I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m about to wilfully violate the stated copyright terms of another blogger’s website.
Conservative Party supporter Sandy Crux has launched a website. As she is not a fan of the mainstream media and the bias she perceives in their reporting on all things Stephen Harper, she has taken it upon herself to set up a website listing the accomplishments of the Harper government in its over two years of power. Here’s a selection:
(3) Age of consent from 14 to 16 effective May 1, 2008 (Link)
We should note that, thanks to all party negotiations and the efforts of NDP MPs, a “reasonable age range” exception remains in place, which prevents the criminalization of sex acts between experimenting fourteen year olds. That’s reasonable, and a reasonable thing to mention in the accomplishments list. We don’t want to go down the path of absurdity seen in the United States.
That, I must admit, I appreciated.
(19) GST — Goods & services tax cut from 7% to 6% and then to 5% (Link)
This, as I’ve said before, may be politically expedient, but poor policy. More of our tax dollars are now being wasted in the administration of this tax, whose cut amounts to two pennies off a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons’.
(16) Fixed Election Dates — An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act (Bill C-16), passed May 3, 2007 (Link) is an Act primarily for majority governments since minority governments can fall at almost any time when the opposition express a lack of confidence in the government.
Note the weasel words to get around the fact that Stephen Harper is threatening to violate the spirit of his own legislation.
The point is, it’s an unabashedly partisan document, which is fine and dandy as things go. The points Sandy raises as accomplishments are a good starting point, I guess, for a debate over what the Conservative government has actually accomplished. And debates abound. For instance, Sandy credits the Harper government for increasing military spending “to a post-war peak, including the delivery of four C-17 Globe Master strategic airlift aircraft”, but doesn’t mention that, late last week, the Conservative government quietly scuttled “multibillion-dollar plans to purchase a resupply ship for the navy and new patrol vessels for the coast guard.”.
But a debate is a debate, isn’t it? Sandy can make her arguments and we can make our comments, taking down any faulty logic. In the course of the discussion, we all learn things and come out stronger, right?
Except that Sandy has an odd little proviso on her website, which reads as follows:
Since election fever is in the air, consider this permission to use this list or URL in “conservative” election material or campaigning. It is one way to let the Canadian people know, from coast to coast to coast, what the Harper conservative government has actually done in their two and half years in power.
However, let me remind opposition supporters that this is copyright material and this is NOT permission for anyone other than conservatives to use.
Oh, dear. I’m not a Conservative Party supporter. I’m likely to vote Green this time around. So, therefore, I’m a supporter of an opposing party, and I’ve just reproduced a portion of the list in the above website. What will Sandy do now? Sue?
And just how far do you think she will get?
Although we are currently embroiled in an act to reform the current Copyright Act, the old Copyright Act still applies in cases like this, and the act does talk about fair use and fair dealing. Furthermore, the concept of fair dealing has been significantly clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 2004 ruling. While the decision does not contain exceptions for parody and satire, it does say the following:
“The fair dealing exception is perhaps more properly understood as an integral part of the Copyright Act than simply a defence. Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright. The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively.”
What is one of the six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing?
“In general terms, those who deal fairly with a work for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review or news reporting, do not infringe copyright.”
Criticism. Review. Or news reporting.
Not only is Sandy Crux’s attempt to limit use of her publicly available work only to partisan Conservatives ultra vires, it’s quite simply undemocratic. She makes these fairly bold claims about creating a comprehensive list of Stephen Harper’s accomplishments, she tries to distance herself from the Conservative Party to enhance her credibility as an average voter, and she’s made the list available to fellow party members, and only fellow party members. What are they supposed to do with it? Print it out, and frame it? Or perhaps fold it up and stick it under their pillow to ward off the scary “Liberals win!” dreams at night? Or is it meant to be a set of talking points to engage the media and remind them of the good news behind Harper’s record? My money is on the latter. Clearly, they’re a set of weapons to be used to beat back opposition criticism.
And what are we who don’t necessarily agree with these debatable points supposed to do in response? Nothing?
Well, forget that.
The intent of the Copyright Act was to prevent the creation of derivative works — stuff that takes Sandy’s effort without accreditation, and which presents itself as its own original copy. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that if anybody were to take Sandy’s entire website, rebrand it a bit, and market it as their own original work, Sandy would be incensed, regardless of whether the individual was a Conservative Party supporter or not, and in spite of the fact that this is theoretically what Sandy gave blanket permission for that Conservative Party supporter to do.
Sandy does not seem to tolerate criticism very well. Various posts on her blog, and even on the Harper Accomplishments list have an interesting tendency of disappearing when the initial thrust of the post has been blunted by sufficient counter-argument. Her attempt to copyright her list For Conservative Eyes Only seems a spiteful swipe at those who would criticize the list, and an attempt to shut down debate on the points it raises.
Frankly, I’m disappointed. I thought she was bigger than that.