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Who's Plagiarizing Now?

Copyright protectionists decry copying as theft and plagiarism--and let's just acknowledge here that sometimes it is. (Copying a work and re-using it for its original market purpose and not paying the owner what he or she is selling or renting it for is wrong.) The well-funded efforts of copyright owners' organizations to promote this message, though, has thoroughly confused many people about their Fair Use rights. In many situations, including making new work and analyzing or critiquing existing work, people in the U.S. have ample rights to use copyrighted material without permission or payment.

So there's a certain pleasure—what the Germans call schadenfreude —in discovering that a major Canadian research organization plagiarized an American lobbying group's report. The Conference Board of Canada released a report recommending reforms in Canada's copyright law. But oops, the report contained not just points from International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), an industry organization; it contained entire paragraphs lifted straight from the document.

The plagiarism isn't what really got to law professor Michael Geist, a crusader for more copyright flexibility. What galled him was the evidence of U.S. business influence over supposedly objective research, resulting in importation of bad data exaggerating the "piracy problem" in Canada.

Canadian filmmakers have joined others in pushing for sane copyright reform in Canada, which would include making "fair dealing"--which permits some unlicensed uses of copyright material—to become more flexible and more like Fair Use.