Conference Board of Canada Responds, Stands By Its Report

The Conference Board of Canada has issued a response to my posting on its Digital Economy report.  The organization defends the report, arguing that there was only one case of a missed citation (which it has corrected) and acknowledging that "some of the cited paragraphs closely approximate the wording of a source document."  It claims that it conducted a full review of the various arguments and included "those arguments considered most relevant to the policy under review."  Since this is contract research funded by the copyright lobby groups and the Ontario government, the Conference Board refuses to disclose the terms of the contract. 

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.


  1. edutarian says:

    logic & common sense vs. government
    despite all evidence to the contrary, i remain optimistic that eventually at least some logic & common sense will make their way in to governmental discourse. once this minor goal is achieved, we can raise our expectations to having the government ppl understand and follow the rules of debate

  2. Keep their feet to the fire
    Ata boy Michael, keep at em! They missed one citation? Oh come on, any undergrad student in any university/college would be on academic probation for this shit.

  3. A little respect, if you please…
    I noticed they chose to use the honorific, “Mr.” when referring to you, Dr. Geist. Not only is that just plain disrespectful, it is almost dishonest of them to do so. Then again, we are talking about a paper that would have brought any undergraduate student a 0 for academic dishonesty, so maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

  4. The sweet irony
    How deliciously ironic: they are presenting a plagiarized paper at a conference devoted to Intellectual Property.

  5. Credibility?
    Is it really plagiarism, given that these backgrounders/”studies” exist specifically for the purpose of being lightly rewritten and stuffed into reports? It’s intellectually dishonest, morally repugnant, lazy, and self-serving, sure… but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and consider this a collaboration, a partnership, a mutually-beneficial self-serving relationship, rather than plagiarism, which is such an ugly word with that hard “g” and that long “a”. Of course, in that case the lobby group’s name really should be on the report as co-author, which I daresay would more accurately reflect reality anyway…

  6. Canadian internetz says:

    to the conference board:
    Hilariously disgusting. How low can you go?

    15 grand for a plagiarized report on Intellectual property in the “digital economy”.
    Zero credibility.

    Michael: Well done! Hip-hip Hooray!

  7. Bruce Campbell says:

    Keep bluffing; maybe we’ll all go away…
    This routine has got to be a joke, right? How can ANYBODY think that this “report” be a valid piece of research? It’s got to get spread further, in a manner that is unmistakeably clear; confusing the issue by looking in detail at the technicalities just muddles the core issue: a supposedly impartial, government funded body, very influential in matters related to legislative planning, is parroting the “work” of an American Lobbyist group, and has been caught out for plagiarism, but is denying it. Smells to high heaven, and should be on the prime-time news!

  8. Darryl Moore says:

    Michael’s argument is not quite true
    pg 75 of the OECD report refered to by the CBOC says this:

    “Weighted by population, however, Canada has the greatest file-sharing population closely followed by the United States and then France and Germany.” Which to my mind means “the OECD concluded that Canada is the world’s file sharing capital on a per capita basis.”

    Also, the CBOC did only miss one citation. Whether the standards for such citations in the business world are are should be the same as for the academic world is another issue. I would be interested in hearing more from Geist and the CBOC on this particular issue.

    Lastly, and I think the most important aspect of criticism of the CBOC is that they can not claim to be “Objective and non-partisan. We do not lobby for specific interests.” while at the same time taking money from these special interest groups for these reports. The same cannot be said for the money they receive from the government. The government, at least in theory is also impartial, and are not looking for studies to bolster their preexisting conclusions.

  9. Who, not how
    Let’s not forget the real issue here, Darryl et al. It’s not just the fact that they plagiarized another’s work (changing someone else’s words to sound like your own IS plagiarism). Look at WHO they plagiarized: the IIPA – a giant lobby for American big-business copyright interests.

    Even ignoring the fact that the report they plagiarized has been highly discredited, thus destroying the credibility of their own paper, how can they possibly claim to be non-partisan while spouting IIPA garbage in their “own words”?

  10. bar_jebus says:

    An order is an order…
    Can it really be called plagiarism if the Conference Board was ordered to use the American report? 😉 You’re an asset to this nation Michael.

  11. Now I know where folks graduating with a GPA of 1.5 out of 4 can find work: Conference Board of Canada.

  12. Chris B. says:

    Thought I would pass on my appreciation and thanks to you. You do Canada a great service.

    I love this line: “some of the cited paragraphs closely approximate the wording of a source document.”
    Yet another example of clever paraphrasing by the Conference Board. Such a clever way of saying “we plagiarized”.

  13. Just curious, but why is the Ontario government co-sponsoring a report with industry groups? Why didn’t it spend that $15K on a study conducted by academics, or a third-party consulting organization? Does that suggest the ON government has an agenda, or is it just “not thinking clearly?”

  14. Darryl Moore says:

    It is also interesting the both the report and the defense say “Nations need a balanced approach that controls copyrights based on the rights of the creator and the user of digital intellectual property.”

    Which I don’t think is right nor universal. The US constitution for example says Congress has the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

    Which to my mind says nothing about balance. There should not be any balance. The purpose of copyright is to maximize creative output. Renumeration for creators would be a function of market forces within whatever framework is setup for copyright. But ensuring an income, fair or otherwise, is not (or should not be) a consideration for legislators.

  15. Darryl,

    regarding the validity of Geist’s argument – The OECD says that Canada is the leading file sharer on a per capita basis. However, the OECD data is six years old from only 30 countries. For the CBOC to say that Canada is the leading file sharer in the world based on that is silly.

    regarding the purpose of copyright – while the purpose of copyright is to maximize creative output, I’ve yet to see any evidence that copyright actually does this. More often than not, it seems to have the opposite effect. Besides, it should be clear to anyone with an internet connection that money is not a necessary incentive for people to create.

    Jamendo – over 20,000 CC licensed albums
    Flickr – over 100,000,000 CC licensed pictures
    Wikipedia – almost 2,900,000 english language articles

    And the fashion industry proves it’s possible to make money without copyright.

  16. Donnie Darko says:

    Hope to see coverage
    I hope Dr. Geist goes to this conference* and reports on it.

    (*which is a front when you come down it after this finding out this is nothing more than plagiarized rhetoric U.S. Cartel propaganda, paid for by Ontario tax payers).

    I would demand my tax money back.

  17. Darryl Moore says:

    Thanks rjk, those are good comments. However. Whether it is true or not, unless there are more recent or more inclusive stats that say otherwise, I think it is very hard for any government to simply dismiss the OECD/CBOC conclusion.

    You are right about the effect of copyright these days, and I think that is why various collectives prefer to emphasize their perceived right to make a living over societies needs. Arguing copyright from a social perspective would reason that we need les, not more of it.

  18. Maebnoom says:

    I love how the data/report they plagiarized happens to be old & discredited itself.

    The lengths lobby groups will go to, I swear…

    (hardly out of the ordinary activity, as far as politics/legislation creating goes)

  19. cdnbidman says:

    Beyond the bias and plagiarism controversies(if they weren’t enough), people are overlooking an even more disturbing issue – the fact that an organization like the Conference Board of Canada would think that they could get away with it? Someone needs to teach them how to spell “Google”. Dishonesty and stupidity are not a good combination.

  20. Werner T says:

    Wasn’t Harper recently accused of plagiarism for using the Prime Minister of Australia’s speech having to do with the deployment of our troops to Afghanistan. These people prove that they are a bunch of puppets having their strings pulled by the US of A. A few people didn’t Like P Trudeau when he was Prime Minister but at least he told you what he believed in, a true statesman. These people don’t believe in anything, other then where their next paycheck is coming from. Thats why they plagiarize, stale thinking, nothing fresh to contribute to society. The main reason Canada is falling behind is that we are taught never to hire someone smarter then ourselves, no fear of losing our job.