Archive for October, 2014

Political Attack Ads May Be Noxious, but Copyright Isn’t the Right Tool to Stop Them

Appeared in the Toronto Star on October 11, 2014 as Federal Proposal to Loosen Copyright Law for Political Advertising Falls Flat Reports surfaced last week that the federal government plans to introduce a new copyright exception for political advertising within a forthcoming budget bill. The provision would allow politicians and […]

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October 14, 2014 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive
New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising, Presentation by Minister of Canadian Heritage

The Government’s Political Advertising Copyright Exception: Fine Print Shows Proposal Privileges Politicians’ Speech Rights Over the Public

Last night I posted on reports that the Canadian government is considering a new copyright exception for political advertising.  While many have been harshly critical of the plans, I’ve noted that political speech is critically important and that copyright law should not be used to stifle it.  My post argues that the law may already cover some of the uses and that if changes are needed, a better approach would be to adopt a fair use provision in Canada.

I have now obtained a copy of the document that was presented by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The document is obviously consistent with the media reports, but provides significantly more detail and raises several additional questions and concerns.

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October 9, 2014 10 comments News
Fair Dealing by Giulia Forsythe (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dRkXwP

Why Isn’t Fair Dealing Enough?: Government Considering Copyright Exception to Cover Political Advertising

Reports from CTV and the Globe and Mail indicate that the government is planning to introduce a new copyright exception for political advertising. The reports suggest that the exception would permit the use of news content in political advertising without authorization provided that it meets three conditions:

News content would have to meet three criteria for this exemption, the cabinet memo says. It would have to be published or made available through TV broadcasts or platforms such as YouTube. It would have to be obtained from a news source such as a news program or newspaper or periodical. And it would have to feature a political actor operating in that person’s capacity as a politician, or relate to a political issue.

While the reports sparked an immediate reaction claiming the government is legalizing theft, my view is that copyright law should not be used to stifle legitimate speech. Political speech – even noxious attack ads – surely qualifies as important speech that merits protection (see this CDT analysis for similar concerns in the US). I am not a fan of attack ads, but attempts to use copyright to claim absolute rights over the use of a portion of a video clip is surely counter to basic principles of fair dealing (in Canada) or fair use.

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October 8, 2014 15 comments News
2012 Trailer Park Boys Minneapolis by James (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dDisgE

It’s Time to Be Honest: Netflix Will Not Mean the End of Canadian Television

The Globe and Mail’s Simon Houpt ran a column over the weekend titled It’s Time to be Honest: Netflix is Parasitic. The piece received some positive commentary on Twitter, with some suggesting that it provided a counter-view to the Netflix support that has prevailed publicly and politically for several weeks in Canada. Houpt uses some effective imagery (Netflix as a Wal-Mart or Costco behemoth that will lay waste to Canadian film producers in the same way that the retail giants take out “mom and pop” stores), but this post argues that he does not come close to making his case.

The Netflix backlash (also found in Globe pieces from Kate Taylor and John Doyle) can be distilled down to two key concerns. First, that Netflix only produces a limited amount of original content and merely selling access to a large library will gradually mean no new content. Second, that Netflix (unlike the conventional broadcasters) does not contribute to the creation of original Canadian programming and the erosion of that support will lead to the end of new Canadian content. This second concern lies at the heart of the calls for a mandatory contribution by Netflix (referred to by some as a Netflix tax).

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October 8, 2014 24 comments News
Trust by Terry Johnston (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/Hf1p8

The Canadian Wireless Market and the Big 3: It’s Always Been a Matter of Trust

Fresh off the contentious hearing on the future of television regulation, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission jumped back into the fire last week with a hearing on the wireless market that focused on whether changes are needed to the wholesale market to improve competition.

The Big 3 – Bell, Telus, and Rogers – unsurprisingly opposed new measures, arguing that the Commission should reject the Competition Bureau’s independent finding that there are competition concerns along with the smaller players and consumer groups that support new regulations. Instead, they argue that Canadians can trust that the market is already competitive and that reforms would reduce investment and harm the quality of the networks.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that if that message evokes a sense of déjà vu, perhaps that is because it is seemingly always a matter of trust when it comes to Canadian wireless services.

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October 6, 2014 11 comments Columns