Liberal MP Dan McTeague has responded to my recent post on his linkages with CRIA in a 2,200 word “rebuttal.” The McTeague post confirms that his earlier letter to the editor came directly from content supplied by CRIA and adopts the contradictory position that when CRIA launches a lawsuit, it is only an unproven claim that should not have an impact on copyright reform, but when isoHunt files a lawsuit it demonstrates that there is a “legislative holiday” in Canada that demands immediate action.
The McTeague post provided the opportunity to take a closer look at his website, which reveals what may be widespread copyright infringement. Since the introduction of Bill C-32, McTeague has posted dozens of full-text articles from mainstream media organizations on his website, at times without attribution. In addition to the articles, McTeague has also reposted many photographs associated with the articles. While it is possible that McTeague has fully licensed the reproduction and posting of each article and photograph, this seems unlikely since the licences offered by many organizations do not even permit this form of reproduction. No other Liberal MP appears to have established a similar practice.
Alternatively, it is possible that McTeague believes that copying full-text articles and photographs without permission is covered by fair dealing. If so, his interpretation would extend beyond the views of virtually any education group who typically argue that a portion of an article may be posted or exceptionally a full article where the poster in engaged in criticism or review, but that a full text article without more on the open Internet would rarely constitute fair dealing (particularly when, as in this case, a paragraph and a link would suffice). Moreover, some of the articles do not provide attribution to the author and therefore would not meet the fair dealing attribution requirements. None of the photographs include attribution.
The more likely scenario is that this is a case of repeated copyright infringement under which there would be the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential statutory damages. Targeted Canadian mainstream media organizations include the Globe and Mail, Postmedia, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Press, CTV, QMI (Sun News), Hill Times, and many local news organizations.
McTeague has been outspoken throughout the Bill C-32 committee hearings about the need to compensate creators – even engaging in a heated discussion with education groups who accused him of cherry picking facts about fair dealing – yet his posting of full text articles may well result in lost advertising revenue for Canadian media organizations.
This raises at least two issues that McTeague has focused on during the C-32 hearings. First, the issue of “repeat infringers” and the claim that policies with a graduated response are needed. This is often a euphemism for three-strikes and you’re out policies that would result in Internet users being cut off by their ISPs. If these are in fact repeat infringements, this would appear to be a classic case where such a policy might apply.
Second, if the postings are infringing, the statutory damages liability could amount to $20,000 per infringement or over $500,000 for all the articles posted. Ironically, McTeague has been the most outspoken critic of a proposed change in Bill C-32 that would establish a $5,000 cap on non-commercial infringement, repeatedly expressing concerns about the impact of the proposed change. One wonders whether he feels that the prospect of his own infringing activity is more deserving of hundreds of thousands in liability.