Conference Board of Canada Ex-Employee Counters CEO Claims Over IP Reports

We’ve been following the Conference Board of Canada’s IP report fiasco for a while and new developments have surfaced recently. Already, the CEO was, not too long ago, doing damage control over the report. Now, one of the people who had started the work is also speaking out, saying that he wonders if the Conference Board of Canada is willing to dig a deeper hole for themselves or “if more fiction will surface”.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It looks like not only an external PR war has erupted with the IP, but also an internal war as well. With the CEO trying to put out some of the fires started by the now recalled reports, it seems new fires have started up from one of the more unexpected sources – one of the original authors of the reports. The comments that person made definitely confirmed one thing – that at least one author definitely left for reasons not related to the reports.

The report comes from Michael Geist’s blog where Curtis Cook, a listed author of the original report, apparently had a fair amount to say about the IP report fiasco. On May 27, a day before the IP reports were recalled, he said he requested for the removal of his name from the IP reports and that the Board publicly acknowledge that he was not responsible for the plagiarized report.

He commented that his work at the Board ended on July of 2008. He submitted his final draft research in the middle of August, 2008. He denied that the draft research did not include any of the plagiarized content and that work by three contract researchers including Jeremy DeBeer was originally included. After August, he had no involvement of the papers afterwards, and thus, was not responsible for any content changes made thereafter. In September, while he was working at his new job, he received a call from his former supervisor that there had been a “push back” from one of the funding clients because of the inclusion of Jeremy DeBeers work. Around the similar time, one of the funding clients contacted him, expressing concerns about the inclusion of Jeremy DeBeers work as well. After the publication of the final reports, Cook was alarmed by the direction the reports had taken – while the controversy erupted, he was contacted by the Vice President of public policy, requesting his assistance to “fix” the reports.

“The Conference Board wants my help to fix reports that were published 10 months after my departure. It wants me to help fix publications that were re-written (and plagiarized) months after my departure and after they discarded the research I compiled and submitted. The Conference Board asks for my help but won’t acknowledge that it was wrong to put my name on reports that bear little resemblance to the original research I submitted,” Cook explained, “were substantially reworked, and were published ten months after I resigned. After Anne Golden laid blame on contract researchers and supervisors late last week, I noticed two of the authors who still were listed on the organization’s web site were no longer on the staff list.”

“I am not prepared to wait for Anne Golden to conduct the review she promises because I have a pretty good sense of what happened,” he added, “even though my involvement with the Conference Board and these reports ended with the submission of credible research 10 months ago. I am curious to see if my account results in some form of backlash, if the Conference Board is prepared to dig a deeper hole for itself or if more fiction will surface.”

Ouch. It didn’t seem likely that a former employee would be hitting the PR ball back into the Board’s court – especially a particularly pointed response. What is clear here is that Cook doesn’t want any chance of being made a scape-goat out of all of this.

At this point, it seems pretty clear that, judging by Cooks account, the Board merely bent to pressure from representatives from the US copyright industry. It’s probable that they threatened to pull their funding if the report didn’t bend to their will since money tends to be a big motivating factor for these kinds of reports.

Of course, this also highlights an even larger story of how a foreign copyright industry is trying to pressure Canada in to copyright reform and how far they are willing to go to try and force Canada into a kind of copyright reform that merely goes along with one alienated, though wealthy voice. There’s already been a number of cases where politicians have been heavily lobbied (i.e. through “celebrations” or fund raisers) to get copyright reform through parliament that bends to the will of the foreign copyright industry. Since there’s little to no evidence to suggest that Canada has a need to bend to the copyright industry’s demands, the only avenue at this point is to line politicians pockets with money as there’s no research or legal reason to start suing Canadians en-mass and introducing a regime that blocks innovation at the mere presence of a Technical Protection Measure (TPM) among other things.

How this latest blow on the Conference Board of Canada affects the larger picture is unclear, but there’s a number of indications that point to this being part of a growing list of evidence that Canada should be cautious about reforming copyright laws that bend to the copyright industry’s interests.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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