CBC: want to email our articles? Pay us! - Macleans.ca

CBC: want to email our articles? Pay us!

This bizarre scheme comes via a company called iCopyright


If you’d like to send some friends an article from the CBC’s website, then the CBC would like $20. If you want to print six copies of an article, the CBC wants $10. And if you’re interested in posting an excerpt of an article to your blog, then the CBC is interested in charging $500 to your credit card for each year your post is online.

Of course, you don’t need to pay the CBC anything. You could just copy and paste a CBC article into an email and pay nothing. You could hit Ctrl-P and print as many copies as you like. You could drag and drop a chunk of text from a CBC webpage to your blog post without reaching for your Visa. And you could do any of these commonly done things without even knowing that the CBC wants to charge you to do them. Unless you share CBC content in a very specific and somewhat obscure way—by clicking the little icons at the end of each article or a button labeled “Republish,” you can freely share their stuff the way people share everything else on the Internet—copy and paste.

But if you do, it might interest you to know that the CBC is encouraging the friends you share their content with to rat you out in the hopes of scoring a $1,000,000 reward.  This bizarre scheme comes via a company called iCopyright, which the CBC has partnered with to “monetize” their online content.

Their pay system software includes instructional documentation, republished on CBC.ca, which educates readers with a list of “Copyright Dos and Don’ts.” For example: “Do realize that it is remarkably easy for digital rights bounty hunters to catch and prosecute pirates” and “Don’t use your browser to copy and paste copyrighted content…”

The head of English CBC, Kirstine Stewart, recently wrote a blog post outlining her plans for the CBC’s digital future. I took the opportunity to tweet her my thoughts on the subject. Here’s how that looked:








I wasn’t sure exactly what she keeps clean, so I emailed to ask for clarification. She referred me to a guy named Bob Kerr who handles the CBC’s digital distribution.

He wasn’t sure what she meant either, but he did help to clear up why the CBC would get into bed with an outfit like iCopyright. Kerr says the CBC doesn’t actually expect you to pay for all the things its website explicitly asks you to pay for. iCopyright is there for commercial users—companies that want to republish CBC content for profit.  The CBC used to draft a new contract for every $500 license. iCopyright lets publishers “self serve” by punching in a credit card number and clicking a user agreement.

“It’s for commercial users only,” Kerr tells me. “Somehow it’s become quite confused.” I suggest that the confusion might arise from the fact that there is absolutely nothing on CBC.ca to tell users what he just told me: that they should disregard iCopyright’s shakedowns and threats entirely.

He sighs a weary bureaucrat’s sigh. “It’s still under evaluation. To be honest with you, the revenue from iCopyright isn’t great. It’s not big money. I’m still looking at it to see if it’s worth the trouble. If we don’t see revenues climbing soon, we may go back to the old manual system.”

Until then, watch out for those digital rights bounty hunters!


CBC: want to email our articles? Pay us!

  1. Yet another reason for privatization – when a private company decides to go with a magnificently stupid and obfuscatory paywall/content-management system and customers don't really value the content that much, they'll get punished by the market. (See: NYT, slow disintegration of.) When CBC does it, they have no real incentive to do things in a way that seeks to attract and retain customers; that federal funding is coming anyway.

    • If the CBC has not incentive to do things in away that attracts customers, then why does it have by FAR the best on-line presence of ANY media outlet in Canada? Maybe because they spend all the money they're giving serving the public instead of their shareholders?

      Privatizing the CBC would be a brilliant way for Harper to lose the reluctant blue Liberals who helped him get his majority this election. And it would certainly put the nail in his coffin in Quebec.

  2. why don't you just copy and paste the article into an email and send it that way?

  3. It sounds curious when company's representatives complain about low revenue.

    • Especially when they have been guaranteed public funding of $ 1.2 billion yearly. Where did all those public money go? I hope they will be privatized it soon.

      • Not until after 2015, if Harper is honest.

  4. To be fair, unless they just changed it, the default option on an email is to let you send the link and first paragraph to up to 5 people at no charge; which is just good form for doing these things anyways.

    Meanwhile, Republish only lists charges for people who want to republish/host a copy of the whole article as far as I can tell. Unless copyright law is substantially different here than elsewhere, grabbing a paragraph or so to wrap your own content around in comment/reference – and attributing the source – is still going to fall entirely within fair use.

    • Yes, if you know your fair use (fair dealing) rights.

      But if you go by what the CBC's site says…well, if you hit "republish" it says: "Post- Post all or part of this article on a web site, intranet, or blog." Seems to indicate you need an iCopyright license even to post an excerpt. Then when you click "go" it seems to suggest that this is only for posting the full thing. What if you just want to run an excerpt? Nothing directly speaks to that, but under "learn more" it does say "Cutting and pasting copyrighted content and then posting it on the web or distributing it to others in any form, except for certain "fair uses," requires permission from the publisher."

      They don't make it easy to figure out, but they do make it easy to pay them…

      • But, to be fair again cutting and pasting an entire article is, by definition, Republishing, not fair use and does require permision and/or payment to the original publisher. Given that you only get options to pay for rights to do that – republish the entire article either for free, with embeded ads in the code, or for cost with none – then it's inarguable that they're not charging you for excerpts and you're able to do so.

        So, I can understand why they say they're trying to implement a system whereby people who want to Republish can do so without having to jump through hoops with their copyright office. It's not like they're going all Righthaven on people and launching a sue + settle scam against anyone who's ever quoted a sentence from the Las Vegas Review-Journal in their blog – fair use or not or making noise like some of the major press syndicates who argue they have the right to do the same but haven't had the nerve to push the issue that far.

      • Even if you just run an excerpt of it, if you're not using it as a basis or as supporting/contrasting evidence for your own work, fair use does not apply.

  5. I assume this article didn't intend to mislead, but that first paragraph definitely had me headed in the wrong direction. I surfed on over to CBC, clicked on the little "Republish" link at the bottom of a story, and it said: e-mail the whole article to up to 5 friends for free. When you say "If you'd like to send some friends an article from the CBC's website, then the CBC would like $20" — well, no; only if "some" is greater than 5. A nuance, but since most of the time we're not mass-emailing this stuff, wouldn't it have been more truthful to say upfront that when you want to e-mail the whole article to 5 friends, or publish it on your blog, the CBC does not in fact want any money?

    • It is indeed very confusing Serge. There are the things that iCopyright says on the CBC's site, then there's what CBC tells me, then there's what the law says (basically that in many cases you do not need to pay the CBC to print, email, or post excerpts). I think the confusion is intentional- if not on the CBC's part than on iCopyright's. If you can't tell whether or not you're infringing, just pay up for peace of mind.

  6. How is this "bizarre"? The Globe and Mail, for one, uses the same iCopyright system and charges for reprints/licenses to its article as well.

    While we may not like it, copyright owners are allowed to charge for such licenses. And, for those of you saying that the CBC should be privatized, do you really think that a private company would eschew such an avenue?

    • The problem for me is that the CBC belongs to all of us, so I have already paid for the content with my tax dollars. Why should I pay for it again?

  7. As long as you email only links, there shouldn't be a problem. A problem occurs if you copy and paste an entire article (which is copyrighted, don't pretend otherwise) and either put it on your blog or email it in its entirety to someone else (i.e., thus bypassing the need to read the article on the CBC's own website).

  8. Shut it down, the CBC is a waste of space.

    • Thanks. That was intelligent.

  9. CBC runs on stolen money. The $1.1b is taken involuntarily from taxpayers. If the left, that represents the 8% audience that the state broadcaster attracts, wants the CBC let them pay for it. I'm sick of paying for the pleasures of elites.

    • This is a really dumb argument. There are good arguments for defunding the CBC, this is not one.

      You could pick every red cent of government spending and say it's done with stolen money, because someone, somewhere doesn't want to fund it. Like, I strongly object to the city paving the street in front of your house or collecting your garbage. Theft I say!

      • I don’t have to pay each time I drive on that piece of pavement in front of my house. Each Canadian, including you, already pays $400 per year for the CBC, and now they want to double dip. $1,000,000,000.00 reward for CBC snitches-seriously outrageous. The CBC has a much larger budget than any other broadcaster in Canada, yet they claim it’s not enough and will not release financial records! So they’re taking our money and refusing to be accountable in how they spend it.

    • We'll pay for the CBC. We can afford $400 or so per person among us. You Cons take care of the fighter jets and the jails and the tax break the tar sands gets, and we'll all be happy.

  10. or just copy and paste the link into an email/blogpost…

  11. I have a web site where I give investment advise on penny stocks and stocks under five dollars. I have many years of experience with these type of stocks. If their is anyone that is interested in these type of stocks you can check out my web site by just clicking my name. I would like to comment about cbs charging twenty dollars for someone requesting the right to use one of their articles off their web site. whats next charging someone 100 dollars a month to have a link from their web site to the cbs web site. I think the thing most users of the internet fail to realize is that much of the content on the internet is not currently protected by copyrights or any intellectual property laws and I hope it stays that way otherwise many folks will find themselves involved in legal deputes over the usage of much of the content that is currently freely available on the internet. This would most likely crash the internet information explosion. Are you listening sentor orin hatch.

  12. Seems like the creators should be consulted on this. Journalists and content providers should be getting paid for internet use/reprint/revoicing of their work. If that is happening already that's great. If not, they should be. See controversy here about the Chronicle Herald's all-rights grabbing contract. http://www.sandraphinney.com

  13. If you want to report on a real scandal, how about taking a hard look at what is happening to the original authors and producers of much of the work being resold in this way. Canadian publications (and that includes Rogers Media, the owner of hundreds of publications, including Macleans),the CBC, and many others, now routinely demand that freelancers give them virtually all digital rights for free, and then they happily resell these same rights for a profit.

    The Halifax Chronicle-Herald is the latest newspaper to head down this path, but the whole industry is complicit. How about reporting on this scandal, Jesse Brown?

  14. I hope you paid for using the content of your email/Twitter exchange or the CBC will be sending you a bill shortly. What are my taxes paying for if I’m also expected to pay for content up front? You can bet if CTV or Global tried a scheme like this they’d lose all their viewership and advertisers in no time