The Computer and Communications Industry Association, which includes Google, Microsoft, and other major tech companies, has filed a complaint in the U.S. with the Federal Trade Commission over the copyright notices used by sports leagues (the NFL and MLB are named), broadcasters, movie studios, and publishers. The gist of the complaint is that these industries use notices or warnings to misrepresent consumer rights with regard to copyright law as they often warn of significant liability for copying with no mention of fair use rights.
I raised the same issue last year with regard to Canadian publishers and their use of copyright notices that are exceptionally misleading and that perpetuate the incorrect view that nothing may be copies without prior permission. While a complaint to the Fair Business Practices Branch of the Canadian Competition Bureau is worth considering (as is statutory reform to address copyright misuse), I argued that there may be another alternative. Book publishing and most other Canadian cultural industries rely on government funding programs – taxpayer dollars – for a portion of their costs. Indeed, tens of millions are distributed each year to Canadian book publishers, while television programming is among the most heavily subsidized industries in the country. One way to stop misleading copyright notices would be to require fair copyright notices as a condition of funding. Publishers and broadcasters that fail to properly balance their notifications by alerting consumers to their fair dealing rights would run the risk of losing access to taxpayer dollars that help fund their business.