuck, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t give away 5 years’ work to the public without being assured it would be worth my while.

I may write articles that I publish on my blog without assurance of payment in exchange, but for 5 years’ work I’d want some serious spondulicks.

However, I don’t believe it is ethical to prosecute people for copying, sharing, text-to-speeching, annotating, or enacting the writing I sell or give to them.

Bear in mind that copyright is not a right to compensation (no such thing), but the stripping from the public of their natural right to copy.

Copyright is a right that was suspended from the public in the 18th century and reserved as a privilege to be exploited by printers. It is pretended that this is in the public’s interest, but that’s an unsurprising pretext given how lucrative it is to the printers that lobbied for it (and useful to the state interested in a controlled press).

Anyway, I’d readily agree with you that it’s highly unethical to strip anyone of their natural rights. Given copyright does this, it’s a good reason to abolish it, let alone the fact that it’s no longer effective.

So, if we’re both agreed that we should be ethical, and not be so silly as to work for 5 years for nothing, then assuming there is a market for our work, we need to find some ethical way of exchanging our work for the money of those in the market for it.

Once we’ve been paid, once our work is published in exchange, then obviously we’ll be delighted the more widely our work is read, shared, used in schools, reprinted, etc.

Joe says:

In all fairness to the CBC, reading over their blog post, they quite clearly say (paraphrasing). – “this is our intention, yes we know that doesn’t jive with the terms of use, we’re going to review that document.” Fair play to them on that point.

This shouldn’t take away from Mike’s main point, that people are making rules based on confusing assumptions of rights which are, more often than not, imaginary and usually contradictory (bad when others do it, but I have a good reason when I do it).

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