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Copyright reports under scrutiny

|Written By By Kelly Harris

The Conference Board of Canada has pulled a trio of reports calling Canadian copyright laws into question because the reports did not meet the board’s “high quality research standards.”

However, intellectual property lawyers say that will do little to quell the call for reforming Canada’s copyright laws.

“Copyright reform has been something that has been on the table for a long time,” says Jill Jarvis-Tonus, a partner with IP boutique Bereskin & Parr LLP.

Part of the reason for the prolonged debate is new rules proposed last year by the federal government did not make it into law before the October election.

On Apr. 30 the Office of the United States Trade Representative put Canada on its priority watch list. It was the first time Canada has ever been placed on the list. The U.S. called on Canada to bring in copyright reform and better border policing.

“It is particularly contentious right now between the creators and the lobby groups,” says Jarvis-Tonus. “The creators are saying we are losing billions of dollars and if Canada continues, we are going to put in sanctions like not opening movies in Toronto or Montreal.”

The legitimacy of the Conference Board of Canada reports was originally called into question by copyright law blogger Michael Geist. The University of Ottawa law professor wrote on his blog that the Conference Board’s report referenced the Business Software Alliance’s Global Piracy Report.

The BSA report called for stiffer copyright laws because “Canada’s software piracy rate is nowhere near where it should be compared to other advanced economy countries.”

On his blog, Geist wrote: “What the BSA did not disclose is that the 2009 report on Canada were guesses since Canadian firms and users were not surveyed. While the study makes seemingly authoritative claims about the state of Canadian piracy, the reality is that IDC, which conducts the study for BSA, did not bother to survey in Canada.”

In response, the Conference Board initially stood by the reports but quickly changed its tune.

Last Thursday afternoon, the board released the statement: “the Conference Board of Canada has recalled three reports: Intellectual Property Rights in the Digital Economy; National Innovation Performance and Intellectual Property Rights: A Comparative Analysis; and Intellectual Property Rights—Creating Value and Stimulating Investment. An internal review has determined that these reports did not follow the high quality research standards of The Conference Board of Canada.”

On Friday, the Conference Board’s web site still ranked the reports as three of the five most downloaded from their site. However, the reports could not be accessed.

The BSA says Canada’s piracy rates, at 32 per cent, are far above those of other developed nations. It is calling on the government to bring back copyright legislation “that reflects the advances of digital technology, and strikes the appropriate balance between the rights of consumers and the rights of copyright holders,” says BSA spokesperson Rodger Correa.

The BSA has worked with the IDC to release an annual global software piracy study. According to the BSA, “IDC is the preeminent provider of IT market statistics and forecasts to the IT industry, key corporate end users and governments around the world. IDC’s numbers are considered gold standard among IT vendors.”

Therefore, the BSA stands by its report into piracy numbers in Canada saying, “There is no way to measure software piracy with scientific precision, and BSA does not present its figures as such. There are dozens of variables that ultimately go into the calculation of the final piracy rate and IDC has been careful and consistent with a logical and systematic methodology including robust data sets. We at BSA stand behind this benchmark standard of calculating local piracy rates.”

Jenna Wilson, a partner at IP firm Dimock Stratton LLP, says “no copyright law in any country is perfect,” but questions the view that Canada’s laws make the country a haven for piracy.

“I don’t really view Canada as a haven,” she says. “Our laws are maybe not as stringent as the United States would like or some industries would like.

“In the work that I’ve done I’ve never found myself viewing this country as a haven for infringers.”