Copyright Used to Censor Enbridge Pipeline Satirical Criticism

A cartoonist is currently witnessing what is commonly referred to as the Streisand effect. Over the last week, a cartoonist released a satirical criticism of the Enbridge pipeline advertisement. At one point, the news site that ran the video was forced to take the video down after a complaint about copyright. The video has since been reposted.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The Pirate Party of Canada alerted us to this development in a recent press release. The CBC ran a story about Dan Murphy and his parody of an advertisement by Enbridge.

If you’re Canadian, you probably know all too well how the oil industry has been flooding television with ads to try and shed the reputation of being big polluters. A lot revolve around the Alberta oil sands, but some are starting to cover the oil pipelines currently being proposed. Environmental issues has been a hot button issue especially after the Harper government targeted environmental regulations in the budget bill. Between the oil spills and the oil industry trying to say how it’s all about creating jobs and that their environmental record is so good, it’s been a PR war. For those keeping track, it’s pretty obvious that the Conservative government has been on the side of the oil industry with opposition parties on the side of environmental regulations.

Now, a new development that has really caught our attention. From the CBC:

Murphy says his publisher, Postmedia News, pulled the online animation off its website after Enbridge threatened to cut advertising with the newspaper chain, a claim Enbridge denies

The original Enbridge video was designed to promote its controversial pipeline project.

Murphy’s animation mocks Enbridge, splashing oily goo on the screen while questioning the oil giant’s environmental record.

Murphy told CBC News that he was told Enbridge was outraged that its ad was mocked and put heavy pressure on Postmedia News.

The parody was taken down and Murphy says he was given a blunt message by Vancouver Province editor Wayne Moriarity.

“‘If it doesn’t come down, Enbridge says they’re pulling a million dollars worth of advertising from Postmedia, and if it doesn’t come down, I, Wayne Moriarty, I’m going to lose my job,’” Murphy said Moriarity told him.

Since the article was published, a follow-up was posted with the editor denying Enbridge was involved and that it was a copyright issue:

But Editor-in-Chief Wayne Moriarty said Wednesday it was the people who buy media space on behalf of clients that suggested the video might be a copyright infringement.

Moriarty said the Province has in the past defended its copyright from satirists and it would be hypocritical to fight against someone who had expressed a concern about their own material.

Enbridge is spending nearly $5 million on what it calls a public outreach campaign to try to explain the benefits of its controversial proposed oil pipeline from Alberta to B.C.’s North Coast. Part of the money is spent on ads in the Postmedia newspaper chain, which owns the Vancouver Province.

Enbridge issued a statement Tuesday saying it, “did not request The Province or Post Media pull the video … nor did Enbridge threaten to discontinue those [ads].”

Since the story surfaced, the video was re-posted on YouTube a number of times. Here’s one of the postings:

Looking at the video, I think that was a clear example of satire and criticism. Had this video simply been allowed to say on the news website, I don’t think it would receive the kind of attention it has now. The Pirate Party of Canada has since released a statement condemning the use of copyright as a tool for censorship:

The Province newspaper has pulled a satirical political remix video about the enbridge pipeline oil spills from the internet.’ The artist, Dan Murphy, has claimed he was told by his editor that Enbridge was threatening to pull ‘a million dollars worth of advertising’ if the remix video remained on the website. Enbridge and Postmedia now deny this claim, insisting the matter is solely an issue of potential copyright infringement. Even though, according to Canadian law, there are fair dealing provisions (allowing for unauthorized use of copyrighted material) for “criticism” which should apply to this cartoon.

“This is a great example of big business abusing people’s misunderstanding of copyright law to censor legitimate discussion of their practices,” says Pirate Party Leader Shawn Vulliez, “Political remix videos are one of the strongest methods of subverting the narratives laid out by moneyed interests. We must resist any use of archaic copyright laws to control or limit the types of discussions we are having about public policy.” The Pirate Party opposes the use of internet censoring technology to stop copyright infringement. Vulliez elaborates: “Once the technology to censor websites based on content is in place, it’s only a matter of time before bureaucrats are utilizing these tools to limit our access to alternative media and revolutionary whistleblowing organizations such as WikiLeaks.”

After the news broke about the censorship on The Province’s website, the video went viral, proving once again that the worst way to hide information on the internet is to try to censor it. When you try to remove something from the internet, it multiplies.

What I find fascinating is that this is happening right when a Canadian artist is is fighting censorship by copyright on YouTube thanks to DMCA notices sent by or on behalf of Universal Music Group. You have two examples in the same week where copyright was used to censor free speech in Canada. As I said in the previous article, a big concern for us when talking about laws being proposed to restrict copyright is the abuse that can happen as a result. This isn’t just some hypothetical “what could happen” scenario we are talking about. Censorship by copyright is something that is already happening with the laws currently in place. If copyright laws are further restricted, it’s easy to see how abuse of copyright laws only stand to get worse as well.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: