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Changes to Canada’s Copyright Laws

Copyright symbol with a red circle around it and red line through it.In 2012, Canada’s copyright law was updated, including expanding the definition of fair use and providing clearer guidelines for what constitutes copyright infringement in the digital world. (The Globe & Mail has a short article on those changes.)

According to several Canadian media outlets, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, wants to make some more changes to Canadian copyright laws: he reportedly wants political parties to be able to take media footage and use it for election ads without needing permission or paying compensation for the footage. According to this article, media outlets also would not be allowed to refuse to show these ads.

According to this article from CTV (owned by Bell Media), the Conservatives (our ruling party) believe that fair use already governs what they can and can’t do with media material. CTV apparently could quote this leaked document:

On Wednesday, CTV News reported on an internal Conservative cabinet document that details an amendment to the Copyright Act, which would allow “free use of ‘news’ content in political advertisement intended to promote or oppose a politician or political party.”

The main concern is that political parties can use whatever published work they want, remove it from its context, and attack the other parties with it. According to the lawyers and experts quoted in these articles, this would be far from the definitions of fair use.

You could argue that media outlets only want political parties they support to use their material. That assumption may be correct.

However, the point here isn’t that political parties shouldn’t be able to use news clips for their ads. Rather, it appears that the Conservatives’ plan is to be able to remove all context from the news clips. As power-hungry as the media conglomerates are, I believe this change to our copyright laws is wrong. According to the experts in these articles, our laws already allow the Conservatives (and any other political party) to use media clips under the definition of fair use, where context is required. Let’s leave those laws alone.

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