Something is broken but not our copyright law.

May I offer some advice, Prime Minister? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You don’t need a new law in order to take news video and use it for your attack ads. The right already exists. Everyone agrees that current copyright law permits such use without authorization from broadcasters.

attack ad

By poking a stick at broadcasters, you just get their backs up. The tone of your cabinet memo, intercepted by CTV, makes some irritating presumptions.

“Broadcasters, newspaper and periodical publishers, and ‘news’ photographers will vehemently claim that their work is being unfairly targeted for the benefit of political parties … [the proposed copyright exemption] would allow free use of ‘news’ content in political advertisements intended to promote or oppose a politician or political party, or a position.”

When you use the word “news” in quotes, it suggests that photographers are not professionally presenting the news but are just out to get you. It might seem that way after you spent all that money on attack ads trying to portray Liberal leader Trudeau as the prince of pot as his popularity grows.

It’s not news reporters who are responsible for Trudeau’s popularity. Something about your methods are fundamentally flawed.

Your proposed legislation is an attack on freedom of the press. One constitutional lawyer, Errol Mendes, feels that it’s such an abuse of power that he is willing to argue the case for free.

Broadcasters already have their backs up. In May, CTV, CBC, Global and Rogers sent a letter to all federal and provincial parties serving notice that they would no longer “accept any political advertisement which uses our content without our express authorization.”

Can’t you see that broadcasters resent your use of their material because makes them seem to be a part of your propaganda machine?

As a free-market supporter, you must understand that broadcasters are free to accept or reject your attack ads. And your proposed legislation runs contrary to your fundamental beliefs that government should regulate the marketplace. Yet your memo dictates: “during an election, broadcasters must provide a certain amount of advertising time to political parties.”

The optics are bad. You propose to pass this unnecessary legislation as yet another “Trojan horse” where you bury it deep in a budget bill and hope we won’t notice. Well, people are getting wise to this tactic. Why remind them of past attempts to circumvent parliament?

Yes, something about your attacks is broken. Even though your ads have worked well in the past against ex-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion: “Not Worth the Risk.” The characterization of former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff with the caption “just visiting” was effective.

But the attack ads against the new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are backfiring. One-half of viewers who saw your ads suggesting Trudeau is “in over his head” told pollsters they were more likely to vote Liberal.

Here’s a novel idea. Tell voters why they should vote for you. You could even try being nice, even if it risks the public perception that aliens have abducted the real Stephen Harper and replaced him with the new, nicer you.

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