Sunday, April 01, 2007

Canadian politicians and infringement

In the U.S., we recently had a flash in the pan controversy over Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's use of C-Span clips on her website. In Canada, a similar controversy has erupted over the unauthorized use of a photograph by a Member of Parliament, but there is a twist: the photograph was distributed with a Creative Commons license. When no payment was made, the photographer complained. The MP promptly apologized and offered to pay up. The photographer, however, despite using the Creative Commons license, turned down the money because he doesn't approve of the MP's politics. I hadn't thought that was one of the license options. Here's the story, from Canada's Kamloops website:

Staff reporter

Apr 01 2007

Claims his copyrighted pic was on MP’s mailout material

Hobby photographer David Wise said he may sue Betty Hinton’s office over an alleged copyright infringement of a photograph the Conservative MP used in her February newsletter.

“The licensing information was right there, right on the photo. So that was bypassed by a member of Ms. Hinton’s office,” Wise told KTW.

“Now we are into the stage where we need to work out compensation for this. And that’s where it’s stalled right now. We’re having a bit of a difference in opinion in what constitutes compensation for this infringement.”

Wise said he is asking Hinton’s office for up to $2,000 to cover the costs of the photograph and “additional damages,” such as compensation for incurred legal fees.

Wise said Hinton has called him to apologize and to offer him the money for the photograph her office would otherwise have paid.

Wise, however, declined the offer because he wouldn’t have allowed the MP to use his photograph in the first place because he disagrees with “her campaign and political viewpoint.”

Wise said he would also have thought twice about letting the Liberals or New Democrats use his photograph for political purposes.

“I do like to choose my clients,” he said.

The newsletter in question, compiled by one of Hinton’s Ottawa staff members, features a photograph of Hinton, flanked by photographs of the House of Parliament in Ottawa on her left and Wise’s photograph of Kamloops on her right.

The staffer, according to Wise, had allegedly downloaded the image from, a popular photo-sharing website.
Photographs on this site are copyright-protected under a creative-commons license, which Wise said will be accepted in a court of law.

A copyright notice to that effect appears at the bottom of the photograph.
Hinton’s staffer has also failed to credit Wise in the newsletter.

Wise said he still would have been upset had his photo credit appeared with the picture.
Wise’s photographs have found several takers, including Harvard University’s mathematics department and Venture Kamloops.

He has also sold several of his photographs to Kamloops Coun. Hinton could not be reached for comment on Thursday and Friday with her office saying the MP could not be reached Thursday and would be travelling to Kamloops from Ottawa on Friday.


No blog on Tuesday or Wednesday due to Passover; chag sameach.


Anonymous said...

Under the noncommercial clause, I thought political use was not allowed. So the politician violated his copyright. Any politician would have violated his copyright, but he seems to dislike Liberals and New Democrats especially. Perhaps he would have allowed a Libertarian politician use of the photo.

Max Lybbert said...

"Creative Commons" is a catch-all for several licenses. The only condition I can imagine coming into play would be "permission granted for for non-commercial use only" (assuming the license was used in a "commercial" setting). In that case, the politician would have exceeded the scope of the license, and the photographer could request royalty payments, or try to refuse giving permission.

Dan said...

The article didn't actually say which of the several CC licenses that photo was under.

Anonymous said...

The original photo doesn't appear to under a CC license of any kind.

Anonymous said...

The initially CC-licensed photo had its license change following this incident - it seems that his understanding of what rights he'd granted changed when he came in contact with actual legal advice. (Bonus! includes moral rights differences between US & canadian law, highlighting US-centric choices in CC licenses!) See

This blog also suggests the initial license had "attribution & share alike" conditions that were both violated by the politician.

Rather a fascinating documentation of a photographer learning copyright law the somewhat hard way, really...