What is the CBC:
To those unware (likely all non-Canadians), the CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting
corporation. It is much like the BBC in
the UK - a publicly funded company (aka a Crown corporation,
mandated by Parliament,
which runs numerous enterprises including CBC Radio One, Two, and
Three (nationwide radio stations), CBC Televison, CBC Newsworld, the CBC website, and the corresponding French
language equivalents of the previous (RCI, etc.).
Unlike the BBC, the CBC is not funded through a television levy. The CBC
receives direct funding from the government (almost a billion dollars last
year) to carry on it's operations. In addition, unlike the BBC, CBC
Television airs commercials during most regular programming (with exceptions
being during live news events and popular live sporting events).
Why I Used to Believe In The CBC
Many Americans (at least, most I have conversed with on the subject) can not
fathom the concept of a publicly funded news organization. They instantly assume
that any such organization would reek of bias, and would inevatibly lead to a
state-run propeganda machine.
However, as any viewer who live in the UK or Canada knows, (or elsewhere with a
publicly funded news organization and a free press) these organizations are in
fact normally the most un-biased in reporting the news (especially about the
government). The reason? While the CBC depends on the government for it's
funding, it's employees are not elected.
It is a corporation like any other - except that it is not required to turn a
only to try to break even. Thus, it is partially immune to the types of
sensationalist news gathering you can see on other cable news outlets such as
the members of the CBC are really accountable to no one but the viewer, they can
be free to
explore every angle of a story.
The Problem (AKA Why I Don't Believe Anymore)
Liking the CBC and it's view of the news, I have for some time subscribed to an
RSS feed of the site. Since the
CBC does not yet provide it's own feed, a third party, Sarah and Leo.com, have been creating the
feed, I assume a screen scraping script of some fashion. Recently, the CBC
cease and desist
order to the site, claiming copyright violation issues.
Now, there are several things wrong with this, from my point of view:
What can I do?
- Firstly, the people creating the feed are Canadians. Since the whole
organization who created the material is funded (and essentially owned) by the
People of Canada, the People of Canada should have unlimited rights on its use.
- Secondly, even if the first assertion did not follow, it is questionable if
a collection of hyperlinks into a site even violates copyright law in Canada. At
a minimum, the Canadian Government's On-Line Initiative brings this into question when it
states that numerous US courts have found that "hyperlinking does not itself
contravene copyright law and is not illegal as long as it is clear to whom the
linked page belongs". I do not see how it could be made any more clear, the
title of the RSS feed attributes the CBC directly.
Unfortunately, not much, other than show my support for the underdog. I have
written a harsh letter to Maggy Larouche, New Media Distribution manager, but received nothing but a brief
reply stating that sometime in the future the CBC will be offering their own RSS
feed. This does not, however, remedy the situation, and from my point of view,
it never will. As I said in my letter (see below) - even *if* the CBC gets it's
own feed, I still see no reason why it even should have issued this cease-and-desist to Sarah and Leo, who were only doing what I see as a public
service, and paying for it out of their own pocket.
This whole thing leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Actions To Take?
What can I suggest? Well, maybe if enough people spoke up, the CBC would listen. Below, I post the email I wrote,
which I also sent to the Heritage Minister (who is responsible for the CBC's budget).
Feel free to use it as a template. Also feel free to CC your MP when you send the email.
To all concerned,
I recently became aware that one of my favorite sources of news as a Canadian,
"Sarah and Leo's CBC RSS Feed", was taken down as a result of the CBC issuing
a cease-and-desist. ( http://www.sarahandleo.com/weblog20040919.htm )
I must say that I join with Sarah and Leo on this issue whole-heartedly, and
the actions of the CBC both shock and perplex me. The RSS feed:
- Was not generating any fiscal benefit for Sarah and Leo ( quite the
opposite, they had to pay the costs of bandwidth for the distribution of the
- *Was* generating increased traffic to the CBC web site
- Was not distributing any copyrighted CBC information.
- Was only seeking to provide a cultural benefit to all Canadians, at home and
I find the position being taken by the CBC very disapointing and I do not feel
it reflects our values as Canadians. It states directly in the CBC mission
statement ( http://cbc.radio-canada.ca/htmen/mandate.htm ) that the CBC seeks
iii. actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
iv. be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and
efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose
Now, I see how the RSS feed helps to further these goals. What I do not see is
how asserting the CBC's copyright in this matter to have the RSS feed removed
helps further these goals, or any in the CBC's mandate. In fact, this action
is diametricaly opposite to the mandate of the CBC as set out in the 1991
I know from reading Sarah and Leo's site that the CBC plans to start it's own
RSS feed eventually. This is all well and good, however, I do not see why the
CBC feels this is justification for this rash and inconsiderate act.
Without this RSS feed, since I no longer have a reliable way to access the
latest CBC headlines, I will no longer be visiting the CBC webs ite.
Furthermore, I will not be watching any CBC televison programs, or listening
to any CBC radio programs, until this issue is resolved in Sarah and Leo's
favour. I would encourage my other fellow Canadians to do the same, and I
would encourage Sarah and Leo to start a petition and to send it to the
Heritige Minister and their local MPs in hopes of resolving this matter.
CC: <My MP>
CC: The Hon. Liza Frulla, Minister of Canadian Heritage