Tories sneak in copyright change to new bill

by | Oct 9, 2014 | News

By Jessica Laws

The Conservative government has been working to change copyright law to allow political parties the use of journalistic and broadcasting material for campaigns and attack ads.

If the law passes political parties would be allowed to access material without first getting permission.

The proposed legislation is buried in the newest version of an omnibus bill to be tabled in Parliament and has major news organizations outraged.

Tom Henheffer, executive director for the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), said he thinks it’s obvious the Conservative party is doing this for their own political gain.

“Journalists are by their nature are nonpartisan or a-political our recording should not be used as fuel for the other parties to attack each other that way,“ Henheffer said.

According to a cabinet memo news content would have to meet three criteria to be exempt from existing copyright laws.

  1. It would have to be published or made available through TV broadcasts of platforms such as YouTube,
  2.  It would have to be obtained from a news source such as a news program or newspaper or periodical,
  3. It would have to feature a political actor operating in that person’s capacity as a politician, or relate to a political issue.

“I think the government should simply rely on existing law,” Dr. Michael Geist a law professor at the University of Ottawa wrote on his site michaelgeist.ca.

Major broadcasters comprising of CBC, CTV, Global and Rogers sent a letter stating they would not accept any political advertising that uses their content without first getting permission.

“It’s a complete abuse of journalism. It goes against all the important principles of journalism and its function in a democracy…its an extremely disturbing precedent to set,” said Henheffer.

“The Conservative government loves to pass things in the omnibus bills and because there is a majority there isn’t really much we can do to stop it,” he said.