IFPI Attacks Canada in Piracy Report

An IFPI study entitled ‘Piracy Report of 2006‘, was released recently on the global condition of piracy. As a part of the report, Canada was brought up as one of the ten ‘priority countries.’

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

This label placed on Canada by the major music industry was brought up in early May by CRIA’s (Canadian Recording Industry Association) president Graham Henderson while accusing Canada of being in a ‘moral vacuum.’

“Legitimate online services have struggled in the face of outdated copyright laws and the resulting widespread digital piracy.” The report said, “It is estimated that more than one billion music files were swapped online in Canada in 2005.”

Curiously, that statement does not say whether or not this includes file-sharing friendly music.

The report goes on to say, “Canada has yet to fulfill its longstanding commitment to ratify the 1996 WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Treaties […] The Supreme Court of Canada, in a landmark case on online music, lamented that Canadian courts will continue to struggle to apply outdated copyright laws”

This “landmark decision” is most likely referring to CRIA’s discovery case where it attempted to get the names of 29 alleged file-sharers back in late 2005.

“[T]he rise of file swapping has coincided with a 42 percent – or CAD$558 million – decrease in annual retail sales between 1999 and 2005 and a 20 percent loss in employment. National surveys revealed that of those Canadians spending less on music products, by far the largest single reason cited was downloading/file sharing/CD burning.”

Interestingly, the report also does not cite which survey(s) were used to obtain these figures. One particular survey in the past did state differently. The Pollara study stated that the biggest reasons people who paid for music less were price, nothing of interest, lack of time, collection big enough and music on the radio.

The report said, “the underperforming digital market is clear from the experience of Canadian artist Jully Black. Ms. Black witnessed 2.8 million illegal file swapping requests for her music in the first two weeks of her album’s release in 2005, while she struggled to sell 15,000 copies of the same album.”

This is not to be confused with the example used by Graham Henderson when he cited Gwen Stefani’s sale performance even though the numbers offered are similar.

The report closes with the statement, “the outgoing Canadian government finally introduced legislation to so in the summer of 2005. The bill died when an election was called last autumn. The new Heritage Minister has publicly stated Canada’s commitment to ratification of the WIPO treaties.”

In summary, the report outlined three priorities:

Modernise copyright laws

Educate Canadians about the importance of intellectual property rights and the dangers of illegitimate P2P services

Strengthen border enforcement and provide additional resources and training to customs officers and domestic law enforcement personnel

One of the leading voices of Canada and the internet, Michael Geist, said, “Canada has no legal commitment to ratify the treaties. Signing an international treaty represents no more than a show of support; the commitments come after ratification.”

He also says, “While CRIA regularly makes this claim [that Canada has the highest per capita incidence of unauthorised file swapping in the world], the 2004 OECD report refers only to P2P usage, without reaching conclusions on whether the activity infringes copyright. In fact, the same report specifically notes that “P2P is not simply downloading of MP3 files. In fact, file sharing has already moved to the next level and will be applied for all types of on-line information, data distribution, grid computing and distributed file systems.”

While the origins of the IFPI’s statistics remain to be a cryptic mystery, it seems that statistics on some of these claims relating to Canada is more accessible then ever before.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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