Government of Canada Cracks Down on Blog Site
The Treasury Board of Canada has issued a cease and desist order to a website, BlogsCanada.ca, regarding trademark and copyright infringement issues. BlogsCanada describes itself as “Canada’s Blog Site” and hosts a directory of more than 7,700 Canadian blogs.
Blogs, or web logs, are journals that are published on the Internet. Blogs are typically updated frequently using software that allows people with little or no technical background to edit and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominently.
In addition to the Canadian blog directory, BlogsCanada includes features such as blogging news, lists and reviews of blogging software and books, a monthly showcase of ten of Canada’s best blogs and two popular blogs: Officially Unofficial, site owner Jim Elve’s personal blog, and E-Group, a collaborative effort of about 20 political commentators who contribute articles concerning the upcoming federal election.
Elve thinks it is this political group blog which caused the Treasury Board to issue the cease and desist order.
“BlogsCanada has been operating since last summer without any government interference,” Elve said from his Waterford, Ontario home office. “It wasn’t until the E-Group got going and AdScam broke that they took any notice of us. Some of our group members have been very prolific in posting articles condemning the government since the scandal broke and I’ve seen a large increase in traffic to the site. Much of that new traffic is originating from gc.ca (Government of Canada) servers.”
BlogsCanada does mimic the look of an official government website. However, the first words on each page are, “Definitely NOT the Government of Canada.” Ironically, that bit of text is one of the three site features with which the Treasury Board takes issue. The combination of the Canadian flag with two blocks of text immediately to the right is trademarked as the Government of Canada’s corporate signature.
The Treasury Board is also demanding that BlogsCanada remove what is identified as the Canada “wordmark”. This is described as comprising the word “Canada” with the flag symbol over the last letter. Elve insists that his use does not fall into that description.
“Blogscanada is one word and the flag is over the final letter in the word ‘blogscanada’, not in the word ‘Canada’.”
Finally, the Treasury Board is claiming a copyright on the look and feel used by the Government and by BlogsCanada. The board says that BlogsCanada copies the selection and arrangement of the elements that collectively make up the government’s Common Look and Feel layout.
“It’s a spoof,” says Elve. “We declare right at the top of every page that we are definitely not the government. We even put the word ‘not’ in all caps. We’re not trying to fool anyone.”
Regarding the Treasury Board’s cease and desist order, Elve has had some encouraging legal advice and feels he will be able to successfully fight the government’s request.
Screenshots of pages on BlogsCanada and on the Government of Canada’s website are available at http://www.blogscanada.ca/screenshots.html.
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I remember a page on the BlogsCanada where the webmaster admited to deliberately imitating the Government of Canada web hoping they would get in trouble, and thus, this attract some media attention… so I guess they got what they wanted.