Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
blogs, canada, cbc, copyright, quoting


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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  1. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 4 Feb 2010 @ 3:56am

    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.

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