Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Michael Geist, "House of Commons Lawyers sent takedown notices over committee video," May 11, 2009.

[Canadians really should know more (something, anything) about how Parliament's Standing Committees work and what they are doing. -jlt]

In the spring of 2007, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the well-known broadcasting advocacy group, began to post videos and podcasts of Parliamentary committee proceedings on their website. When officials at the House of Commons caught wind of their activities, they promptly sent a cease and desist letter, demanding that the videos and podcasts be removed from the Internet. A lawyer for the House of Commons argued that posting excerpts from committee proceedings could be treated as "contempt of Parliament." The group responded that they did not want to remove the videos, but would be willing to follow a reasonable procedure to obtain the necessary permissions. That response did not sit well with the Chairs of the Finance and Canadian Heritage Standing Committees, who upon learning that the group was offering webcasts and downloads of their proceedings, asked the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (SCPHA) to examine the issue to prevent further infringement.

My weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the idea that videos of committee hearings constitute proprietary content that when used without permission raise the potential for allegations of contempt of Parliament or copyright infringement will undoubtedly come as news to many Canadians. Using these excerpts in YouTube videos, webcasts, or podcasts has emerged as an important and powerful tool for business and consumer groups to educate the public on policy issues and legislative proposals. Yet House of Commons lawyers maintain that many of these activities violate the law and have sent notice and takedown demands to YouTube seeking the removal of videos that include House of Commons and committee proceedings. These include clips that involve satire and parody, since they are seen to "distort" the video itself.

  Commercial uses still require prior approval, "distorting" a video for parody, satire or political comment purposes may still fall outside the licence and lead to demands for its removal.

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2 comments:

Pearce Richards said...

Canadians have a right to see what is occurring in our government. If I know Michael Geist he will fight this tooth and nail.

Jim Terral said...

I agree, and I think Michael Geist deserves our support.