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 the 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 The report – which is based on six year old data that is now out-of-date – was limited to the 30 OECD countries (not the world) and did not make any comment or determination on unauthorized activity.
That is just the press release – the report itself is even worse as it is largely a copy of the IIPA 2008 Special 301 Report on Canada. Given the lack of attribution in some instances, this work would face possible plagiarism sanctions in almost any academic environment. Even where there is attribution, the chart below demonstrates that the report simply adopts the IIPA positions and language as its own.