Daily Show episode yanked from UK TV because Brit law prohibits using Parliamentary footage in satire

Graham Linehan (co-creator of such beloved TV as Father Ted and The IT Crowd) asked Channel 4 why they hadn't aired the most recent Daily Show in the UK, given that the episode deals with the News of the World scandal. The answer he got floored him: as it is against the law in the UK to use Parliamentary footage for satirical purposes, the Daily Show episode in question couldn't be aired here.

The issue is Parliamentary Copyright, a weird concept in UK law that gives Parliament (not the public) ownership over its publications, utterances, and so on. Parliamentary copyright means that it's illegal to print books containing complete records of Parliament without Parliament's permission (contrast this with the US, where anything produced by the federal government is presumptively in the public domain, belonging to all people).

We tend to think of Parliamentary Copyright as a kind of innocuous peccadillo -- after all, the Clerk of Parliament gave a license (retroactively) to the activists who made They Work For You, the best-of-breed Parliamentary tracker and activist tool. But this shows what happens when politicians, and not the people, own the record of government: Britons are denied access to commentary on their national news because there's no way an American TV show will know or care enough about Parliamentary Copyright to get a license to use clips in its shows in case the shows are exported to the UK.

Get a load of this ridiculous thing I found the fuck out last night


  1. No Daily Show videos are available in the UK. This is presumably because of US copyright, nothing to do with the British parliament.

      1. I wonder if juga was referring to the fact that because of US copyright the embedded video is blocked in the UK.

        1. It is. It’s unavailable anywhere outside of the US. Even in Canada we can’t watch videos via the Daily Show website.

    1. More 4 broadcasts the Daily Show Global Edition every Monday. It didn’t do so this week because the UK broadcasting code prevents it from showing any parliamentary proceedings in a context that might be regarded as satire. Had More 4 gone ahead they would have risked a substantial fine by the regulator OFCOM.

  2. I read the last sentence as “…there’s no way an American TV show will care about breaking foreign copyright laws”

  3. UK citizens – want to read and understand your parliament’s rules and procedures? That’ll be £250 please. 

    “Erskine May” falls under the same protection – there’s no free HTML or PDF version available.  

  4. After having to resort to torrents because of Channel 4’s decision to stop showing every episode of The Daily Show, I have seen that episode and from what I remember Jon Stewart didn’t even satirise the parliament footage, all he did was say something like “British politics is awesome”

  5. It’s the same in Australia (we also follow the Westminster style of Parliament).

    Parliamentary footage cannot be used for satire or ridicule.In fact, when the satire show The Chaser (broadcast on our national TV channel ABC) wanted to cover the Royal wedding in the UK, the focus was brought back on our own Parliament and politicians – http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/jokes-on-us-if-we-cant-make-fun-of-pollies-20110518-1esyb.html

  6. That episode is available in the UK iTunes store, so it looks like either Apple or Channel 4 don’t know/care about the law.

    1. The restriction only applies to broadcasting, so by making the episode available through the iTunes store, Comedy Central (It’s nothing to do with Channel 4) are not in breach of the law.

  7. “contrast this with the US, where anything produced by the federal government is presumptively in the public domain, belonging to all people”


    1. “contrast this with the US, where anything produced by the federal
      government is presumptively in the public domain, belonging to all

      -damn commies the lot of you

  8. Got to say, though, that if Parliamentary Copyright prevents MPs from mugging for the camera and throwing inane soundbites the was Congressmen do in the US, then that is a point in its favor.

  9. This is a point lost on my Canadian friends and alas some Brits also.

    The Government of the UK (and Canada) is the sole personal PRIVATE PROPERTY of the cngntlly rtrdd monarch known as Queen Elizabeth.  It is hers.  She owns it.  She also owns the military and the police forces also.

    A clue is that any thing that has the word Royal in front of it is property of the queen personally.


      Seriously, which of the following do you think are personal property of the Queen:
      The Royal Navy
      The Royal Air Force
      The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
      The Royal National Lifeboat Institution
      The Royal Society
      The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
      The Royal Albert Hall
      The Royal Automobile Club
      Henley Royal Regatta

      If your answer is anything other than “none”, you are deluded. The first two are organisations whose assets (ships, planes, etc) are property of the Ministry of Defence and hence of the Crown- but that means the Government not Elizabeth Windsor personally. She is also their commander-in-chief- but the position is purely ceremonial.

      The others are just things which some previous monarch decided (on advice, as always) to give the “Royal” prefix to to signify their approval. Apart from the third, they are entirely non-governmental- though some receive government support or have a special legal status. Ownership doesn’t come into it. Thinking that the “royal” prefix makes something personal property of anyone is like thinking that a gold fringe on a flag in a court makes it a military court.

      There have been a lot of laws passed determining what is the personal property of the Queen (a few palaces, some land) and what is government property (some more palaces, a LOT of land, everything else that the government owns). Incidentally, she doesn’t “own” Parliament, she reigns (but does not rule) by and with the consent of Parliament, and historical precedent shows that monarchs who ignore that tend to find themselves out of a job and possibly a head shorter.

      1. You are like a prisoner defending your jailer.  And by the way I am 100% correct and you are so wrong, and subjugated, and are to be seen and not heard.

        You are a subject and not a citizen.
        You do not vote for your own leaders as they are all appointed for you.
        The Queen does owns all the land and you, my little serf friend, can only have severable rights to real estate.  Can you produce a Title to your land…NO…Can you vote on a ballot for your Head of Stae and Prime Minister and Senator?  ….NO….

        1. And by the way, you can pass as many laws as you want.  The Queen may still exercise her Royal Prerogative which means she is above your silly little peon laws.

          1. Did you read your own link?

            “Since the 19th century, the advice of the prime minister or the cabinet—who are then accountable to Parliament for the decision—has been required in order for the prerogative to be exercised.” 

  10. For crying out loud, Jon wasn’t even making fun of Parliament! Y’all have some stupid laws.* Also, having a royal family in this day and age seems silly. There, I said it.

    *Yes, we have stupid laws too. But at least we have Jon Stewart to make fun of them.

  11. If we got rid of the freedom of speech for corporations, the government could stop the Comedy Channel from talking about these issues at all :D

  12. Sure this is annoying, but it s barely denying access to commentary.  We have in depth news of the story and many satirical shows covering this that are locall produced.

    I was not ware of Parliamentary Copyright, and will read more of this weirdness, but please do not think that the only commentary we get is from  the USA’s only decent satrist.

  13. this of course is an antiquated rule in this day and age. But we have totall coverage and a dedicated parliament channel that airs all proceedings of parliment and then discusses and provides cometary by intelligent insight majority unbiased commentators, so the important stuff is there.

    with the clear biases in US media I’m still very happy with my UK broadcasting and would not exchange for the states media consumption.

    I’ve always watched the dailyshow online anyway in recent years.

    what I would say is that this is just one example of antiquity and is not designed or upheld here because people insist it or wish to censor or withhold rights.

    also what is humours is the point johns making about accountablity in governance and being questioned all the time with the facts each week live on tv for the country to see withholding no punches, which in contrast to the US was his point.

    I’d sooner make this the point than an antiquated rule.

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