My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) examines the restrictions on using political clips, such as debates from the House of Commons, for non-commercial purposes. A recent incident in the U.S. involving Nancy Pelosi sparked considerable discussion about whether it was appropriate for any private broadcaster to maintain copyright control over the public discussion and debates of elected officials. It is a debate that I argue is sorely needed in Canada given the current restrictive framework and the proliferation of political parody and criticism videos that regularly appear on video sharing sites such as YouTube.
In the U.S., C-Span now permits non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of its video on the Internet, with attribution. More recently, similar questions have been raised in the U.S. about the permission needed to copy, share, and post video stemming from Presidential debates. Several Presidential candidates, including Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Christopher Dodd, have called on the U.S. television networks to make debate footage freely available for non-commercial uses. Last week, CNN became the first broadcaster to do so.
While the U.S. appears to be moving rapidly toward facilitating this emerging form of political speech, Canadians face more onerous restrictions.