Conservatives break filmmaker's copyright in campaign ad

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On March 22, filmmaker Ali Kazimi was surprised to see a copyrighted image from one of his films opening a Conservative Party television commercial, Tim -- South Asian, targeting Canada's South Asian community -- without Mr. Kazimi's permission. The party continues to run the ad notwithstanding the filmmaker's repeated requests for the image to be withdrawn.

The image in question is a unique photo-montage based on two archival photographs documenting the infamous Komagata Maru incident of 1914, in which racial discrimination was explicitly used to bar South Asians from entering Canada. This photo-montage was designed by Mr. Kazimi as the publicity still for his 2004 award-winning feature documentary about the Komagata Maru, entitled Continuous Journey.

In the commercial, the photo-montage is presented as a shot in documentary film being watched by Conservative MP Tim Uppal on a home theatre screen. The image cuts to a colour photo of Stephen Harper, wearing a head covering, hands folded in greeting, smiling against a backdrop of Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.

Neither Mr. Uppal nor the Conservative Party of Canada sought permission for the use of the image. Despite various telephone discussions over the past week that have acknowledged Mr. Kazimi's rights, the party has not removed the image or the ad.

While recognizing that a mistake could have been made, Mr. Kazimi is seeking an immediate withdrawal of this commercial from all media, an acknowledgement and apology from the Conservative Party for copyright infringement, and compensation for the misuse of the image.

"I do not want my film or publicity images for it to be associated in any manner with this campaign," he says. "In addition to the copyright infringement, it is inappropriate to use images of this infamous incident to romanticize the early South Asian experience in Canada."

The commercial is still on the Conservative Party website, and on its You Tube channel.

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