Telus vs. Union Workers – YouTube in the Middle

For months now, copyright infringement was cited as the biggest concern for YouTube. The most famous case was when Viacom pulled thousands of movies off of YouTube, citing copyright infringement.

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

While some say that the Viacom incident was only the beginning, a new twist has emerged on Canada’s doorstep – and it arrives as a censorship by copyright issue.

Telus, one of Canada’s largest ISPs, has been accused by union members of censoring them on the internet. It wouldn’t be the first time this fierce dispute boiled over the internet. Some time ago, Telus was accused of blocking internet access to a union website. Now it seems that Telus has been accused again by Union members of removing movies of what was happening between workers and the corporation. Instead of merely blocking the content, they opted to say it violated their copyright.

So what copyright is being violated? One movie in particular, which was since reposted elsewhere, was removed from the popular movie sharing site YouTube. Telus claimed that they own the copyright and YouTube removed the video on the request.

It’s actions like this that have some critics arguing that it’s too easy for some people to remove allegedly copyrighted works. The reason is that some say there’s no procedure for any company to prove they own the copyright to a particular video. It seems more of an on-demand feature to some – the videos can get removed from the website, no questions asked.

Though judging by the video that was removed from the site, the movie looks more likely copyrighted to the news station, not Telus itself.

Is it time to just blame the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) for all the problems this has caused so far? Not really. This is just another twist in this case. This issue occurred within the jurisdiction of Canada, not in the United States. Thus, the DMCA cannot be used in this case because this is a Canadian company and a Canadian union. The company that broadcast this footage did not complain as of yet.

It seems as though some members of the Canadian Union of Postal workers were not pleased by the turn of events. The following comments were posted on an unofficial CUPW members website: “All those TELUS Idol videos I posted on YouTube they finally had removed on get this, copyright infringement. That is hilarious. […] I contend that they don’t own the copyright to complain about it. I contend that those videos are part of exhibits documenting Darren Entwistle’s unethical behaviour and it is a crime to censor the truth from the Internet, again.”

Michael Geist noted that another strange twist is the fact that this was the same Darren Entwistle who openly supported the idea of an expanded “Fair Use” in Canada while also wanting interoperability as well.

One question that comes to mind is if this falls under “Fair Dealings” – the Canadian version of the “fair use” regime which permits criticism in the first place.

While the seemingly bitter feud between Telus and its workers continues, it seems YouTube got caught up in the middle of it all.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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