Monday, March 20, 2006

CRIA's Statistics & WIPO Ratification

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
(Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain)

So, how should we classify CRIA’s Statistics?

According to CRIA’s recent survey conducted by POLLARA in February and just filed with the CRTC (thanks Michael, for exposing these links and for your eternal vigilance), 46% of Canadians answered "international" to the question:
I would now like to ask you a few questions regarding the protection of artists’ works in Canada, or what is usually referred to as copyright. Copyright protects an artist from unauthorized copying and sale of their works. Some people have said that the current copyright laws are sufficient to protect artists, and others suggest that Canadian laws should be up to international standards that have been drafted by the WIPO, the world organization responsible for copyright. Generally, do you think Canadian copyright laws should be up to international standards or is the present law sufficient?
(emphasis added)
46% said "up to international standards"
35% said the present law is sufficient
20% said they didn’t know.

This was the result of a POLLARA survey of a random sample 1229 respondents interviewed between February 17 and 22. 2006 .

Funny how on December 28, 2005, less than two months earlier, Graham Henderson, Prez of CRIA issued a press release based on a previous POLLARA survey done from December 18th to December 20th, 2005, among a random sample of 1204 Canadians aged 18 and over.
According to a Pollara survey conducted during Canada's recent federal election, the vast majority of Canadians want copyright reform. The study found that 91 percent of Canadians want the work of musicians, artists, composers, authors and others to be protected by copyright to ensure they get paid for copies of their work, while 74 percent believe the country's laws should be made to conform to international standards and treaties on copyright. (Nine percent disagree, while 17 percent are undecided).
(emphasis added)
We don’t know the precise question that was put to the respondents in the December survey. But it seems to be directed at the same point as the question in the February survey - namely supposed support for Canadian conformity with "international standards", which naturally begs the question of whether we already exceed such standardsin in key respects, which I have raised before. However, back to the current point.

Note first the incontrovertibly embarrassing anomaly of a 28% drop (74% - 46%) in support for "international standards" in less than two months. That's about as bad as Bush and Cheney's drops in approval ratings - except it's much quicker. Or maybe it means that the data is simply unreliable - and what does that say about other CRIA data?

The real issue is how anyone is supposed to take such survey data seriously to begin with. Is it likely or, frankly, even possible that any statistically significant percentage of the randomly selected 1,229 respondents interviewed between February 17 and 22, 2006 have every heard of WIPO? Of those that might have heard of WIPO, is it possible that any of them would have ever read these "international standards" drafted by WIPO? Presumably the reference is to the 1996 WIPO internet treaties but, then, who are we to ask? Or would they have even the faintest clue about what these "international standards" refer to? This is a bit like asking whether Canadian society should show appreciation and respect for Mothers and Grandmothers in a manner endorsed by a coalition of high level religious leaders. Don't expect a lot of naysayers to such a question. In fact, the fairly large number of naysayers in this survey - given the suggestive questions - should raise lots of alarm bells, assuming anyone does take these surveys seriously.

There are other obvious quality issues with this survey data, such as the inherent bias - and overly simplistic inaccuracy - in suggesting that WIPO is "the world organization responsible for copyright." Tell that to the WTO, or the USTR, the Bush trade representatives that have forced (oops, "negotiated") numerous bilateral WIPO Plus "agreements" with numerous lesser powers.

I’d even be surprised if more than 5% of the members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada ("IPIC") have ever actually read those WIPO treaties, much less thought about them in detail. Oddly enough, there are about 1,300 members of IPIC, which is the main professional body for IP lawyers and trade-mark and patent agents in Canada. That’s coincidently about the same size as POLLARA’s sample - but it’s as far as you can get from a random sample.

And I would seriously doubt that there would be much consensus amongst actual copyright lawyers who have actually carefully studied these treaties as to whether Canada actually does comply with certain key provisions already, much less whether Canada should comply with these "international standards" - especially in the extreme implementation version espoused by CRIA.

Anyway, there are more gems in CRIA’s data and CRIA’s own spin on CRIA’s data. Michael has outlined some. Stay tuned for more.

And thank you, CRTC, for helping CRIA to be so transparent. Perhaps the Copyright Board should take note.

BTW, you should read CRIA’s submission to the CRTC. What does CRIA want to do in the name of Canadian artists? They want to weaken Canadian content requirements by moving to a "Smart" 35% CanCon regime. See page 29 of their submission to the CRTC. We hope that the powers that be will be shocked, shocked that the Canadian Recording Industry of America, oops, I meant the Canadian Recording Industry Association, would suggest such a thing. And "smart" enough to see through it.

Shocked? After all of those lovely, reliable, consistent, relevant and clearly incontrovertible statistics?

"Considered accurate to within +/- 2.8%, nineteen times out of twenty."
Shocked, indeed. We hope. "Nineteen times out of twenty".


    There's a link to a poll done by Pollara before Christmas, which the media spun as people "wanting tougher copyright laws" despite a majority of those polled saying nothing of the sort.

    I wrote about it then on my blog, wrote the paper's editor, and CTV who featured the story poorly too. I've added a comment today to my blog too mentioning Michael's blog entry about the new CRIA poll showing P2P doesn't hamper CD sales in any significant way.

  2. Iam very impressed with your survey on this.