Video for noth­ing, pics for free

The Compass - - OPINION -

It’s an alarm­ing wake-up call: ap­par­ently, there are plans for the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives to hide dra­matic new po­lit­i­cal pow­ers in their next om­nibus bill, pow­ers that will be deftly hid­den in amongst reams of bud­getary lan­guages and sub-clauses. Such bills make it im­pos­si­ble to even de­bate their myr­iad of le­gal changes — there sim­ply isn’t enough time in the House of Com­mons to do more than skim the sur­face.

Some of the pow­ers? Well, if you live on a busy in­ter­sec­tion, the To­ries plan an amend­ment to al­low them to an­nex small por­tions of your prop­erty for free to al­low them to place high-vis­i­bil­ity cam­paign signs. Another clause will re­quire land­lords to pro­vide “com­pli­men­tary” rentals for cam­paign of­fices. And you’d bet­ter hope you’re not a sand­wich or pizza shop owner: the new laws will re­quire take­out restau­rants to pro­vide cam­paign work­ers with that all-im­por­tant free late-night meal.

Ac­tu­ally, none of that is true.

But it doesn’t mean the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives aren’t plan­ning to use om­nibus leg­is­la­tion to make it le­gal to steal.

Last week, the CBC ob­tained a Power Point doc­u­ment that looked at changes to Canada’s copy­right law — changes that “would al­low free use of ‘news’ con­tent in po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tise­ments in­tended to pro­mote or op­pose a politi­cian or po­lit­i­cal party, or a po­si­tion on a re­lated is­sue.” In other words, the To­ries want to take news clips and use them in at­tack ads, with­out the nasty prob­lem of hav­ing to ob­tain the ma­te­rial from its own­ers.

Be­cause it is ma­te­rial that is owned: net­works and news or­ga­ni­za­tions spend a great deal of money and re­sources ac­tu­ally at­tend­ing pub­lic events.

The Con­ser­va­tives ar­gue that they need the abil­ity to use the clips to keep pol­i­tics hon­est. To me, that sounds a lit­tle like an ado­les­cent ar­gu­ing they should be able to down­load any kind of con­tent for free be­cause they, well, just don’t feel like pay­ing for it.

If the Con­ser­va­tives want ac­cesss to video clips shot by oth­ers, well, they shouldn’t be able to leg­is­late them­selves a free pass. If they want to staff pub­lic events with their own video crews, look­ing for that pre­cious sound­bite — some­thing that’s almost guar­an­teed to knock any­thing like the re­main­ing hu­man­ity out of pol­i­tics — they’re wel­come to do so. At their own cost. (A not-so-well-known fact? The Con­serva- tives al­ready con­trol pho­tog­ra­phy of their own leader to stop any po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing pho­tos. Con­ser­va­tive staff pho­tog­ra­phers take pic­tures of the prime min­is­ter at pub­lic events, and are guar­an­teed the best photo po­si­tions: po­lice and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials move me­dia pho­tog­ra­phers fur­ther away be­hind cor­dons. Imag­ine: us­ing a na­tional po­lice force for the po­lit­i­cal goal of man­ag­ing the prime min­is­ter’s im­age. That sure must make you proud to be an RCMP of­fi­cer.)

All the me­dia is say­ing is that, if you want to use our prod­uct, gath­ered at our ex­pense, then you have to pay our price and play by our rules.

The Con­ser­va­tives might rec­og­nize that as, I don’t know, run­ning a business.

Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic Re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­; his col­umn ap­pears on Tues­days, Thurs­days and Satur­days in TC Me­dia’s daily pa­pers.

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