I’ve written before about how the CBC, our publicly funded national broadcaster seems entirely unaware of the intellectual properly rights we have in Canada. The CBC’s own Reuse and Permissions FAQ page claims,

Do I need permission to use CBC.ca content?

Yes. Any content (text, photos, interactives, graphs, audio and video) found on CBC.ca can only be reused elsewhere with the permission of CBC.

The fact of the matter is that the Fair Dealing provision in the Canada Copyright Act allows an exception under certain circumstances:

29.1 Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review does not infringe copyright if the following are mentioned:

(a) the source; and

(b) if given in the source, the name of the

(i) author, in the case of a work,

(ii) performer, in the case of a performer’s performance,

(iii) maker, in the case of a sound recording, or

(iv) broadcaster, in the case of a communication signal.

The subsequent section, 29.2, is a verbatim duplication of 29.1, except ‘news reporting’ replaces ‘criticism.’

There are issues with fair dealing that go beyond this stipulation. I do believe that you’re not free to quote an entire article for the purpose of criticism. The point at which it becomes infringement is not exactly clear, as is with Fair Use in the United States.

Take for example my post named “We are the unimaginative.” I wrote this and quoted two sentences from a CBC article. I did credit the CBC as well as link the source article. No author is credited in the article itself so I couldn’t credit the writer. Did I violate the CBC’s copyright or does my quote fall under Fair Dealing? I believe the latter. Whether my comments are criticism or news reporting, I quoted a short passage and gave the proper attribution.

The CBC does the same thing. An article from Saturday, “Etta James battles Alzheimer’s, superbug: son” includes this paragraph:

“Right now she is very confused,” Donto James said on CNN, adding that she was very combative, too.

Did the CBC contact CNN and wait for permission to use this quote and the others in the same article? I’d bet a large sum against it.

But that’s all old news. I’m writing this because the CBC has cranked it up a notch.

They’ve contracted with iCopyright, of Issaquah, Washington, to allow users of CBC.ca to quickly and easily licence CBC content. Go to any article and you’ll see a ‘Licence’ link above the article. Click it and you’ll be presented with the option to post the article on your site, republish the content in print, in a presentation or on a DVD, print the article yourself or have printed copies sent to you, or e‑mail copies of the article to people you know.

It all seems nice and easy until you investigate the terms. It’s still easy to do, but not to easy to swallow.

For example, if you want to post the article, you have the option of posting a PDF or including the article in a frame within your site. Don’t look for any information on Fair Dealing, however. They charge  $250 a month or $500 if you pay in advance for a year. Printing the article yourself or sending copies by e‑mail is free for up to five copies.

There’s a note at the bottom of the licence page that states, “Please honour copyright! Piracy hurts creators, devalues their works, and puts you and your employer at risk. Learn more.” It should be amended to ask everyone to honour only the part of copyright that requires payment. Fair Dealing is certainly part of the Copyright Act but they make no mention of it.

To help you learn about copyright, you can click the ‘Learn more’ link. You’re whisked off to an iCopyright page that’s heavy on the propaganda and light on details. Even better is a “Know the facts about copyright” link there. It sends you to a site called http://www.askbeforeyouact.com/ that’s based in the United States and it’s full of information and news about U.S. copyright.

How does this relate to the CBC and dealings with them in Canada? It doesn’t. At all.

Thanks for selling us up the river, CBC.