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!