House of Commons Demands Takedown of YouTube Video

Earlier this month, I wrote a column highlighting the requirement to obtain permission from the Speaker of the House of Commons to use political clips that air on CPAC.  The column argued that the current rules do not protect parody and should be scrapped by granting broad leeway to reuse clips for a broad range of non-commercial purposes.  As if on cue, the Tea Makers Blog reports that the House of Commons (presumably acting on behalf of the Speaker) sent a notice and takedown notification to YouTube, asking it to remove a parody video of a Parliamentary committee hearing appearance by CBC President Robert Rabinovitch.  The clip has been reposted to MySpace, yet the incident highlights the fact that the concerns associated with this form of online speech are real.  Without a change to the rules, takedown notices involving political speech are likely to become more common in Canada.


  1. Annoyed by Canadian Media
    We seem to have a real problem with any kind of real political satire in this country! The Walrus recently had an article about this:

    [ link ]

  2. I find it very galling for the work of our government, paid for and conducted on behalf of its citizens, to be muzzled not only under a heavy-handed use of outmoded Parliamentary powers but also with the arrogant assumption of power, control and ownership of what is so obviously public discourse.

    Gee, I hope they smarten up fast.



  3. Until Canada disposes of the BushLite government of Stephen Harper, we will see more and more attempts to suppress freedom of speech and constrain the information flow from the government.

  4. I wonder if it’s only parody they will come after, or if it’s any use. I guess I’ll find out when I launch this app.

  5. Jim Cowling says:

    This is not political and can’t be lain at Harper’s feet. Historically, in Commonwealth countries that follow the Westminster model, the proceedings of the legislature are protected by privilege. The recording and/or transcription of proceedings in the legislature are assigned to Hansard, and only to Hansard. It is vital, in a democratic society, for the records of House debate and of committees to be accurate and official, and if that precludes the free modification of those proceedings, including parody, that’s a small price to pay.

    Keep in mind that parliament is, necessarily, separate from and not beholden to the government, executive, judiciary or citizenry. That’s the way it always has been and the way that it always will be. Parliament answers to the Speaker, who answers to the Governor-General, who answers to the reigning monarch. They are, in essence, outside the law.

    (Just try, as an employee of any legislature in Canada, to unionize, seek redress through Employment Standards, have municipal health by-laws enforced within the precincts, and so on. Not gonna happen.)

    I suggest reading this story about the history of Hansard here: [ link ]

    I support copyfighting, the expansion of fair use and relaxed licensing systems. And I hope for Bev Oda to be crushed in the next election. Crticism against maintaining the integrity of our records of debate is, I think, misplaced.

  6. Christopher Mercer says:

    Student, Blogger, Developer, All around
    I think something that everyone ignores it that the body of work produced by the Government, its agents, and the MP’s (including audio/video transcripts) falls under the ownership of the Queen (as our head of state). It still is common practice in our government that its members act on her behalf for the citizens. Also, parody is not protected – from my understanding of Fair Dealing – under the Canadian Copyright Act. I don’t think they view (not saying it is not) parody as legitimate criticism and thus an acceptable use of the exceptions of Fair Dealing.

    This shows one major flaw with our Copyright System. MP’s, the Government, and its agents are paid with tax dollars but the body of work produced by those people is subject to control by the Queen. This needs to change, the body of work produced by taxpayers dollars needs to belong to taxpayers. I wrote about it once over here
    [ link ]

  7. Looks like someone somewhere at the CBC finds this important enough to act on it.

  8. Aaron Luchko says:


    I’m not a big fan of Harper but I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame this on him especially since this was supposedly the action of the speaker and the speaker is a Liberal.

  9. Though I am all in favor of free speech, and largely against copyright and other intellectual property protections, only a few seem to be remembering the structure of the Parliamentary system and the history behind all this.

    There is no video taping in the Supreme Court, and only recently were recordings allowed. The same progression occurred/is occuring in Parliament. On the whole whining about Parliamentary control of media related to Parliamentary work product sets back the cause of openess in governance.

    Parliament is within its rights to create laws to stop audio/video recording in Parliament. It took a long battle to get video allowed in the House of Commons. Parliament probably could stop Hansard if they really forced the issue into law. There would be public outcry of course. But closure probably could be justified if Parliamentarians could say something along the lines, that all the \”posing\” interfered with their serious work. It would come down to benefit versus hindrance. (for those to whom this does not sound familiar – read your history).

    And leeway to look stupid is what this comes down to. I would rather have Parliamentarians feel free(r) to say and do things that made them look stupid inside Parliament, if it furthered the needs of the people and peace, order and good government.

    (irony on)
    If you want to end up with a bunch of carefully scripted and fully cosmetically altered talking heads, then go ahead and vote out the current bunch for this \”pressing\” issue that clearly \”outweighs\” poverty, education, health care, etc.
    (irony off)

    There is plenty to parody outside of Parliament anyway.

  10. Chris Beck says:

    My question is one of jurisdiction. Parody is fair use south of the border, Youtube is located in the US, and the DMCA is an American law. So they used an American law to challenge an act deemed infringing here but not there? Doesn’t make sense to me.

  11. G. Werthers says:

    Isn’t this what they do on “The Daily Show” everyday? Perhaps this clip was pulled because the editors used more than the allowable 15 seconds. Or is it the swearing? Maybe we’ll start to see more mandatory bleeping of coarse language on internet videos like community TV producers are required to do on the local community channel here in Vancouver, even though their shows air at midnight!

  12. Brill Pappin says:

    I’ve had a similar experience with YouTube.
    In my case I had a chunk of a news clip up featuring my brother. It was posted for educational purposes and all content on the site was credited as well as I knew how.

    I would love to see some guidelines on how to properly post that sort of thing.

    I’d also love to see a citizens group for fighting some of the really stupid stuff… I’d even contribute financially (although I don’t have much to contribute).

  13. parody is important to canadians
    I agree that this type of thing needs to belong to the people. Parody of the government has a long history in Canada; look at shows on CBC such as Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes (both shows are great, too). I always felt that our ability (as Canadians) to take things lightly and laugh at ourselves really separated us from a lot of other countries who are way too serious about things. If they are concerned about the parody being misinterpreted as actual government proceedings, then I’d think it would be reasonable to have the video preceded by a message that identifies it as parody.

    Also a note to the webmaster – to avoid quotation marks becoming backslashed (like this ” – see posts above) in PHP, either use the stripslashes() function or run a search and replace on the post and change the ” to " (ampersand quot semicolon).

  14. Smart Canadian says:

    Parody commnoplace
    In this case, this is not even good parody. Watch Rick Mercer or This Hour has 22 minutes – excellent parody with no holds barred.

    Should they allow it – we allow it all the time – but there are channels and process that should not be violated.


  15. Charles Kimos says:

    fight them on the beaches
    If “takedown notices involving political speech are likely to become more common in Canada” the most effective response is to target and humiliate all persons responsible for such noticces. Get the officials fired, the politicians booted out of office. Break every rule if required, but GET RID OF THEM, WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

    Where to post them? MagNet, ED2K and BitTorrent links exist for a reason. They are URIs, meaning, the originating server is not necessarily exposed in the address. If Hollywood can’t stop P2P distribution of its content then neither can the House.

    Just make sure to target each and every person in the chain of command from the Speaker to the peon making the calls to YouTube.

    The government must be AFRAID of the citizens. Else it will soon enslave them. In the 18th century this meant the right to bear arms. In this century it means the absolute right to freely redistribute any recording of political value.

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