The Green Shift & EcoTrust in, "You shoulda taken out title insurance"
An editor once warned a reporter friend of mine that originality isn't exactly a commodity in Canada, especially in politics. "There's only been one original story in the past 100 years - man walks on moon. All the other stories have been done before."
Politicians are learning this with the environment. Every time they try to come up with a nifty name for their new and improved, green program, it's taken.
The Conservatives found this out in the spring of 2007 when they tried to dub a plan "EcoTrust." Turns out, that's the name of a long-standing non-profit in Canada and the government backed away from the title - not for any legal reason, but to prevent "confusion."
(One line of argument I found intriguing: speculation that the company could be punished for being confused with Liberals. Who would be doing that punishing, I wonder? And does that mean that it's better for private firms to have ties to the Conservatives? Isn't that called patronage? But I digress.)
Actually, as some commenters to the blog have pointed out, names and titles don't fall under copyright protection. Anyone who's written a book knows this - you can call your book War and Peace or Little Women if you want. You just can't copy the words of Tolstoy or Louisa May Alcott and pass them off as your own. I relearned this lesson myself - from a 14-year-old - in the fall of 2003, when I had released a book on Paul Martin, called Juggernaut, and Lawrence Martin released his book on Jean Chrétien, called Iron Man. What neither of us knew is that we'd borrowed the names of comic superheroes for our books on the Liberal arch-rivals.
I'm pleased to report that neither of us faced any retribution, especially the kind a superhero could dole out.
UPDATE (June 24): The formidable Kady O'Malley, blogging for Macleans, has been tracking the possible role of Conservative agitators in whipping up confusion and angst over the Liberals' use of the "Green Shift" name. She asks the very worthwhile question - why would the Green Shift firm be getting a wave of phone calls, unless it was part of some campaign?