Canwest wins round in parody suit

Canwest wins round in parody suit

By: Tom Barrett

Canwest won’t have to produce documents related to an alleged pro-Israeli bias, a B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled.

Justice Elliott Myers upheld the November decision of a Supreme Court master in a case involving a parody of the Vancouver Sun that mocked Canwest’s Middle East coverage.

Canwest Mediaworks Publications is suing Gordon Murray and Carel Moiseiwitsch of Vancouver for misusing its intellectual property. The four-page parody paper, which was distributed in June 2007, copies the logo and layout of the Vancouver Sun, a Canwest paper, and contains headlines such as “Study Shows Truth Biased Against Israel.”

In November of last year, Master Alan Donaldson, a Supreme Court official with the power to make procedural orders in civil cases, ordered a number of statements struck from Murray’s statement of defence, which was filed with the court in response to Canwest’s statement of claim.

Donaldson ruled that Murray's statement of defence cannot argue that “Canwest newspapers and other Canwest media properties have a strong pro-Israel bias” and that this bias comes from company headquarters. Nor can Murray demand that Canwest produce documents related to these claims, Donaldson ruled.

In an oral judgement, Justice Myers said that Canwest’s internal policies are irrelevant to whether Murray and Moiseiwitsch were passing off the mock newspaper as the real Vancouver Sun, as claimed by Canwest.

“What matters is the final product,” Myers said.

Murray and Moiseiwitsch argue that their right to produce the parody is protected by the free speech provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, Myers said, the courts have ruled that what someone says has nothing to do with whether their speech is constitutionally protected.

To argue otherwise is, “with respect, inept,” Myers said.

Tom Barrett is a contributing editor at The Tyee.

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