July 2, 2012

Copyright concerns, the new way to make something disappear


The Vancouver Province newspaper took down a cartoonist’s parody video from their website, after the oil company depicted in the cartoon allegedly threatened to pull funding, says Leigh Beadon on Tech Dirt.

The video, according to the cartoonist Dan Murphy,

“[was] an animated parody targeting Enbridge Inc. and the potential environmental impact of its proposed multi-billion-dollar Northern Gateway pipeline proposal that would cross B.C. and Alberta. 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.”

The newspaper’s editor contradicted the cartoonist, citing copyright concerns as the reasoning behind the removal. However, per a Canadian Pirate Party press release, Enbridge released a statement saying it did not threaten to remove its ads on condition of the offending video being removed, but did acknowledge it had had a “conversation” with the newspaper’s company.

Despite being a he said-she said situation at present, Beadon is right in that

“it’s important to note that this is not an issue of censorship. The newspaper is free to publish and unpublish whatever it wants, and the editor doesn’t have to tell anybody why—and, of course, it’s up to the reader to look at their decisions and stated reasons then decide whether it’s a newspaper they want to pay attention to or trust. The relationship between newspapers and advertisers has long been uneasy, and this isn’t the first time an editor has been forced to make a tough choice. Of course, this also isn’t really a first for this newspaper chain and its relationship with oil companies: back when it was a part of Canwest (the publishing division of which later spun off into what is now Postmedia), it sparked complaints to advertising standards regulators over a series of paid advertorials about Canada’s tar sands that were misleadingly labelled as ‘Special Information Features.'”


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.