Canadian Broadcasting Corporation signs up with weird American copyright bounty-hunters

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has signed up with iCopyright, the American copyright bounty hunters used by the Associated Press, to offer ridiculous licenses for the quotation of CBC articles on the web (these are the same jokers who sell you a "license" to quote 5 words from the AP).

iCopyright offers "licenses" to use taxpayer-funded CBC articles on terms that read like a bizarre joke. You have to pay by the month to include the article on your website (apparently no partial quotation is offered, only the whole thing, which makes traditional Internet commentary very difficult!). And you have to agree not to criticize the CBC, the subject of the article, or its author. Thanks for fostering a dialogue, CBC!

The cherry on the cake? iCopyright offers a reward of up to $1,000,000 for snitching on bloggers who don't pay Danegeld to Canada's public broadcaster to quote the works they funded.

CBC's new licencing plan: Pay to Print, Email, and Blog, and outsource enforcement to American Copyright Digital Rights Bounty Hunters (Thanks, Cameron!)


  1. Sounds like something we Canadians should just completely ignore.

    A) We’ve already paid for 100% of this content
    B) Copyright law explicitly allows quotation for scholarly discussion or news reporting.

    Let’s see them try. I doubt it would take long to get some nice precedent in the courts.

  2. “Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.”
    -Oliver Goldsmith

    I hope I don’t have to pay anyone to use that quote…

  3. It will be interesting to watch this play out in .. well .. the courts as well as the real world. And you can quote me on it. The CBC can still have it free, but the AP will need to cough up some cash. CBC will most likely come to it’s senses, but the AP is still acting like what it is.

    Prey jerking in the sand violently and loudly as the lion of reality waits for it’s blood to finish spilling.

  4. So folks just stop quoting CBC articles, stop linking to them, and they disappear from net culture. Other sites get the attention.

    Or else, one person signs up to quote the article, then everyone else just links to THAT site.

  5. If tones of people started snitching on the thousands of times people quote CBC, and asking for money, it would show them how foolish and plain wrong this is.

    Nobilis, I don’t want CBC to disappear from the web. Public journalism/broadcasting is important in our culture, and we pay taxes to have CBC as an effective participant in the public discourse.

  6. Are you quoting the CBC in this post? I wonder if my reward is in $US or $CA! This is so exciting, I’m going to be rich!

  7. I have just sent a nice, but firm letter to the CBC complaints contact address (black hole? who knows!) but also copied the CRTC on it. I’d urge others to do the same.

  8. Here, a fundamental problem with state enterprises:

    We assume because we have a “Democracy,” that the service is “public.”

    However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, you simply grant an entrenched monopoly to a very small group of people, that is even harder to dislodge than even the large media conglomerates are.

    This is true in many, many areas – education, police, etc. etc. The desire to create a “public” good simply hands control over to a relatively small group of people. Sure, it’s free to the public on some level, but that doesn’t mean you have any say in how it’s managed, beyond a very superficial level of “public comment.”

    Do you think any of the “public” that CBC purportedly serves would support a ridiculous move like this? But, what mechanisms are there to make them accountable to what people actually want?

    The idea of a “public domain,” where some organization that holds it for the “public good,” is rubbish. It just concentrates power. The only “public domain” that has any meaning is if someone owns the rights privately, and chooses to release it to the world.

    Or, if we simply did away with this whole nonsense of criminally enforceable copyright in the first place.

    People may be moving away from many paper dinosaurs; eventually they will wither and die, because people don’t want what they are selling. The CBC, BBC, etc on the other hand aren’t accountable to anyone, they will get their money year after year, no matter what they do or what value they provide to the world.

  9. From a random article I just took from the CBC:

    “China’s defence ministry said Saturday it would suspend military exchanges with the United States and impose sanctions on companies selling weaponry to Taiwan over Washington’s planned $6.4-billion US arms deal with the island.

    China took a similar step in 2008 after the former Bush administration announced a multibillion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan — the most sensitive issue in U.S.-China relations.

    Beijing claims the self-governing Taiwan as its own territory, while the United States is Taiwan’s most important ally and largest arms supplier.”

    Now I know I’m not supposed to criticize the CBC or the authors of the article either, but I have it on good authority that their foreign attaché molests goats and therefore cannot be trusted to report on the situation with neutrality.

    Okay, now if someone snitches on me for the million dollar reward, can I get half?

    1. Okay, now if someone snitches on me for the million dollar reward, can I get half?

      Nope. But I’ll call you from my new pad in Bermuda, to see how your trial is going.

      Oh, and thanks!

  10. Not happy. I may be in serious trouble here. I frequently link to CBC articles on my blog, I’m not sure how often I quote. I’m going to need to scour my blog for quotations.

    I pay taxes for these news stories. What the hell? So the CBC wants to be publicly subsidized but wants the right to bully bloggers over content reuse? I think a letter to my local MP and the CRTC is in order.

    Michael Geist! Help! HELP!

  11. I can’t wait for Harper’s Con Party to offer a similar licence so that we can’t criticize him or his one-man party.

  12. CBC is always on at my house, and I listen to it via the web, ever though I live in Toronto. This makes it easy for me to resolve to spend the next month looking for alternates to the news, entertainment, culture and comment programmes I listen to. There’s a ton of stuff out there, and so I don’t think it’ll be that hard. Podcasts from NPR and BBC, and many other services around the world make it even easier.

    So, this is the beginning of my month without CBC. And, I’ve already started writing to all the shows that I listen to, on some of which I’m a regular commenter, and know to the producers, to tell them that if CBC wants to introduce these policies, I’d prefer to not support them.

    I’ve started a facebook group: to allow anyone who’s interested to collect alternates to existing CBC media online. If this can be sources with better copyright policies, so much the better.

    At the end of the month, I’m going to decide which is a bigger sacrifice: reasonable rights to quote from the National Broadcaster, or CBC media.

  13. i believe i have figured out step 2:

    1. copy small segment of cbc article as allowed by fair use.
    2. report myself and collect $1m reward.
    2. profit.

  14. Using partial quotes for the purposes of commentary of criticism is fair use — no licence required. The only restriction is that you have to clearly attribute the material to the creator or copyright holder (i.e., CBC). Online, it’s good to include a link to the original story. Another rule of thumb is that the more content you copy, the more of your own commentary/criticism you have to include to make it relevant. In the extreme, you could probably argue fair dealing when copying an entire article if it was in the context of a line-by-line critique.

    This is what “iCopyright” has to say about fair use/ fair dealing:
    They are really trying to scare you into getting a licence to be on the safe side, but if you follow the link to the CIPO site, you get a better description.

    A licence would normally only be necessary if you want to republish a story completely, or are using material without adding your own context or giving credit.

    I can’t see any blogger paying a monthly fee to do so, though. It will be interesting to see how the CBC behaves in trying to enforce their copyright. For example, I know of politicians who regularly cut-and-paste onto their websites news articles that quote them — hard to argue fair dealing when there is no criticism, reporting or review. In that case, they should just be posting links back to the original.

    1. Fascinating link, Anon: iCopyright seems to ask you to report piracy, rather than copyright violation. Seems to me that they’re not the same thing, especially in this case.

  15. what the hell is going on??? This stuff is infuriating! Is this the advent of pseudo-democracy. Everyone is serving us sugarcoated BS. The government is by the people, but seems like its no longer for the people. Those with influence are finding new ways to f**k with us. And the worst part is they are succeeding! ACTA is being signed behind closed doors. We are not being told anything at all. Perhaps what is needed is an internet revolution. Let us topple these Neanderthals who are trying to hijack our daily lives.

  16. I just alerted my partner to this. She runs a nightclub, and very often their promotional material in the schedule will include quotes from online reviews of the artists. Often these are from the CBC. Often this material is provided by the artist, by the artist’s management. Sometimes these are attributed to the critic, and we don’t always know where the original publication if any was.

    So what if everyone levies such conditions? How will it benefit anyone to make promoting artists and performers a liability? On whose shoulders will it fall if we republish a quote that is provided by, say, the festival that we’re working with to put the act on stage?

    As with other things, whether the actual result of a court case is that we win or the case is dismissed or a court refuses to hear it, it will have a chilling effect. It won’t mean we won’t promote acts, just that it’ll cost more for us to do so, and we’ll be able to do so less effectively.

    As it is, the CBC regularly records at our club, and I can say with certainty that the contracts that they impose on the performers are already onerous enough. The CBC has a parasitic relationship to the arts as it is, and this makes it worse.

  17. What he said.

    In summary: Um… No. I already own the CBC’s content. Lock, stock and barrel.

    It says so right here on my Canadian birth certificate.

  18. I wanted to use approximately 15 seconds of audio from “Randy’s Vinyl Tap” on CBC Radio in a movie I finished last year called “The Cross Canada Project”. I figured this wouldn’t be a problem at all, especially considering that I was Canadian and my tax dollars pretty much paid for that 15 second clip.

    I also thought for sure that 15 seconds of radio would definitely be within “fair use” and I wouldn’t even have to ask them. I used another 15 seconds of radio from “Off the Hook” from 2600 and they had absolutely no problem letting me use it as well.

    But boy was I wrong… trying to get rights to that 15 seconds of CBC was an absolute nightmare. The movie was damn small, mainly intended to be put up on the internet and sent to a few festivals. CBC quoted several thousand dollars for those 15 seconds, and even more if I expected the movie to play in other countries.

    I ended up contacting Randy Bachman’s (It was his radio show) Wife about the clip and the next day she emailed me back saying I was free to use it. CBC got back to me and said the Bachman’s don’t own the clip and can’t authorise it’s use.. etc.

    Eventually I lucked out because that 15 second clip was recorded when CBC was on strike, which meant Randy Bachman had been forced to produce it himself in his own studio, so CBC had no record or rights of it (although they tried really hard to still charge me for it).


  19. Unlike more primitive forums, I’m unable to easily change my username and comment as Boba Fett. And so, technology has bested me this day.

    Damn you, Interwebz.

  20. I work for the ceeb, and this is highly distressing. It comes in part from the fact that the corp is desperate. This past year, close to 700 jobs were eliminated, and properties sold to keep it’s head above water. The dinosaurs at the top, good people in their time, are grasping at straws in hopes of trying to find new revenue sources to keep from having to cut more programming. This is just another one of their bright ideas that hopefully will quickly fade from sight, but I would encourage anyone who supports what the ceeb does to please write audience relations.

  21. More embarrassment from my country.

    If its not Harper pretending climate change isent real or trying to silence the media and his cabinet its an organization like CBC, (which i love), lowering itself to u.s. standards.

    Shame on CBC! and shame on the Canadian public for allowing this to happen!!!

  22. Good idea #8. I also wrote CBC this morning, but did not cc the CRTC.
    I did send it to As It Happens though, and urge them to cover it.

    I also wonder what CBC’s advertisers think of this scheme that might put a chill on links and ultimately website traffic. Do they really think going after flies with an expensive American shotgun like this is actually going to turn them a profit?

    I think it will just piss of those who support them most (like me) and piss off those who already begrudge their tax dollars going to CBC even more.

    Their competing broadcasters are sure to have a field day with it.

  23. “Lars Ulrich is in the Strombo studio”.

    That’s the drummer from Metallica (those other forward-thinking people at the vanguard of development of the internet) who is on some sort of CBC programme at some time. The six words (count ’em) come from a blog by George Stroumboulopoulos here:

    Not sure about the copyright rules pertaining here but I’m sure a lawyer for the CBC on several hundred dollars an hour could work all this out given a couple of weeks. For the record, I’m posting these six words from the UK.

  24. I am SO unimpressed ~shame on the CBC!

    Once again our tax dollars are being completely disregarded here…

  25. There is a precedence, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) still/used to have the Disney corporation ensure the integrity of any public use of IP regarding the RCMP.

  26. Not to mention, interacting with an American organization makes you subject to the draconian “Patriot” Act.

  27. This sounds exactly like something the CBC — a corporation dedicated to airing the blandest crap conceivable, for an audience of aged hippies, herbal tea drinkers, and Eden Mills attendees — would do. They must have been talking to the lunatics who run Access Copyright.

    Oh, wait: I criticized. Must not criticize! Bad bad bad!

    1. Coach’s Corner. Is that for the maligned groups you’ve mentioned? That and decent Olympic coverage is what I watch CBC for. NBC is the suck.

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