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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Re: BlogsCanada

As I write over here, I don't think this is an instance of politically-motivated intimidation. It's a sort of legal bullying, for sure, although I also wonder whether the Government might not have a case; I'd be interested to hear from a trademark lawyer.

The problem with throwing around allegations of political intimidation in cases like this - when there's a perfectly clear reason why the Government sent its 'cease and desist' letter (I mean, come on, look at the site) - is that it diminishes from instances of actual intimidation. If the government's defenders can refute the specious allegations, it allows them to cast doubt on the substantive allegations.

And there are an awful lot of substantial allegations.

ALSO - though the Liberals have been doing their best to erase the line, I think we should still differentiate (where applicable) between the government and the Government. And the above certainly appears to be a reasonable act of the Government.

Posted by David Mader on April 15, 2004 | Permalink


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Maybe the government is just feeling threatened that a site like BlogsCanada can run circles around a government funded site like www.culture.ca (that has a $6 million price tag) without costing taxpayers a dime. Can't have that. People might start questioning whether we're getting value for our tax dollars.

Posted by: Sean | 2004-04-15 11:55:29 AM

I agree that Jim is drawing a rather long bow tossing in AdScam; but twitting a rolly-polly Government with a parody should not be attracting legal letters.

Essentially the BlogsCanada site uses the word Canada with a little Canadian flag over it and a two column layout. It has not stolen any image files from the Canada sites and it expressly denies that it is the Government of Canada. It would be remarkable if the Government wa willing to waste the money filing suit would entail.

And, more to the point, so long as there is no fraud or deception involved, what exactly is the point of the Government's claim? The Canadian Government, unlike a business has no "good name" or "good will" to protect. Or at least to protect from its own citizens.

Chasing BlogsCanada will simply make the Government look even sillier than usual. Which is setting a pretty high standard.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2004-04-15 12:54:14 PM

I think Jim is a little far afield too in regard to his conjecture about political motivation.

That being said, it is clearly not a government site, and doesn't pretend to be.

It also has standards compliant coding as its underpinning, which is something the stylesheets he is accused of using do NOT have. That alone should stand him in good stead over the charge that he used the GoC copyrighted template.

They should drop the suit and contract with Jim to design some websites for them. I am quite sure he could redo all the government sites for far less than the gov. paid for the culture site.

Posted by: Vicki Smith | 2004-04-15 3:40:12 PM

While I'm sympathetic to his cause, I don't think he has a chance if the case actually goes to court: it's clearly a parody, but only if you actually _read_ the site. For recent graduates of the public school system, it'd be easier to be taken in. And to most judges, whether his site is compliant with standards would almost certainly rank with the number of lawyers who could dance on the head of a pin...

Posted by: Nicholas | 2004-04-16 8:38:22 AM

I agree with David that "throwing around allegations of political intimidation" can diminish "real" cases. While I concede that I did raise this as a possibility, those who read my blog post and not just Glenn Reynolds' spin will see that I only said it seemed suspicious and I placed a question mark after the AdScam Connection heading.

Something which I did not mention in my blog post or press release is the fact that I received some advance warning that legal action was imminent. About 3 weeks ago, a Treasury Board official phoned me to request that I voluntarily remove some offending trademarks and change the entire layout of the site. The interesting part is that he let it slip that he was acting on a complaint that originated from "within the government." That fact plus the big upsurge in gc.ca traffic that showed up in my server logs soon after the E-Group blog was launched, raised my suspicions. Paranoid? Maybe. Completely without substance? I don't think so.

As to whether I have a hope in hell of winning, who knows? Originally, I didn't think I did. Some people who know a lot more than me about IT law have weighed in and say that I do have a chance. We may never know. While the creation and publication of BlogsCanada didn't cost the taxpayers $6 million (or anything, for that matter), it has cost me some money and, more importantly, productive time: "opportunity cost", in business jargon. I don't have the financial ability to wage a legal war with the brain trust at the Treasury Board.

I have tried to be open about why I copied the look and feel of the GoC site. Briefly stated, it is a parody that is intended to amuse and attract attention. The enhanced profile that such attention brings will induce more Canadian bloggers to submit their blogs to the BlogsCanada directory. That will help me build a better resource for both Canadian bloggers and blog readers worldwide. Getting a few more eyeballs on the E-Group blog is an added benefit.

Just as a side note to Ezra Levant and the Shotgun group, congrats on this new publication. I commented previously that the Shotgun wasn't a "real" blog. It wasn't then but it certainly is now. Kudos. I've just added it to the E-Group blogroll.

Posted by: Jim Elve | 2004-04-17 6:20:33 AM

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