Late last year, Canada Post and the Public Service Alliance of Canada became embroiled in a heated strike action over sick pay benefits. In the midst of the dispute, several PSAC members took direct aim at Canada Post CEO Moya Greene, recording a short parody video titled "The Greench." The video, which was posted on YouTube, adapted the well-known Dr. Seuss tune "You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" to criticize Greene and the company. While the creation of a protest video is not particularly noteworthy, what followed soon after is. Just as the video began to attract some attention, YouTube removed it after receiving a complaint from Canada Post alleging that the video violated the company’s copyright.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that the case highlights a common occurrence under U.S. law, which allows copyright owners to file complaints with web hosts such as YouTube if they believe that the site is hosting infringing content. Under the law, the web host avoids liability if it immediately removes the content. No court or independent third party reviews the infringement claim since nothing more than a complaint that meets certain criteria is needed. The statutory requirements include providing a statement that the complainant has a "good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of its not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent or the law."