Can’t Blame Canada For Counterfeiting

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) picks up on last week's posting on the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network's claims about counterfeiting in Canada.  In begins by noting that based on recent media coverage, people unfamiliar with Canada could be forgiven for assuming that all Canadians sport pirate eye-patches while searching for counterfeit treasure.  The "Canada as a piracy haven" meme has been floated with disturbing frequency in 2007 with regular claims that Canada is home to rampant music downloading, illegal movie camcording, counterfeit product purchasing, and outdated copyright laws.

These reports invariably present a distorted picture – digital music sales grew faster in Canada last year than in either the United States or Europe and music downloading on peer-to-peer sites for personal purposes is arguably compensated through a private copying levy that generates tens of millions of dollars each year.  Moreover, movie camcording in Canada affects roughly three percent of Hollywood films (not 50 percent of camcorded films as initially alleged) and Canadian copyright law is consistent with international treaty obligations.  Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of the piracy coverage has left some officials humming "Blame Canada" and wondering whether the country deserves to be classified as a rogue nation when it comes to intellectual property matters.

The column then highlights last week's counterfeiting claims which came from CRIA's Graham Henderson and a commissioned survey from Pollara.  I acknowledge that counterfeiting may be an issue, but argue that Henderson and the CACN have exaggerated the impact, pointing an RCMP study I obtained under an Access to Information Act request that expressed doubt that organized crime was behind all counterfeiting and which noted that there "are no indications of any serious incidents whose causes have been traced to counterfeit goods."  Moreover, the Pollara study appears to do little more than confirm that some Canadians like fake clothing, handbags, and watches. This has a limited impact in Canada given that few, if any, Canadian name brands are the target and virtually none of the counterfeit products are actually made in Canada.

Update:  A transcript of the Henderson speech has now been posted on the CRIA site. 

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