I have very little use for the American system of government, but there are times that even they manage to get things right. Take the Government Accounting Office for example. One of it’s functions is to evaluate legislation, and report on costs and benefits. Which it does, and amazingly enough it often contradicts the President, the House of Representatives, The Senate, and the political parties. It is probably the most valuable part of the American government, and I know that too few Americans know of the good work it does for them. It helps the U.S. Congress develop Evidence Based Legislation, at least when Congress pays attention to the GAO.
It’s too bad that we don’t have something like it in Canada.
Take Copyright Reform, in the form of Bill C-32 for example. There is no evidence that:
- The legislation will help creators.
- The legislation will help distributors.
- The legislation will help consumers.
- The legislation is good for Canada as a whole.
Or at least there is no published evidence, that is from a trustworthy source, which has been peer reviewed for accuracy. Note that I said ‘published’ evidence.
Big companies (Microsoft excepted) tend to be very careful about what they do. Some times they seem too careful, but when millions of dollars in sales are at risk, they don’t really have any choice. So we can be pretty certain that the MPAA, BSA, RIAA, BPI, CRIA, etc. member companies have done a lot of research, looking into the issues from multiple points of view. Big companies don’t make business decisions without evidence. Sometimes the decisions won’t work out, but there will always be reasons for the decisions.
Often they will hire outsiders to conduct the research, to avoid preconceived notions. We can be certain that this is what has been done, and is the basis of their campaign to update copyright law.
However while they have done the research, they haven’t shared it. There have been a few studies released, however those studies were not the level of work that you would expect from a large, intelligently run company. In fact the studies that were released were so bad that they were quickly debunked.
So what exactly is going on?
Well, since we haven’t seen the studies, we cannot be sure. We can however consider the situation. Let’s look at the main points:
- All of these large companies are pushing for massive changes to copyright law.
- These changes probably won’t benefit the companies in question.
- The changes also won’t benefit the artists, or smaller companies.
- The studies that have been released are obviously bogus.
This indicates that the studies which have been held back, gave answers that the companies didn’t like. We don’t know exactly what those answers were, but we can be certain that if they were in the companies favor, the studies would have been released. We can also be certain that the current changes to copyright law that the companies are pushing for aren’t what the studies recommended.
Which comes back to the title of the post. Legislation should be Evidence Based. The evidence should be in the form of peer reviewed studies, conducted by an independent government department, freely available to all citizens, political parties, and corporations in Canada. This would give Canadians a level of confidence in their government that they currently do not have.
Of course we can expect that the corporations involved in the current copyright debate to oppose this. It’s not in their best interests, or they would have released those studies that we know that they must have conducted. And we know they must have conducted them, because of corporate responsibilities. If they didn’t, management would be fired for incompetence.
Thursday November 25, 2010