Leading pollsters yesterday demanded the CBC stop copying thousands of dollars’ worth of research without permission or payment. The Crown broadcaster acknowledged lifting survey results for its own use, including data bought by other media.
“We are doing a public service,” said Éric Grenier, senior CBC writer. “Is data copyrightable? We choose how to report on it in our own way.”
Under the Copyright Act “literary works” including data compiled using proprietary software cannot be copied without payment or permission. Grenier said the CBC pulled data from private pollsters’ websites including research funded by competitors without paying licensing fees or asking permission.
“It is not required,” said Grenier. “We have the right to choose how we’ll use public information.” Digital ad revenues at the CBC totaled $42.6 million last year. Private pollsters’ data was also cited in network newsletters.
“They expropriated my work,” said Nanos. “It represents thirty years of expertise. That’s the fundamental issue.”
“Legally the CBC should be held to the same standard of copyright compliance as everybody else,” said Nanos, who does polling for CTV National News. “Ethically they should be held to a higher standard. This is a government agency.”
Nanos Group charges $4 a month for access to detailed polling data on its company website – “I think we’re being more than reasonable,” said Nanos – and told the CBC to “remove my research from your aggregator” after Grenier questioned the paywall.
Grenier in a July 9 tweet when asked by a follower, “How much stock do you personally put in Nanos weekly rolling average polls?” replied: “Less now that the regional numbers aren’t available.” Grenier subsequently deleted the message from his Twitter feed.
“I would really prefer they weren’t using our data for purposes we don’t agree with,” said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates. “They are making a living off this. The CBC is making revenues from our work.”
“They were aware we didn’t want them using it,” said Graves. “There should at least be consent to use it. We never even got to the stage of permission, let alone payment or discussion on use of the data. No one even asked.”
“There is an art and a science to doing this,” said Graves. “It’s not something that magically comes out of a computer. It costs a lot of money. It takes experience, effort and skill in assembling sound polling data. That’s our intellectual property, and it should be treated like any other copyright material that cannot be reproduced without written permission.”
The CBC compiles a Poll Tracker feature including Commons seat projections. Graves called it a “kind of statistical Cuisinart” using data from named research companies. “It is not helpful to have this kind of Las Vegas-style handicapping of election outcomes, and I don’t agree with our data being used for that purpose,” said Graves.
Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, described seat modeling using data copied from pollsters’ websites as “notoriously inaccurate”: “We didn’t design our polling for the purpose of compiling seat models. The models are not accurate at all, and the CBC associates our brand with that,” he said.
“I’ve repeatedly objected,” said Bricker. “I’ve contacted the CBC and told them to stop, and they say, well, it is public information, forget about it. We do not endorse use of this data for conducting seat models, and the CBC does it anyway.”
“I hold the CBC to the same standard they would hold any reseller of their information,” said Bricker. “If they believe the CBC’s own copyright means something, then our copyright means something. We asked them clearly and politely to stop doing it. They’re a Crown agency. They are a national broadcaster. They completely ignored it. They do it anyway, and keep doing it.”
CBC management did not comment.