“Impertinent and Presumptuous”

Pollara, the company that has conducted several surveys on behalf of CRIA (including the CRTC submission), has posted a lengthy 11 page response to my original blog posting (a comment brought the response to my attention as I was unaware of it until this evening).  Pollara suggests that my statements are "misleading, incorrect, and inconsistent."  The company adds for good measure that my intervention is "impertinent and presumptuous" and that it hopes that it won't "distract us from the serious business at hand."

People can read the memo as well as the original data and judge for themselves (as well as the growing news coverage from CBC, Marketwatch, and Stereophile).  I'd offer the following comments in response:

  • I noted the Pollara data found that P2P sources constituted only one-third of the music on people's computers.  Pollara argues that this only reflects the music on their hard drives, not their downloading activity. I frankly don't understand their complaint here.  They didn't ask about downloading activity, they asked about the source of music on their computers.  If they were to ask about all their music (online and offline), I suspect the number would be even lower as many users might well have more CDs that they have not digitized.
  • Pollara seems to step out of the role of pollster in their memo by regularly offering what amount to legal opinions on music copying.  At page three of the response, they lump together P2P downloading, sharing with friends, and copying CDs that might not be their own.  Perhaps Pollara is unaware of the private copying user right that exists under current Canadian law that has generated more than $140 million for artists and the industry which specifically covers much of this copying.  This is not, as Pollara suggests, "unpaid-for-music" but rather copying that is well compensated. 
  • Pollara misleadingly recharacterizes some its own questions.  For example, it points at page six to a question on whether the person had ever acquired a CD with songs downloaded from a file sharing service such as Kazaa.  This is then inaccurately presented as "Ever Purchased or Received a CD That Contained Illegally Downloaded Tracks".  One might say that Pollara should stick to polling for its paying clients like CRIA rather than offering up its opinion on the legality of P2P in Canada.
  • Pollara takes issue with my characterization of its data that 75% of those polled have purchased songs that they downloaded.  Apparently, they believe that the number of purchases should be higher given the amount of downloading, though it is hard to see how they've divined that from the questions they asked in this survey.
  • Pollara suggests that I show an "egregious lack of consistency" by stating that the purchasing habits data is inconclusive given that it showed that 28% said they purchased more, 35% said they purchased less, and 37% said they didn't know.  I think this is a fair characterization since the 7% difference between more and less purchases is offset by the largest number of 37% who don't know.  That leaves the matter inconclusive in my view.  Of course, Pollara chooses to step outside its own data by trumpeting CRIA stats to support a different conclusion.
  • Pollara notes that I chose to ignore the responses of Canadians attitude toward copyright and downloading.   I did not comment because these questions are embarrassing.  As noted yesterday, the percentage of those in favour of meeting international standards dropped by 28% in two months.  The reality is that most people being polled (and apparently doing the polling) are not copyright experts and relying on such responses only serves to diminish the credibility of those seeking to do so.
  • Finally, Pollara wonders aloud why I didn't cite CAB response.  The truth is that there are 180 responses and I haven't read them all.  Moreover, it was the CRIA data that immediately attracted attention since it included detailed survey data which typically is not released to the public.  If Pollara has reviewed all the submissions, however, I suppose one might ask why didn't they mention the submission from Fading Ways Records who have found that P2P has increased the sales of their artists.  At the risk of being presumptuous, given this memo, I think that answer is obvious.

Update: CopyrightWatch comments on the Pollara response with a helpful list of what the polling company might have asked.


  1. Dwight Williams says:

    “Impertinent and Presumptuous”? An Uni
    At least that’s my impression of the complaint. It’s not every day one gets called the same adjectives as were applied to the Saint in the days of Leslie Charteris’ first dozen or so novels and whatnot featuring that character. Pollara may want to reconsider their choice of words, although as a Saint fan I hope they don’t.

  2. Dwight again says:

    The full title of my post was meant to read: “Impertinent and Presumptuous? An Unintended Compliment…”

  3. RottenCore says:

    Ain’t that special…
    Thanks to Pollara for blantantly characterising what everyone already knew. Surveying firms are not impartial to their results and firmly inclined to serve their client’s agenda.

  4. Shiver Mi Timbers
    Data coming out of Pollara is fodder for the garbage can now. Corporate prostitutes caught in the act through foot-in-mouth disease, competitors laughing all the way to the bank as a result.

  5. News
    I also wrote about your original blog posting here:

  6. Pollara MANAGES public opinion, rather t
    Michael Geist, you are my hero and I thank you for keeping us all informed. I thought the following statement from the Pollara website said it all:

    Michael Marzolini is Chairman and CEO of POLLARA Strategic Public Opinion & Market Research, which he founded in 1985.

    His vision for POLLARA was to build a unique organization that manages public opinion, rather than just measuring it.

    And managing public opinion is exactly what they’re trying to do. Nice of them to be so candid.

  7. OMG what a farce…
    Pollara ‘manages’ public opnion? Never have a firm and their client (CRIAA/RIAA) been so perfectly matched. Not that policy makers would see through a hole this size, but glad the little folk are as sharp as ever. Thanks MG and the poster below, you just made my week 🙂

  8. What’s the difference between managing public opinion through statistics, and manipulating it? Other than spelling.

  9. Huh?
    Could someone please explain the chart on page 4 of Pollara’s response?

    Specifically, what does it mean to claim that 49% of content on 13-24 year old’s computers is unpaid, when the percentages on the chart for the 13-24 group add up to 113% (61% paid, 49% unpaid, 3% other)?

  10. Entertaining Reading
    Fantastic debate! Pollara’s reponse is so defensive and nasty it seems obvious they’re scared and attempting to cover mistakes in their “polling”. Let’s hope their own publicity mongering loses them business as it becomes obivous to their clients they can neither measure nor manage public opinion. Keep up the good work Michael!

  11. Student
    Thank you Mr. Geist once more for your articulate and easy to follow response…to their response. I look forward to seeing you speak next week at UofT (thanks to boingboing for making that talk known to me!!)

  12. If you publish rubbish, be prepared to t
    I have read the entire Pollara report and I can’t believe the rubbish they have produced. This could only have come from a self serving purpose because a high school student would have failed their statistic course if they submitted this report.

    #1. This is supposed to be a “objective, emperical evidence in support of CIRA’s submission to Public Hearing 2006-1 Review of the Commercial Radio Policy”. There are surprisingly few empirical observations and conclusion about Commercial Radio.

    Now that they have raised the issue of radio … if you consider a download as a same as a radio listen, all of a sudden, the role of downloads becomes clear. It’s an opportunity to hear music, hear an album and decide if you want to support the artist. If the music is not what you expected, it gets deleted. If you like the artist, you support them, buy their music and go to their concerts.

    How much of that music on the hard disk is actually listened to more than once?

    #2. The survey questions are stacked to prove a particular position – CRIA’s, and not to provide an objective empirical exploration of the true changes in consumers consumption of music products.

    The comments by various commentators to this site proves that the basic model of music consumption is changing. Start exploring the survey results against the comments on this site and a different picture arises than that offered by Pollara and their client – CRIA.

    I don’t understand what Pollara is trying to prove or who they are trying to sway, by asking the average Canadian about their opinion on the fine points of copyright law. What a great way to create law. I wonder what would happen if airplanes were built that way.

    There are issues with Radio today. Most programming is directed to sell advertizing and not offer music entertainment. I listen to satellite radio because it offers the best music programming. I can listen to any genre that I want to. A full station, 24 hours a day of blues, 3 jazz, one African station, 10 decades, Rock, acoustic, Christian, 3 classical …. why would i want to listen to any AM or FM station. This is the same reason we go to streaming – where else can you get 6 hours of celtic music? My daughter listens to bands with names no one recognizes and she spends her hard earned ($9/hour) to see these bands live … with her friends. Can’t hear them on the radio.

    CRIA should focus on getting variety back to radio.

    Canadian Content: The poll should have asked if we want to hear Anne Murray, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Sarah MacLaughlan over and over and over again (I actually like their music but too much of a good thing). Want to make a difference? Make the Canadian Content rules so that 50% of the Canadian content is new music releases, and a percent of that must be from new artists. That will get the Canadian music scene moving. Force the record companies to take a risk and give the independants a chance to showcase their talent.

    That’s what the Review of the Commercial Radio Policy should be looking at – revitalizing music.

    Finally, will tired/reader please exercise their right to not come to this site and offer their tired opinion. It’s probably Graham Hendersons sister’s aunt whom he has in a head lock, forcing her to write this trash on his behalf. Grow up Graham, stop smoking funny stuff rolled in your university law text book pages. The times are changing and you look like that sad clown who hasn’t realized he’s gone to the wrong party.

  13. Nice…
    Read this story on Ars Technica. Folks up north giving RIAA propaganda a run for their money, had to stop in and say HOT DANG CANADIANS ! Your land is not their land, keep it that way believe you me.

  14. The News Spreads…
    Another article talking about this: