CBC Threatens Podcast Apps For Letting People Listen To CBC Podcasts

from the the-stupid.-it-burns dept

I really thought we were beyond this kind of idiocy by now, but apparently wherever newish technology shows up, there are technologically clueless lawyers waiting to rush in. Today’s example: lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Company have sent threat letters to the makers of various podcast apps for letting people listen to CBC podcasts. Apparently, the lawyers at the CBC think that because a podcast app is a commercial product, that means that you can’t use it to access their public RSS feeds that offer up the CBC’s podcasts. Here’s the email that was posted to Reddit, with the name of the specific app redacted:

I am contacting you regarding the unauthorized use of CBC’s podcasts that are being used in your <app name> app.

By using CBC’s digital services you have agreed to our our Terms of Use located at cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html.

Under section 2(b) of these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from using our podcasts for commercial purposes without a proper licence from CBC.

I would ask to cease immediately the use of our unlicensed podcasts.

If you interested in CBC content and podcast, we can discuss a license fee model.

I would be happy to have a call to discuss further our content and services.

I actually listen to a few CBC podcasts on my commercial podcast player — but now I have to wonder if they’ll still be there. Either way, this is ridiculously stupid and clueless. As Cory Doctorow notes in his post about this, this is a return of the old stupid and debunked idea where some clueless sites believed you needed a license to link to them. Because that’s really all that the podcast apps are doing. They’re picking up publicly available RSS feeds and letting people listen to publicly available podcasts.

But the CBC is going one worse here: their argument is that making a tool that allows someone to load a public URL without permission is violating copyright law — it’s the same thing as saying, “Because Google is a for-profit corporation, any time a Chrome user loads a CBC page in the Chrome browser without the CBC’s permission, Google is violating CBC’s copyright.”

It is an absolutely insane idea, and as legally ignorant as one can imagine. It’s shocking that a letter of such dangerous stupidity was sent on CBC letterhead, signed by someone who apparently got a law degree at some point. If the CBC is right, then all browsers are presumptively unlawful.

There is an implied license when you put something on the web that it is there to link to. If you don’t want people to load your RSS feed, don’t publish it, or add a password to it. To argue otherwise is to argue against the internet itself.

One hopes this is just someone who is incredibly confused, or was just searching for extra work at the CBC, because if this is seriously the CBC’s policy, then that’s extraordinarily messed up.

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Comments on “CBC Threatens Podcast Apps For Letting People Listen To CBC Podcasts”

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A Confused Canadian says:

Re: CBC's podcasts

I fail to understand the logic here. You admit that you have no problem with your podcasts being offered freely, meaning you clearly have no expectation of revenue, leastwise not through that path, yet you feel the need to take action should someone else seek to monetize. I have never understood that. Someone here is providing a convenient means for people to find content, including yours, but it is your insistence that there should be no incentive to share freely available content? Is there some personal frustration when someone is making money you are not, even if you would not have otherwise?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: CBC's podcasts

I can explain that logic to you, although I disagree that this is what’s happening here.

There are a number of public pieces of software (say, Firefox, LibreOffice, Bittorrent) that are available with a permissive license from their websites.

Then there are companies who are bundling this software up with their own ad-wrappers and passing it off as the original. They SEO themselves into being highly ranked in search results, such that people sometimes have difficulty finding the legitimate original software. They do all this extra rank placing using funds generated by the ads they wrap around the product. The wrappers make for a crappier product, but it’s the one people find, so it’s what they use.

This is the sort of scenario the CBC is attempting to avoid.

The problem I see here is that nobody is going to confuse a CBC podcast for the app that displays ads and just happens to be able to find and play CBC podcasts. If they did this to the CBC Player app, CBC would have a case. If they scraped the website and inserted ads in the resulting content, or did intersitial audio ads, CBC would have a case. But from what I can see, neither is happening here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: CBC's podcasts

Chuck, that’s all fine, but it sounds like the 3rd party apps/services aren’t doing this; they’re selling ads on their apps/services, and they happen to aggregate your content. They aren’t interrupting the podcast with audio ads for some product (which would begin to skirt the border of acceptability, though likely not legality), so they’re not actually doing what they’re being accused of doing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: CBC's podcasts

So, what you’re saying is that no piece of software that allows access to your public RSS feed is able to support themselves via ads. I hope your listenership drops sufficiently to remind you of how silly it is to misapply the rules in this way.

Attack an organisation for profiting directly from your content = you might have a point. Attack an organisation for profiting while providing a service that happens to allow access to your content = dumb.

zboot (profile) says:

Another question

So, if I create a website with terms of use that forbid anyone from reading any document on my website titled “Top Secret”, and I place a prominent link on every page to said “Top Secret” document, along with text somewhere on the page that says “clicking links on this site constitutes acceptance of the TOS”, can I then sue everyone who reads the publicly linked unprotected document?

Edward Morbius (profile) says:

Financial Post on the story as well

Original Reddit submitter here.

The Canadian _Financial Post_ have posted a story as well, and I’m hearing from other media within Canada developing the story.


Thanks for the signal boost!

Anonymous Coward says:

How dare someone link to a public website with an rss
feed and enable people to listen to your podcast and grow your audience that listens to free audio content ,
those filthy scurvey lowdown pirates ,
How dare they use public internet links and rss feeds the
way it was designed to work.
splice the mainbrace and make them walk the plank .if You don,t want people acessing your content put it behind a paywall or put a password on the webpage .

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Stupidity...but With Ample Precedent

Yeah, this is stupid of the CBC. Basically, the app is just delivering them listeners, delivering them increased influence, community, and ad opportunity. Should CBC not pay the app for that instead of vice-versa? Meh, no, should be deal-free and just how it goes.

Cable Industry
But the precendent is strong. The Cable industry has been paying broadcasters for decades to extend their reach and bring them more viewers. I’ve never understood why cable companies (and thus their customers) should pay a broadcaster to pick up and repeat their free-to-air signal, but there it is.

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