Friends Of Canadian Broadcasting has settled a copyright claim after republishing media news content without the owners’ permission or licensing agreement. The advocacy group claimed “fair dealing” under the Copyright Act in freely publishing paywalled news on its website.
Blacklock’s Reporter sued in 2014 after the group reprinted a single story on its website and refused to remove the article for some five weeks after being contacted by management. “The Copyright Act saves newsroom jobs,” said Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. “Covering the news costs money, and reporters deserve to be paid for their work.”
Blacklock’s sued for economic and punitive damages in a Federal Court application claiming breach of copyright; and asked that Friends identify their source for the article.
“We welcome a settlement in this unhappy matter,” Doan said. “Copyright is not a technicality; it is our livelihood.”
The dispute followed Blacklock’s publication of a February 14, 2014 article “CBC Its ‘Own Worst Enemy’”. The item recounted Senate committee testimony by Konrad von Finckenstein, former CRTC chair. Von Finckenstein had told senators, “The CBC is also its own worst enemy”; “It has not articulated clearly and precisely how it intends to thrive in the new digital environment, given its mandate and the fiscal restraints. Its strategies appear to be a vague repetition of what is set out in the Broadcasting Act.”
Friends Of Canadian Broadcasting published an identical version of Blacklock’s story on its own website within days, claiming it was entitled to do so under the Copyright Act without permission or payment for distribution rights.
“Our lawyers advise us that we can fairly deal with works that are only available by paid subscription,” Ian Morrison, Friends spokesperson, wrote in a February 27, 2014 email; “Friends earns no money from the operation of the database.”
The group claims an estimated 200,000 financial donors. It has spent more than $256,000 on third-party election advertising since 2011, according to Elections Canada.
Documents submitted to court by Blacklock’s included a Friends mail-out to contributors that cited Senate CBC hearings in appealing for funds: “We need your help to keep a very close eye on these folks, to expose their hostility to public broadcasting, and to connect the dots to Stephen Harper,” read the mailout.
Friends maintains a large database of other media’s stories for free use by internet visitors for “scholarship, research, private study and related purposes,” Morrison said; “Friends operates the Media Monitor database which stores reports of news and events pertaining to the broadcasting system, media ownership and cultural policies in Canada.”
Terms of the settlement are confidential. Blacklock’s publisher noted subscription revenues are crucial to all paywalled media to recover costs of news coverage. “We will vigorously defend our rights,” Doan said.