A Breathtaking Act of Intellectual Dishonesty by the Conference Board of Canada

25 May ’09

Michael Geist has the details here. I have to admit to being simply flabbergasted when I read his post. I’m always admired the Conference Board for its reputation for impartiality and quality. Frankly, I now feel quite the fool.

There is no black and white here. Whether the Board’s slavish adherence to the bullying line taken by US legacy film and music interests is deliberate or arises out of ignorance is largely irrelevant. These are profoundly important public policy issues, and as citizens we rely on people in positions of impartial authority, whether because they are in government or because they present as impartial experts, to participate in policy development with courage, honesty and competence. I think we are owed an explanation. Here is a draft of an email I sent out today. I urge you to do the same – you can get the links on Michael’s post.

Update: The Conference Board has answered Michael with a response that is little more than a half-hearted attempt to deflect the issue. They sent me the same response. It was inane.

I have every confidence that somewhere on the hard drive of every PR agency flack working for the industry there is an action plan on forcing Canada to surrender its copyright laws (the annual deluge of industry association this-and-so reports is well under way of course, like the annual return of the swallows to Capistrano), and that right in the middle of that plan is this Conference Board report, likely with notations and talking points on dealing with the controversy it might create.

It’s enormously frustrating to have to continually deal with the intellectual bankruptcy of positions put forward by those under the spell of the money and power of legacy media industries. This is why Lessig stopped working on open culture and started working on corruption. Sooner or later the acolytes, consultants, lobbyists and hangers-on to US film and music legacy industries are going to have to deal with the rest of us. Thank goodness the web never forgets.

Updater: The Conference Board has recalled all 3 reports. Oh well – I was hoping we would get to have a debate. Well done, Michael.

Updaterest: Denouement. Mea culpa and the road ahead.


Ms. Golden, Mr. Toope, Ms. Samarasekera and Mr. Wilkerson,

Please add my name to what is I hope a fast-growing list of Canadians who have informed you that they are profoundly disappointed that the Conference Board, with the aid of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, has chosen to align itself, presumably for political expediency, with legacy film and music interests in the United States, instead of performing the increasingly easy exercise, for the benefit of sensible policy development in Canada, of debunking their wild-eyed and fantastical claims of injury from Canadian intellectual property laws. Your report defies common sense, good policy and honest, impartial intellectual inquiry.

Dr. Michael Geist ably summarizes these issues: [link]

And frankly, shame on the Conference Board for holding such a one-sided public relations opportunity for US film and music interests: [link]

There are many very smart people doing hard work and making considerable personal sacrifices to ensure that Canadians can evaluate these issues in a balanced and sensible manner, far away from the moneyed influences trying so hard to skew our laws in favour of their financial interests.

The Conference Board, with the aid of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, has done enormous damage to his process, engaging in acts of seemingly breathtaking intellectual indifference and dishonesty, and frankly, you have much work ahead of you earning back the trust you have so cavalierly frittered away by these actions. I hope you begin this process by responding immediately to the questions Dr. Geist has directed to you.

Yours truly,

Rob Hyndman

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