Ottawa has played host to many digital economy-type conferences over the years. Many have the same feel with pretty much the same people saying pretty much the same thing. Yesterday's conference titled Canada's Digital Economy: Moving Forward was different. The primary reason was leadership (the noteworthy impact of Twitter on the proceedings and Terry Matthews' warning against mimicking the U.S. on copyright which he said "has become so extreme that it inhibits creativity and innovation" rank a close behind). Both Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage James Moore left no doubt that they get it and are determined to craft laws and policies that look ahead rather than behind.
Clement closed the conference by noting how much has changed in the year since Bill C-61 was introduced. Clement said that it was "at least a somewhat different" public policy environment and committed to a copyright consultation this summer:
The Conference Board of Canada has just issued its statement into the three IP reports that it recalled last month after acknowledging concerns involving plagiarism. The statement admits just about all the allegations that were raised on my blog and in the media: Plagiarism did occur, and it wasn’t detected […]
Economists Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf have just released a new Harvard Business School working paper called File Sharing and Copyright that raises some important points about file sharing, copyright, and the net benefits to society. The paper, which includes a helpful survey of the prior economic studies on the impact of file sharing, includes the following:
1. The data indicates that file sharing has not discouraged creativity, as the evidence shows significant increases in cultural production. The authors note that:
Overall production figures for the creative industries appear to be consistent with this view that file sharing has not discouraged artists and publishers. While album sales have generally fallen since 2000, the number of albums being created has exploded. In 2000, 35,516 albums were released. Seven years later, 79,695 albums (including 25,159 digital albums) were published (Nielsen SoundScan, 2008). Even if file sharing were the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have exacted a toll on the quantity of music produced. Obviously, it would be nice to adjust output for differences in quality, but we are not aware of any research that has tackled this question.
Similar trends can be seen in other creative industries. For example, the worldwide number of feature films produced each year has increased from 3,807 in 2003 to 4,989 in 2007 (Screen Digest, 2004 and 2008). Countries where film piracy is rampant have typically increased production. This is true in South Korea (80 to 124), India (877 to 1164), and China (140 to 402). During this period, U.S. feature film production has increased from 459 feature films in 2003 to 590 in 2007 (MPAA, 2007).
Given the increase in artistic production along with the greater public access conclude that "weaker copyright protection, it seems, has benefited society." This is consistent with the authors' view that weaker copyright is "uambiguously desirable if it does not lessen the incentives of artists and entertainment companies to produce new works."
This month marks the tenth anniversary of the debut of Napster, the file sharing service that had a transformative effect on the music and Internet services industries. While many commentators have marked the anniversary by reassessing Napster’s impact and speculating on what lies ahead, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that now is also a suitable time to put to rest two myths about file sharing in Canada.
There are far more than just two myths (see textbox below), but the ones that have dominated debate is that all file sharing is legal in Canada and, perhaps as a consequence of this, that Canada leads the world in illegal file sharing activity. Neither claim is true.
The Ottawa Citizen ran a lead, masthead editorial over the weekend on the Conference Board of Canada plagiarism story. The paper notes that "these have been difficult days for the Conference Board" and points out: It is to president Anne Golden's credit that the board did recall the reports. But […]