Those zany clowns at Access Copyright have done it again. A few months ago I wrote about their online course, which gave you the opportunity to pay a fee to be "educated" with a series of email messages that would teach you their highly slanted version of copyright law. I don't think that offer was particularly popular, so now they're offering to children something similar, for free, with the help of a cartoon character named Captain Copyright, including such obviously valuable educational exercises as assigning children to write letters to the editors of newspapers in support of copyright. Where does "education" leave off and "exploiting children as lobbyists" begin? Michael Geist's comments are worth a look; apparently it's gotten onto BoingBoing too, (where it is pointed out that Captain Copyright's pose has echoes of goatse - warning, shock site), and it's shaping up to be another debacle of Sarmite Bulte proportions.

[Bonobo Conspiracy #268]

In addition to being offensive in itself, the campaign is provided under a terms of service "agreement" that purports to forbid people from posting links to it if they're criticising the campaign. OMG!@@!!1! Look what I'm doing!

There is, of course, absolutely no legal force behind such a demand. An organization that would try to get away with it should certainly not be in the position of "educating" anyone about copyright. They don't even have the excuse of ignorance, because they certainly employ enough lawyers to know darn well that they have absolutely no right to make such a demand under Canadian law even if copyright applied - it's antithetical to the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act - let alone the fact that copyright doesn't even subsist in a Web address anyway. There was an important court decision on a similar issue in the USA recently; and Captain Copyright's linking policy was a subject for law professor Michael Geist's column recently, too.

[Bonobo Conspiracy #269]

Years ago, I said about a representative of CANCOPY (the organization that became Access Copyright) that her comments were so stupid and made the organization look so bad, I had to wonder if she was secretly on my side and deliberately trying to torpedo their supposed goals. I still have that feeling. Access Copyright has enough budget to hire people for their campaign who would know what they were doing. And yet, they're behaving in a manner that any competent participant should be able to predict will only get them in trouble and harm their cause. Why?

[Captain Copyright strip 8, frame 2]

Scientist: Does he have some kind of "Copyright Sense" that tells him when people are in trouble? Or do we need to shine the "Copyright Signal" into the sky so that he'll know he's needed?

UPDATE: Here's a frame from the Captain Copyright comic, which I'm reproducing as fair dealing for the purposes of critical review, a use which does not require permission of the copyright holders. They propose that Captain Copyright might have a super-sense that alerts him to situations requiring his attention... just like Spiderman. Or maybe he can be summoned with a special signal flashed into the sky... just like Batman. Hey, that looks like they're taking ideas from someone else's published work, a practice dangerously close to copyright infringement! It's sure a good thing that parodies are solidly protected in the Canadian copyright act! It's sure a good thing that Access Copyright have championed the protection of parodies in all their submissions to the copyright reform process! Otherwise they'd look sort of like hypocrites, eh? Oh, wait.

[Screen capture of
edited file]

All files are editable.

ANOTHER UPDATE: If you examine the PDFs in the "Teachers" section of the Captain Copyright site with the appropriate tools, you will find that almost all of them contain embedded copies of the font Helvetica Neue, copyright 1988, 1990, 1993 by Adobe. According to the Adobe License Agreement and its supplement incorporated by reference, the schedule of editable-embedding-permitted fonts, that font may only be embedded in published electronic documents if they are for printing and viewing only - not if it's possible to edit them. Hey, I wonder if it's possible to edit those files. If I convert one to Postscript, open it up in a text editor, and change the words (for instance, by replacing occurance of "copyright" with "copywrong"), do you think Captain Copyright is going to stop me? Is Access Copyright in compliance with the Adobe license agreement when they distribute these files?

[Bonobo Conspiracy #270]

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: As reported on BoingBoing, the Captain Copyright site uses quotes from Wikipedia in violation of the applicable license terms. They appear on the colouring book page but it's a little tricky because that page appears to be dynamically generated; on successive reloads it displays different "fun facts", so you may have to try several times to see the Wikipedia quotes. There are two on the "FUN FACTS ABOUT PUBLISHING" version of the page, one on the "FUN FACTS ABOUT BOOKS" version, and one more on the "FUN FACTS ABOUT TRADE" version.

BRIDE OF UPDATE: As of 5 June, the "fun facts" feature mentioned above, with the Wikipedia quotes in it, has been removed entirely from the Captain Copyright site. I have a saved copy; contact me if you need to see it. Something that should be considered is that the Wikipedia quotes were brief, and used with attribution in a fairly normal academic style. They didn't comply with the GNU Free Documentation License, but I'm not sure they should have had to. It wouldn't be a good thing for the GFDL or any license to be able to ban fair dealing, and the use of the Wikipedia quotes on that site sure looked a lot like fair dealing to me. I think it should be okay to use an attributed quote of a sentence or two without permission, without incurring license obligations, and even directly against the author's wishes. But... if Access Copyright were forced to admit that what they were doing was fair dealing, then they'd have had to admit that anybody else doing the same kind of thing was also fair dealing. That would have been a major victory for the good guys, and it's a shame but no surprise that they're avoiding the issue by just deleting the material.

SON OF UPDATE: See Michael Geist's latest posting. They've changed the linking policy (again) by removing the rather foolish "moral rights" claim, and it has come to light that the Singaporean government had a green-and-white Captain Copyright of their own last year for their IP "protection" campaign.

RETURN OF UPDATE: Story on with quotes from an Access Copyright representative. Although I'm not mentioned by name, I imagine I may be the "bloggers" mentioned as suggesting that the Wikipedia quotes may have been fair dealing, because I'm not aware of anyone else who said that.

REVENGE OF UPDATE: The EFF has created a team of supervillains to illustrate the dangers of DRM. See The Corruptibles now. They look a lot like someone we know...

UPDATE V. TERMINATOR: The Canadian Library Association has issued a resolution condemning Captain Copyright (page 4 in the linked PDF document). Story spotted on Slyck. In the coverage, reader "tony" points out another reason to object to Captain Copyright: his impossibly muscular physique is a harmful role model for boys!

THE UPDATE BABIES TAKE MANHATTAN: The CLA has also released an open letter (PDF format); further coverage of that, and funding irregularities, on Michael Geist's site.

HONEY I SHRUNK THE UPDATE: As reported 18 August 2006 on, the Captain Copyright site has been taken down, replaced by a message saying that it's under revision.

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