Canada's Crown Copyright: high-cost censorship

Canada -- like much of the Commonwealth -- has a bizarre para-copyright system called "Crown Copyright" that allows the government to restrict and charge for the use of documents created at taxpayer expense. Not only is Canada's Crown Copyright system a gigantic boondoggle (annual revenue: $7,000; annual cost of administration: $200,000), but it turns out the system is administered in such a way as to censor criticism of the government:
For example, an educational institution request to reproduce a photo of a Snowbird airplane was denied on the grounds that the photo was to be used for an article raising questions about the safety of the program. Similarly, a request to reproduce a screen capture of the NEXUS cross-border program with the U.S. was declined since it was to be used in an article that would not portray the program in a favourable light. Although it seems unlikely that crown copyright authorization was needed to use these images, the government's decision to deny permission smacks of censorship and misuse of Canadian copyright law.

Given the significant costs associated with a program that does more harm than good and that appears susceptible to political manipulation, any new copyright reform should eliminate crown copyright and adopt in its place a presumption that government materials belong to the public domain to be freely used without prior permission or compensation.



  1. Were Jefferson et al. reacting to this when they exempted federal govt. works from copyright?

  2. Annual cost of $200,000? Um… I think we spent more money in Iraq while I was reading that post. In fact, I’m sure of it. If the worst that the Canadian government has to offer is a $200,000 waste of time, I’d say they’re light years ahead of the US in terms of controlling waste. Ooops, I think we just dropped another $200,000 there… probably bought a couple toilets for the Air Force.

Comments are closed.