shoddy work shames mounties again

The RCMP’s credibility suffered another serious hit last week. This little gem is profoundly troubling because it betrays a corporate bias in…

The RCMP’s credibility suffered another serious hit last week.

This little gem is profoundly troubling because it betrays a corporate bias in the national police force, which, you might remember, once had a marketing deal with Disney.

The information comes courtesy Michael Geist, a blogger who happens to be the research chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.

Geist was curious about the amount of counterfeiting going on in this country.

Canada has been accused of being a hotbed of illegal copying, and Hollywood studios have been threatening to withhold first-run movies from this country because they claim many of its films are being ripped off.

One of the triggers for this focus on Canada was the RCMP’s 2005 Economic Crime Report. That police investigation pegged the value of counterfeiting in Canada at between $10 billion and $30 billion a year.

The issue was deemed important enough to be a discussion topic at the Canada-US-Mexico summit this summer, noted Geist.

“The $30-billion figure has assumed a life of its own with groups lobbying for tougher anti-counterfeiting measures regularly raising it as evidence of the dire need for Canadian action,” he wrote in his September 17 blog.

“US ambassador to Canada David Wilkins cited the figure in a March 2007 speech critical of Canadian law, while the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Canada’s leading anti-counterfeiting lobby, reported in April that the ‘RCMP estimates that the cost to the Canadian economy from counterfeiting and piracy is in the billions.’”

That’s a staggering sum.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a comprehensive report on counterfeiting, which pegged the global cost at $200 billion a year.

So, according to the RCMP numbers, Canada is responsible for as much as 15 per cent of the world’s counterfeiting.

It stretches the imagination.

Especially since a US Government Accountability Office investigation pegged the counterfeiting trade at 0.02 per cent of the total value of imported goods in product categories likely to involve intellectual property protection.

Geist grew suspicious about the RCMP report.

He requested the sources behind the national police force’s oft-cited $30-billion claim.

And he discovered the cops conjured the figures from the ether.

“The figures were based on ‘open source documents found on the internet,’ wrote Geist.

“In other words, the RCMP did not conduct any independent research on the scope or impact of counterfeiting in Canada, but rather merely searched for news stories on the internet and then stood silent while lobby groups trumpeted the (RCMP) figure before Parliament.”

The two primary sources, Geist discovered, were a CTV news story that reported unsubstantiated claims by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, a lobby of brand owners and law firms, that pegged “pirate product” at 20 per cent of the Canadian market.

Second was a single bullet in a PowerPoint presentation by Jayson Myers, chief economist of Canadian Manufacturing and Exporters, that put direct losses in Canada “between $20 billion and $30 billion annually.” Myers’ figure was extrapolated from the value of up to four per cent of Canada’s two-way trade.

That’s the extent of the police investigation.

It’s troubling because not only is it sloppy, it suggests the RCMP is sympathetic to the claims of powerful media companies —some of which it has had business arrangements with — that are working very hard to restrict the lawful use of material in this country under the anti-piracy banner. (Movie studios and the Recording Industry Association of America are openly hostile to Canada’s liberal fair-use laws.)

The results of Geist’s investigation are deeply troubling.

Canada’s national police force should be a source of primary, non-partisan data — not a shill for industry lobbyists.

Read Geist’s blog at www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2241/159/(RM)