It's now clear that if you want to be a savvy political operator in Canada, you better take a course in intellectual-property law. Once upon a time, it helped to know the constitution when Canadian politics was all about national unity. Nowadays, copyright and trademark law seem to be the weapons of choice in the information age.
The little fracas over the Green Shift - is it a Liberal program or a Toronto company? - is just the current example. Given how things are going, I'm not sure why we haven't heard yet from Green Shift Music and Comics in Florida, or Richard Underhill, a Canadian saxophonist who put a song called Green Shift on his album, Kensington Suite. And, as someone pointed out to me today, what about this "Shifty" bag from North Face (available in Green). Isn't it offended too?
Before this latest copyright/trademark fray, let's not forget, we had the Conservatives in hot water for using the name Eco-Trust and using the O'Jay's tune For the Love of Money in one of their attack ads.
And just yesterday, Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor strayed into copyright peril at his new "shifty green" website, which we mentioned in this blog a few days ago.
As Taylor describes his mostly good-natured dispute with the Liberals, he also explains: "In knocking-off the Liberal website, I neglected to "knock-off" the Liberal logo enough to satisfy the legal concerns of the Liberal Party. I received a call from their lawyer letting me know that my use of their logo poses trademark concerns and we very amicably agreed that the solution to their dilemma would be to create a derivative work of their logo."
If all of this isn't enough to send would-be political operatives back to the intellectual-property books, it should also be pointed out that copyright law itself may be the sleeper political issue of the season. The proposed changes by the Conservative government recently announced by Industry Minister Jim Prentice have whipped up a storm on the Net. The Facebook group formed to oppose the changes now stands at roughly 78,000 members - about 30,000 more than it had before the Prentice changes were announced.