Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Harper's Copyright Foulup

On the one hand, the possibility that Canadian PM Stephen Harper might get sued for copyright is hilarious. The somewhat paranoid Conservative boss is running attack ads against the new Liberal leader, Stephane Dion, that use Liberal leadership debate footage to put try to put Dion in a bad light.

(No, there's no election coming soon. I don't get it either. He must be terrified, otherwise he wouldn't do something so hamfisted.)

On the other hand, I have to agree with Michael Geist:

Geist said the use of such video clips in political ads would be entirely proper in the United States, which applies a broad “fair use doctrine” to its copyright laws. The fact that the Tory ads raise questions here highlights the shortcomings of Canadian law, he added.

“Frankly, it should be beyond doubt that they should be able to use short clips of these kinds of public political events that should fall under a fair use doctrine. I think it’s unfortunate that under Canadian copyright law there is some level of uncertainty.”
Honestly, I have to agree, even aside from my own newfound interest in the matter. Fair comment in Canada is woefully inadequate- it might suffice for a country like Britain with no constitutionally-based bill of rights, but Canada has a very impressive charter of rights, and it's pretty explicit about freedom of expression.

(Even if it also features a bizarre section that essentially means "if you think it's for a good enough reason that you can justify as somehow 'democratic', you can jettison most of these rights at will." It's a little more complex than that, but that's what it boils down to, especially for freedom of expression.)

Fair comment, especially in the political arena, really should be interpreted pretty broadly, or else the whole edifice of freedom and democracy quickly falls apart. You end up with a Russian situation, where you have meaningless elections because quasi-legal tools are employed to silent dissent and protest. For all the Bill of Rights' flaws, at least there's no danger of that.

Besides, there's so much stuff that the Liberals can use in return that it'd be FAR more fun if the barn doors were opened and those horses set free.

(Hat Tip: Michelle Oliel)

No comments:

Post a Comment