YouTube parody a federal offence?

by Saleem Khan, CBC News online

I just spoke with University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, so naturally we ended up talking about copyright and the internet.

I asked what's grabbing his attention these days and he said he's blogged about and is particularly interested in the case of a fellow who had uploaded clips of sessions of Parliament to YouTube as part of a parody. No problem - government proceedings on the public record are in the public domain and parody is protected speech, right? Wrong.

The Speaker of the House owns the copyright to everything produced by the government, Geist said, and parody is one of the uses for which people must obtain formal permission.

The Speaker sent a letter to YouTube and the offending video has been taken down "but you can see it on MySpace," Geist said, adding, "You literally have to get permission from the Speaker of the House."

As video mashups and the internet keep growing in popularity, we're going to keep seeing more examples like this, where the capabilities of everyday personal technology and the way people use them in ordinary pursuits run up against laws designed for a pre-digital world.

"They're going to have to sort this out," Geist said. "That's what I try to do."

(Geist also mentioned that he enjoys our CBC Technology blog – high praise, considering the source.)