25 May 2009

Conference Board of Canada: Intellectual Deceit (and Plagiarism) on Intellectual Property

Michael Geist blows the whistle on a Conference Board of Canada report on the so-called digital economy that is, for the most part, a plagiarized rehash of U.S. lobbyists' propaganda (and largely unsupported by reliable, documented evidence):
The Conference Board of Canada bills itself as "the foremost, independent, not-for-profit applied research organization in Canada. Objective and non-partisan. We do not lobby for specific interests." These claims should take a major hit based on last week's release of a deceptive, plagiarized report on the digital economy that copied text from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (the primary movie, music, and software lobby in the U.S.), at times without full attribution. The report itself was funded by copyright lobby groups (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Copyright Collective of Canada which represents U.S. film production) along with the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. The role of the Ontario government obviously raises questions about taxpayer dollars being used to pay for a report that simply recycles the language of a U.S. lobby group paper.

Start with the press release promoting the study, titled "Canada Seen as the File Swapping Capital of the World" which claims: "As a result of lax regulation and enforcement, internet piracy appears to be on the increase in Canada. The estimated number of illicit downloads (1.3 billion) is 65 times higher than the number legal downloads (20 million), mirroring the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s conclusion that Canada has the highest per capita incidence of unauthorized file-swapping in the world."

While release succeeded in generating attention, the report does not come close to supporting these claims. The headline-grabbing claim of 1.3 billion unauthorized downloads relies on a January 2008 Canadian Recording Industry Association press release. That release cites a 2006 Pollara survey as the basis for the statement. In other words, the Conference Board relies on a survey of 1200 people conducted more than three years ago to extrapolate to a claim of 1.3 billion unauthorized downloads (the survey itself actually ran counter to many of CRIA's claims). The OECD study that the Conference Board says found the highest per capita incidence of unauthorized file sharing in the world did not reach that conclusion. The report - which is based on six year old data that is now out-of-date - was limited to the 30 OECD countries (not the world) and did not make any comment or determination on unauthorized activity.
Michael Geist poses some key questions for the perpetrators of this deceit:
For Anne Golden, the President and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada:
  • Is a deceptive, plagiarized report drawn from a U.S. lobby group consistent with an organization that claims that it is non-partisan and that does not lobby?
  • How much was the Conference Board of Canada paid to produce this report?
  • Does the Conference Board of Canada stand by the report in light of these findings?
  • Will the Conference Board of Canada retract the report and the inaccurate press release that accompanied it?

For Stephen Toope, President of UBC, and Indira V. Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta, both members of the Conference Board of Canada board:
  • Do they condone or support the use of plagiarism in this report?
  • Will they ask the Conference Board of Canada to review this report and to retract it?

Perhaps most importantly, for Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson:
  • How much public money was spent in support of this report?
  • Does the government support the use of public money for a report that simply repeats the language of a U.S. lobby group?
  • Will the Minister ask the Conference Board of Canada to refund the public money spent on this report?
  • Will the Minister publicly disassociate himself from the report in light of these findings?
Shame on the Conference Board, Anne Golden, Stephen Toope and Indira V. Samarasekera (plagiarism and fabricated research results sanctioned by academic leaders!!), and John Wilkinson. The Canadian public deserve some answers.

Update (29 May 2009): The Conference Board recalls the reports!

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1 comment:

Michael said...

Irony alert! Where did the authors get the offending text in the report? Did they, perchance, download it?