Is Wildrose violating copyrights in new ads?


The nice. And now …


..  the nasty.

Those are two ads out today from Alberta’s official opposition as they try to steal seats in four byelections underway right now in Alberta.

But they also land in the the heat of hot debate among Parliament Hill journalists sparked by news first reported last night by CTV , that the Conservative government has plans, as CTV put it, “to allow political parties to use content published and broadcast by news organizations for free in their own political ads.”
For example …


University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist — arguably the top scholar in the country when it comes to the intersection of our digital worls and intellectual property and copyright issues — writes that no such laws are required, that our copyright act already allows for this kind of “fair dealing” and that courts have already ruled in favour of the kind of use contemplated in this secret government proposal.

” I think the government should simply rely on existing law. With a robust fair dealing provision and a cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, the risk of an infringement claim is low.  This proposal may be a solution in search of a problem and we would do better to test the boundaries of the current law rather than bury an exception in a budget bill.”

Geist is no fan of the current Conservative government but notes: “Copyright law should not be used to stifle legitimate speech. Political speech – even noxious attack ads – surely qualifies as important speech that merits protection (see this CDT analysis for similar concerns in the US). I am not a fan of attack ads, but attempts to use copyright to claim absolute rights over the use of a portion of a video clip is surely counter to basic principles of fair dealing (in Canada) or fair use.”

In a follow-up post and after reading the government’s proposal, Geist says the proposal from the Conservatives is too “narrow” and would give some speech rights only to political organizations. “The creation of an exception that only allows a select few to benefit is not a provision that can be defended on freedom of political speech grounds. We are all entitled to exercise our political speech rights. A new exception that guards against copyright stifling such speech should apply to all.”

Now, the “Nice” ad released by the Wildrose clearly has no copyright issues. It’s all original stuff featuring their leader.

But go back again and take a look at that “Nasty” Wildrose ad. Here’s a real, live case of a political party using, mashing up, and quoting from work done by journalists. In fact,there’s only about eight or nine seconds of that that is not lifted from a news source.

The opening video montage featuring pictures of former premier Alison Redford, new  premier Jim Prentice raising his hands in victory and later we see what Wildrose is the ‘money’ shot — Prentice hugging Redford. Wild Rose hopes that three or four second video of the hug makes the visual point that the current Prentice-led PC Party is no different from the scandal-plagued Redford-led PCs. That video was shot by CPAC cameras at the what is often referred to as the Lougheed Dinner, a Public Policy Forum where the late premier was honoured. Prentice introduced Redford and said many nice things about Redford, some things which, given subsequent events are now quite cringe-worthy if you’re a Prentice fan and which I would fully expect would be great fodder for more Wild Rose attack ads.

But note also that the attack lifts headlines from the Calgary Herald, and Global News. Is it ok to lift quotes from print or Web publications, much like the way movie critics are featured by Hollywood studios in ads for new films? Or is it a different when there is video involved?

What do you think? Have any rights — copyrights — of CPAC, the Calgary Herald or Global News been abused here by Wild Rose?

One thought on “Is Wildrose violating copyrights in new ads?”

  1. Imagine if political parties could deny news media the right to air clips of their TV ads or show photos of their billboard ads. The media, whose ultimate goal is to generate profit, have a right to use these copyrighted works for editorial purposes without paying for them, and rightly so. They may be newsworthy and it is in the public interest for journalists to be able criticize them and also show viewers the content so they can to come to their own conclusions. Freedom of the speech is a two-way street, and we should afford political parties the same privileges as the press in this regard. Reporters can excerpt portions of a movie or song or book for editorial purposes without needing permission, and it should be the same for political groups.

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