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.

Filed Under: canada, conservative party, copyright, fair dealing, free speech
Companies: cbc


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    A. Note, 17 Oct 2019 @ 10:52am

    Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

    It tried to enforce its self-crafted licensing terms to forbid anyone from quoting CBC broadcasts and publications without its explicit permission.

    England / Canada used to have vigorous common law, that's where America got the GOOD tradition. Now of course "Gary" and others HATE common law even though benefit from it every day! It's in everything, "Gary", that's why called "common"!

    driving this case is the CBC's dislike for the Conservative Party,

    Exactly. Trying to enforce the liberal political views. Even Techdirt is against that, except when it's GOOGLE and PragerU, say.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 10:56am

      Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

      The CBC has shown considerable restraint, given that it was a Conservative party (under Stephen Harper) which shut down a long list of CBC/Radio-Canada transmitters at the end of Aug 2012, some of them in places as large as London, Ontario. The current Liberal government still hasn't repaired the damage that did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gorshkov (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

        The CBC has shown considerable restraint, given that it was a Conservative party (under Stephen Harper) which shut down a long list of CBC/Radio-Canada transmitters at the end of Aug 2012, some of them in places as large as London, Ontario.

        You do realize that those transmitters were shut down because the switch to digital transmitters was completed, and the ones shut down were analogue and no longer of any use, don't you?

        There's also the little detail that the CBC shut down the transmitters themselves to save money - the Tory government and exactly zero to do with it.

        From the CBC itself: [https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/cbc-tv-tvo-end-analog-transmission-1.1145615]

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:07am

      Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

      Exactly. Trying to enforce the liberal political views.

      Tim didn't say they dislike the Conservative Party more than any other. Maybe he meant to imply that, but he provided no support for that view (such as evidence CBC was overlooking similar uses by other parties, or that their reporting has an anti-Conservative bias).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:12am

      Re: Common law prevails over Trolls

      "Gary" and others HATE common law

      Oh now, more lies from Blue Balls.

      If you mean "Common Law Courts" run by a Posse to hang race traitors, then yes.

      If you mean the actual definition of "Common Law" then whelp I neither hate not love it - I merely acknowledge that you don't understand it - ever.

      By the rules of "Common Decency" Copyright is used to take money from "People" and hand it to "Corporations" so I am anti-copyright. (Or at least pro-reform.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:33am

      Re: “Now of course "Gary" and others”

      THERE ARE NO OTHERS THERE IS ONLY GARY

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Matthew Cline (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:52am

      Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

      It's in everything, "Gary", that's why called "common"!

      No, it's called common law because was common across all of the king's courts in England.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:19pm

      Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:21pm

        (Okay, let's try that again without hitting Enter while editing the subject line…)

        Hey, Blue Balls: How do you feel about corporations, whom you continually say shouldn’t have the legal right to censor the speech of others, using copyright law — i.e., a legal right — to censor the speech of others?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:33pm

          Re:

          Copyright is afterall a RIGHT held by Corporations, granted by Common Law.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:37pm

            Technically, in the US, the right is granted by Congress, which has the power to grant that right thanks to the Constitution. Less common law than legislative law, but the spirit of the comment survives.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Gary (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 1:01pm

              Re:

              Eh, just trying to point out that Blue Balls believes copyright is a fundamental right. While also believing that corporations have no fundamental rights.

              But he's already run off to gloat about his victory in demonstrating his profound understanding of common law...

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_law

              While his definition is the one used by the hate group Posse Comitatus that held "Common Law Court" to 'prove' the Jews were to blame for mid-west problems:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_(organization)

              Thus his cries about his superior midwest values directly referring to this group of bigots he loves so much.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 17 Oct 2019 @ 12:45pm

      Re: Common law prevails over even so large as CBC!

      Once again, you fail to understand what “common law” actually is, failed to explain how it is relevant, and fail to understand the difference between moderating a privately-owned platform and using the law to censor speech you don’t like.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Martin, 17 Oct 2019 @ 11:10am

    "Canadian Broadcasting Company"?

    No. For the record, CBC is a Corporation. Says so in the documentation. It is also common knowledge here in Canada. But never mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 18 Oct 2019 @ 6:35am

    missing from this article and also problematic to me:
    The CBC is a public broadcaster
    Liberals are the incumbents
    CBC is NOT suing the libs over a similar ad

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ANON, 18 Oct 2019 @ 11:08am

    Another Issue...

    Another point to make - the CBC would have its panties in a knot, and rightly so, if the clips include the CBC logo across the bottom. This might imply the CBC was endorsing or somehow supporting the Conservative views, while its mandate is to remain neutral.

    If nothing else, showing something which could be taken as "endorsed and authenticated by the CBC" could be seen as degrading their trademark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 7:11am

      Re: Another Issue...

      If nothing else, showing something which could be taken as "endorsed and authenticated by the CBC" could be seen as degrading their trademark.

      If the story is accurate, the lawsuit is over copyright, not trademark.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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