Conference Board of Canada Pirates Report to Call for Tough Action Against Piracy?

Michael Geist may have uncovered one of the most revealing pieces about the copyright lobby in Canada. Said Geist about the Board’s report, “this work would face possible plagiarism sanctions in almost any academic environment”

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

The thorough posting by Michael Geist even has a side-by-side comparison of the reports to prove the point as well where the report (without attribution in a number of cases) is almost a verbatim copy of the IIPA 2008 Canada Special 301 Report in a number of places.

The accompanying press release apparently relied on a 2008 CRIA press release which relied on a 2006 report from the infamous Pollara (Pollara actually issued a response to Michael Geist at one point when he discussed a Pollara study echoing CRIA’s claims a few years back)

With the Conference Board of Canada’s apparent reputation for not representing any special interest groups dashed with this revelation, we can also note a few more things that might deflate the claims of the Board. Given that the Board, through the initial report, appears to be a brand new mouth piece for the copyright industry, we can also draw a few more conclusions on the world stage. The first sentence of the Board’s press release says this:

Canada’s failure to strengthen intellectual property rights (IPR) in the face of digital technology has given it an unwelcome reputation as the file-swapping capital of the world.

Since the resources to put together studies like this essentially comes from the same lobby, here’s what the copyright industry, via the 2009 USTR Special 301 report said about other nations (Quotation box inserted for those who don’t want to read the laundry list):

Belarus – “The Belorussian market is dominated by illegal optical disc, with pirated DVDs of
films sometimes making it to the market before they are released in U.S. cinemas”

Bolivia – “Rampant piracy and counterfeiting, including counterfeiting of medicines, persist in Bolivia. In particular, concerns remain about the erosion of IP protection for pharmaceutical products.”

Brazil – “The United States encourages Brazil to continue these actions as well
as strengthen its IPR enforcement legislation, take more vigorous action to address book and
Internet piracy, and accede to and implement the WIPO Internet Treaties”

Brunei – “The sale of illegal optical discs including unlicensed software is open and pervasive in Brunei and the Government’s record on enforcement is weak.”

Columbia – “The United States remains concerned, however, that further IPR improvements are needed, including actions to reduce book and optical media piracy.”

Costa Rica – “The United States remains concerned, however, about weak IPR enforcement in Costa Rica,
particularly with respect to copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.”

Czech Republic – “further enforcement action is needed”

Dominican Republic – “While the Dominican Republic undertook legislative reforms to implement its commitments under CAFTA-DR that provided for stronger IPR protection and enforcement, the United States is concerned about weak enforcement of these laws”

Ecuador – “overall IPR enforcement in Ecuador remains a serious problem, resulting in high piracy levels in the software, publishing, recording, and film industries”

Egypt – “Serious concerns remain, however, about weak copyright enforcement by the Ministry of Culture against piracy of books, music, and films, which the U.S. copyright industries describe as virtually unchecked.”

Finland – “lack of product patent protection”

Greece – “IPR enforcement in Greece, however, remains weak and uneven.”

Guatemala – “IPR enforcement remains a problem”

Hungary – “U.S. copyright industries also report that Internet piracy in Hungary is a major problem, and note that the Hungarian Government should provide adequate resources to its law enforcement authorities to combat IPR crime, especially on the Internet.”

Italy – “lack of deterrent-level sentences for IPR crimes”

Jamaica – “The United States urges the Government of Jamaica to reform its patent law as soon as possible in accordance with international standards for patent protection”

Kuwait – “The United States encourages Kuwait to pass this IPR legislation, accede to these conventions, and improve IPR enforcement.”

Lebanon – “weak enforcement against piracy of books, music, films, and software.”

Malaysia – “The United States urges Malaysian authorities to step up enforcement actions against piracy and counterfeiting as they have in the past.”

Mexico – “The United States urges Mexico to devote greater resources to its enforcement agencies, enhance coordination among enforcement agencies—particularly between the federal, state and municipal authorities”

Norway – “lack of product patent protection for certain pharmaceutical products”

Peru – “piracy rates are high and counterfeit clothing and toys continue to be easily found throughout the
country at markets, street corners, and beach areas.”

Philippines – “the digital environment has created more challenges that the Government has not addressed, such as peer-to-peer piracy, mobile device piracy, and illegal camcording.”

Poland – “Poland has yet to make adequate progress against Internet piracy and the trade in pirated and counterfeit goods in markets on Poland’s border with Germany”

Romania – “The ability to prosecute successfully IPR crimes remains weak. Although some courts imposed jail sentences for IPR violations in 2008, Romanian judges often dismiss IPR cases due to a perceived “lack of social harm.”

Saudi Arabia – “Saudi Arabia needs to make further IPR improvements to its IPR enforcement system by
sustaining raids and inspections to combat piracy and counterfeiting;”

Spain – “The Spanish Government has expended minimal effort to change the widespread
misperception in Spain that peer-to-peer file sharing is legal”

Tajikistan – “Tajikistan does not provide protection for U.S. and other foreign sound recordings and does not clearly provide protection for pre-existing works or sound recordings under its Copyright Law.”

Turkey – “Turkey reportedly remains a significant source of counterfeit goods seized at the borders of nearby countries.”

Turkmenistan – “Turkmenistan has not adopted a separate Copyright Law and consequently does not provide any protection to foreign sound recordings or preexisting works.”

Ukraine – “Industry reports that many Ukraine-based websites offer pirated material for download, and add that nearly 100 percent of downloads of music, movies, and software are from illegal websites”

Uzbekistan – “Uzbekistan’s 2006 Copyright and Related Rights Law is weak in that it does not
protect pre-existing works nor does it provide any protection or rights to U.S. and other foreign
sound recordings.”

Vietnam – “administrative enforcement actions and penalties have not been sufficient to deter infringing activities”

Paraguay – “Paraguay continues to have problems providing effective IPR protection due to porous borders, ineffective prosecutions of IPR infringers, and the lack of deterrent-level sentences in court cases being issued.”

To put this list into perspective, this is the regular watch list, not even the “priority watch list”. Just reading through it, one can get this sense that the whole world is lawless and the heroic United States is coming in to town fix up the laws of other countries and make things right as they see fit.

Still, the Board issued a response stating that only one citation was missed and had this to say:

In the conclusion of the report, the Conference Board states, “Nations need a balanced approach that controls copyrights based on the rights of the creator and the user of digital intellectual property. Virtually every national intellectual property policy balances the right of creators to be compensated for their creation with the right of consumers to have fair access to legitimately acquired creations to further stimulate knowledge, creativity, and innovation. Indeed, throughout this report, balance has been a recurring theme. Overall, the aim must be to balance control of copyright with the freedom to enjoy creative works lawfully , a compromise that establishes a win-win outcome.”

This report was produced as contract research. The Conference Board does not disclose the terms of its contracts without permission of the client.

The Conference Board regularly produces custom research. Our guidelines for financed research require the design and method of research, as well as the content of the report, to be determined solely by the Conference Board.

On Friday, May 29, this report will be presented at a Conference Board conference in Toronto, entitled Intellectual Property Rights: Innovation and Commercialization in Turbulent Times.

Michael Geist shortly afterwards posted a rebuttal saying:

Leaving aside the fact that all the most relevant arguments just happen to come from a U.S. lobby group with direct links to the funders of the Digital Economy report, the Conference Board of Canada has failed to understand the rules associated with plagiarism as a sprinkling of citations is simply not good enough. As the University of Ottawa’s plagiarism guidelines (which are mirrored in academic institutions around the world) note “if you use someone else’s words, data, etc., use quotation marks and give a complete reference.” The Digital Economy report repeatedly used the same or very similar wording to the IIPA document and does not use quotations. Moreover, my posting cited to factual errors contained within the report and the press release. For example, the Conference Board claimed that the OECD concluded that Canada is the world’s file sharing capital on a per capita basis. This is simply false as anyone who reads the OECD report will find that it did not reach that conclusion. Nevertheless, the Conference Board has chosen not to respond to this issue.

Admitting an error is never easy, but I would submit that the Conference Board of Canada has compounded its mistake by standing by its report. In doing so, it has done little more than further undermine its credibility. Particularly given that public dollars helped fund this report, Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson should provide his views on whether his government regards this as appropriate use of taxpayer money.

Update (5:15): Brian Jackson of IT Business reports that the Minister’s office acknowledges spending $15,000 on the report. It plans to follow up on the issues raised in my post.

This is, by far, not the only supposedly unbiased information source in Canada to have their reputation tarnished by having their connections to the copyright lobby exposed. By the way things are going, it won’t be the last either. It’s been revelations such as this that have caused significant problems for the copyright industry to even get enough credibility to get their arguments off the ground. As a consequence, whenever copyright reform actually hits the legislative table (which, so far, has been exclusively pro-industry and perceived by many including businesses to be anti-consumer), there’s been major opposition by nearly every stakeholder affected calling for the government to issue less restrictive copyright laws – leading many to note how organizations like CRIA, and others closely tied to the American copyright industry, stand alone on their side of the debate.

The only reason CRIA has remained to be such a powerful copyright voice in Canada has been pretty much exclusively the influence of Hollywood and the major foreign record labels and their ability to influence US lawmakers to pressure Canada into reforming the copyright laws to what they see as their standards – or more accurately, what they see as “international standards”. Of course, how international are these standards when there is such a long list of countries that are apparently not fully living up to the international standards to begin with?

This latest revelation does little more than highlight a lengthening history where external influences are dictating to Canada via people branded to be internal voices on how the country should be run. If one thinks this is exclusively a Canadian thing going on, just ask a Swedish citizen miffed over The Pirate Bay spectrial who plans on voting for the Pirate Party in the EU election about how they feel about the United States intervening or otherwise influencing other countries lawmaking process – chances are, the examples they come up with won’t always be Canadian examples.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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