Please Help Us Figure Out How Much The Public Has 'Lost' Due To Overprotective Anti-Copy Laws

from the using-their-methodology dept

We recently posted about an ITC report that, among other things, estimated that US companies "lost" $48 billion due to "piracy" in China. This $48 billion number generated plenty of headlines, and since the report was requested by the Senate, you can bet that it will be used politically. The problem, however, was that the methodology was ridiculous. Rather than using any sort of objective measure, the ITC went out and asked 5,000 businesses who were in "IP-intensive fields" what they thought their "losses" were, and then extrapolated out.

It should be obvious why this is ridiculous. It's asking the most biased party, who would benefit the most from government protectionism in their favor, to give totally self-reported details of the "harm" that happens without increased government protectionism, with no attempt to reality-check those results.

One of our critics in the comments responded with a fallacy, suggesting that somehow we should not be allowed to criticize the clearly specious methodology here, without offering an alternative study and results of our own. Of course, to point out that a study's methodology is wrong does not mean that you need to supply your own numbers. And, of course, we regularly point to plenty of good studies on these kinds of subjects as well.

However, an anonymous commenter made the absolutely brilliant suggestion that we should create our own study, using their methodology to calculate how much the public loses each year due to overprotective anti-copy laws. And, so we are. Just as the ITC asked those who had most thought about their "losses" from infringement, I think it's fair to suggest that the readership here includes plenty of people who have thought deeply about the public's losses from overprotection. Thus, I'm hoping we can put together a similar corpus of data from which we can extrapolate a similar number about the public's losses. You can input your own estimate of your losses here:
Now, obviously, this methodology is ridiculous, but if it's good enough for the ITC and the US Senate, it seems that it must be good enough for the counter study. It seems only reasonable that those who accept the results of the ITC study must also accept the results of our study, or admit that both methodologies are simply ridiculous.

Of course, to make this work, we really would like to get as much data as possible (and we really do want you to try to answer the question as honestly as you can -- i.e., don't just make up some crazy large number, but think about it). However, please also spread this post by letting other communities of folks who likely have thought about these issues know about it, so that we can really collect enough data to make this meaningful (in as much as you can make a totally ridiculous and bogus methodology meaningful).


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    The eejit (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Done, with a conservative estimate at $700bn.

     

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      Designerfx (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:24am

      Re:

      eh, I don't know man. Did you factor in the stifling of growth within the economy? Tech losses?

      How do we calculate out a stagnation of the economy?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re:

        How do we calculate out a stagnation of the economy?

        Erase the trend line back to where it began turning downward. Find the upward slope at that point. "Project" that slope straight until the current date. Subtract the current economic statistics from the "projected" values. This is your loss.

         

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    JM, May 24th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    in what time frame?

    Hey Mike,

    Happy to participate in bringing light to this darkest of topics... Are you seeking estimates from w/in the last year? Month? Ten years?

     

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    Anonymous coward, from Belguim, May 24th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    I just got a cellphone with 8GB of internal memory and using some recent numbers ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110516/02411614278/stupidity-you-must-be-criminal-copyright-taxes -sd-card-edition.shtml ), I atleast lost 10 dollar.

    So how much has ACTA cost us yet? (Conferences, food, airplanes,...)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Do I get to count journals?

    The US Gov't spends an enormous amount of money to gain access to all kinds of journals...many of which contain articles written with public money. Do those count for Mike's study?

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Be reasonable.

    I dunno, Mike, do you think anywhere on the original study they asked them to be reasonable? In fact, it seems to me that if the IP Maximalists were in the habit of being reasonable, we wouldn't be having this survey. If we want a *real* comparison, those words should be edited out. :)

     

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:04am

      Re: Be reasonable.

      Don't think it would've mattered if the original included that or not. Its not like those surveyed would have understood what the word "reasonable" meant.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 9:42am

    I'd like to see a similar estimation for pharmaceutical companies' business practices, but measuring the number of people who arbitrarily died because of them.

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    $75 Trillion (aka the value of the content shared on limewire) Since I didn't download any of it, I missed out on all of it.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    There are a couple categories I would like to get clarification on before including them in calculations:
    1) Pain and suffering from the stress of pirating content. (Potentially also medical costs due to the same)
    2) Loss of potential income: I once came close to having a job at BitTorrent and I can only assume that had BitTorrent not been such a target for potential lawsuits, they would have had more capital and probably hired me. Also, I work for a software firm that has been the subject of numerous IP lawsuits. I can only assume that they would have more money to pay me a higher salary if it wasn't for those lawsuits.
    3) Pain and suffering from the stress of being really pissed off at copyright maximalists. (again, medical costs for the same)
    4) Ripple effects from the fact that if people had not paid for content, the companies I worked for would have made more money and paid me a higher salary.
    5) Hours spent re-inventing the wheel working on open-source implementations of copyrighted software.
    6) Having to dump some really good business ideas because they would have infringed on copyright.
    7) Contracts lost to an inability to agree with the client on an appropriate license.
    8) Hours spent commenting on your blog about copyright maximalists being jerks instead of being privately productive.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Questions to factor in?

    How much money has been spent on Operation in Our Sites? That's taxpayer money, and should be counted as money we've lost.

    How much money has the **AA spent on lawyers and on lobbying efforts? That money could have been spent on financing new artists. (Let's ignore the fact that they'd finance the least common denominator of 'artist' for a low risk, high gain return, for sake of argument)

    How much time has been spent at public schools (again, on our dime) 'teaching' children that sharing is wrong?

    How will we calculate the number of people who may have been turned off from producing content because of the thicket of copyright laws?

     

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      David (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:02am

      Re: Questions to factor in?

      This is a good start. Don't forget court costs, having the FBI investigate piracy allegations, the library of congress having trouble with orphaned works and having to keep track of rights holders, period.

       

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        Jay (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:26am

        Re: Re: Questions to factor in?

        The Department of Homeland Security will spend 43.2 billion dollars.

        Of that, I believe ICE got 8.9 billion? Not sure

        So we got a pretty lousy return in domain takedowns on our tax dollars with nothing else to show for it.

         

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          The Infamous Joe (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Questions to factor in?

          I'd like to think that all their budget didn't go to domain seizures, and they saved some for harassing tourists.

           

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    mcbeese, May 24th, 2011 @ 9:58am

    Not the same

    "try to estimate a dollar value for the cultural creations you've missed out on due to overprotective anti-copyright laws (be reasonable)"

    I think the answer for everyone is zero. The difference between the losses of the content creators and the content consumers is choice. As content consumers, we can purchase any content we want, so copyright laws really aren't an issue. If consumers choose not to purchase content (or can't afford to), that's not really anything to with copyright, it has more to do with personal choice and/or personal financial circumstances. I've purchased all of the music I've wanted to spend money on, and copyright has never prevented me from doing so.

    Unlike content consumers, content creators have not been afforded the right to determine whether or not to sell their content or give it away. Pirates decided to simply take and distribute content for free because they could, not because they were on a quest for 'cultural enrichment', IMHO.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:17am

      Re: Not the same

      We cannot purchase any content we want. We can only purchase the content that has been created, if the anti-copy laws prevent that content from coming into existence, then we have lost the value that content would provide us.

       

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      Vic, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:22am

      Re: Not the same

      No, we cannot "purchase any content we want"! And that's the somber reality!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 11:37am

      Re: Not the same

      There is non-trivial content I have been unable to purchase because it's been vaulted/discontinued, regionally-restricted, sued by other rights holders, etc.

       

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      crade (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:48am

      Re: Not the same

      I'm really not following the 'difference'. You always have a choice. The consumers have the choice not to try to use the content just like the copyright holders have the choice not to try to sell it. It's not like anyone is forcing anyone to try to sell content.

      Where the heck do you get the idea that the consumers are making a choice to seek whatever they are losing and the holders aren't making a choice to seek whatever they are losing? That makes no sense.

       

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      RadialSkid (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

      Re: Not the same

      How about the calculated loss of everything they've stolen from the public domain?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Not the same

      As content consumers, we can purchase any content we want


      Do you honestly believe that, or are you just trolling?

      I come from a poor family. Growing up, there are dozens of movies my friends got to see that I didn't. There were hundreds of albums I wanted to buy but couldn't.

      Today, I make a good living. I want to watch the movies I missed in my youth but couldn't afford to see. I want to purchase the albums I couldn't afford, so that I can listen to them again.

      The problem? Most of it is "out of print". Contrary to your assertion, I can't purchase it. At any price.

      How, *exactly* do I have "choice" in this?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Not the same

      Likewise, my losses were $0. If I wanted something I bought it, so no loss there. Similarly, there could be no loss associated with something I chose to pass up in order to spend my money elsewhere.

       

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        martyburns (profile), May 25th, 2011 @ 4:32am

        Re: Re: Not the same

        there could be no loss associated with something I chose to pass up in order to spend my money elsewhere.

        Not according to the RIAA! According to them, when you *choose* not to buy music it costs jobs and ruins the economy!

         

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    Jay (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    I'm having trouble calculating all of this, so I'll just put down everything we'll need to factor:

    DMCA takedowns
    Chilling effects on those takedowns
    Bittorrent lawsuits
    Attorney fees for fair use
    Litigation from "wins" of those involved (Namely Thomas-Raisset, Whitney Harper, Joel Tenenbaum, and even Blizzard's litigation history)
    Time valued in responding to copyright issues

    Feel free to add any that I've not thought of. I'm thinking that's up to $1 million+ already.

     

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    lavi d (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Results

    Where (when?) can we see the reults?

     

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    Justin (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    All of it

    I lost all of it, every single dime. That seems to be the point that the **AAs are getting to anyways, so lets just cut to the chase and say it. Hopefully then people will realize it's all a bunch of BS and start looking at the real numbers.

     

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    DannyB (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Examples

    My TiVo records shows. I've had to spend time and money to work around DRM so I could transfer recordings to my phone so I could watch later while I was traveling (but not driving).

    My legally acquired and paid for DVD's have copy protection. I have had to spend time and money to work around the DRM so I could transfer shows to my phone or mp3 planer so I could watch them when I'm bored on the bus.

     

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      DannyB (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:19am

      Re: Examples

      Another example:

      Sony put a rootkit on my PC as soon as I inserted a music CD into my PC.

      I had to pay to have the malware cleaned off.

       

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        David (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re: Examples: FTFY

        >Another example:
        >
        >Sony put a rootkit on my PC as soon as I inserted a *LEGALLY PURCHASED* music CD
        >into my PC.
        >
        >I had to pay to have the malware cleaned off.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:19am

    My estimate

    I took some time (well, more then none) in coming up with my numbers, so I thought I would share my methodology:

    For me the loss is mostly from the reduced amount of culture, and useful information I have revived due to a lack of competition in the protected fields. Additionally the quality of what I have have consumed is reduced from the same lack of competition. I'll estimate $20 a day (for the price of one movie or cd) that I either have consumed with a low quality, or have not consumed, because it did not exist. That gets me to $7,300. Now add to that the price of cable tv, that I have not been paying for, due to lack of quality, at $120 a month, $1440 a year. total of $8740. That is just one the entertainment side. I earn my living working in the technology industry. The whole industry has been slowed down, having to comply with anti-copy laws. Not only has the software and hardware I have purchased suffered because of this, but my advancement in my career has been held back from this slowdown in innovation needed to address the anti-copy laws. I'll estimate the stuff I bought at around $2,000 a year, and my wages at $20,000 behind where they could be. So a total cost so far of $30,740. Boy, the more I think about it there are a whole lot of other industries that touch my life that are also held back due to anti-copy laws. Pharmaceuticals, automotive, news and information, etc. To cover those I will just triple my current number and call it a conservative estimate of $92,220.

     

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      Jay (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 10:41am

      Re: My estimate

      You are way too kind.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:53am

        Re: Re: My estimate

        Well, I was trying to account for the individual loss to me. Something that could be applied to everyone, and not double count things, like the cost of FBI or DHS investigations. The cost of those thing will have to be split up among everyone in the country. When I take my number and multiply it by the population of the US, I find that I estimated the total cost to the US is about $28.3 trillion.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    I think I may have vastly underestimated my losses after reading some of these comments. Though I'm not sure we should add in the economy-wide losses to our personal ones due to actions of the overly-litigious.

    Does anti-copy include patents?

     

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    chuck, May 24th, 2011 @ 10:49am

    What Cultural Creations?
    I imagine, due to overly protective copyright laws I must have missed them...

     

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    Huph, May 24th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Hmmm... I was actually approached about placement in film/TV last year, but the negotiations went nowhere because the music they wanted to use arbitrarily infringed on several recordings because the particular track was sample-based and would have required a mountain of paperwork to license. Samples from the 50s, and not even musical, which by even sensible copyright standards should be public domain by now.

    So... I'm guessing that placement would have paid about $400. But the revenue I would have made based on exposure from that placement? Umm... millions. Or billions. Trillions? Nah, millions. Keep it humble.

    Honestly, though, if they can spout numbers related to potential sales, then I can make up a number based on what I perceived was 'robbed' from me, right?

     

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    mike allen (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    mike
    Are you looking for just USA or world?

     

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    Rex Mitchell (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:13am

    Medicines

    My losses can't be measured in dollars. I've lost one relative to Alzheimer's and one to cancer. My fiance' lost her mother to cancer and father to heart disease (when she was only 13). My 8 year old daughter has suffered from type-1 diabetes since she was 5.

    How many medicines and cures are being held up because of copyright bickering? I vaguely remember some articles on this site concerning that. I care not about the stealing of copyrighted material as much as copyright law being broken and holding up innovation.

     

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    Steven (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    My submission

    As an individual I put in a conservative estimate of $50,000. This comes from several sources.

    First, is the tax cost. This covers time of representative spend dealing with IP related lobbying, enforcement activities, propaganda creations, and various other items. This is probably not that much, maybe $5,000.

    Second is the time cost. Dealing with non-interoperable devices, working around technical limitations, researching how to accomplish what should be basic tasks, and helping friends and family with those items. Here I'm probably averaging about 100 hours a year that I shouldn't have to deal with. 100 hours x $100/hour = $10,000

    Finally we have lost opportunity and lost efficiency cost. Given my position in the tech field and the massive drain of liability, legal intrusions, and chilling effects in the tech industry I would very conservatively put an estimate of $35,000 here for me personally.

    What none of this takes in to account is the actual loss of life from various legal hindrances to technical (including medical) advances. Here I'm lumping in various forms of IP, but hell they lump in completely unrelated fake drugs so I don't feel bad.

     

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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    ive lost pretty much zero. why?

    first, i dont believe a dollar figure should (or for that matter, can) be associated to culture. thats part of the problem that got us to this ugly point to begin with. have i missed out on culture? sure i guess in a way... most specifically in the area of pop-culture (current movies, current music stuff like that) but its not really something that i think can be defined in financial terms.

    the only number i can come up with is to estimate my time using my average salary over the past 10 years and the amount of time i have to put into doing things the old school way instead of just firin up the torrents which based on the amount of time it takes by average salary = ~3600usd/ann but thats as close to putting a dollar figure on anything as it gets and its a rather soft number

    The bigger (and to me more important question) is using the same brainless methodology, how much has big content LOST in sales from their idiotic crusade?

     

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    Craig (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:26am

    Does not compute

    Losses can't be quantified in dollars personally. For me, losses are all about missed opportunities - to enjoy an event with my spouse or kids, or to read something or listen to something in the fashion that suits me best at a particular place and time.

    I have a lot more disposable income now, b/c I don't buy anything...nor do I pirate it anymore either. Can't be bothered, so I'm saving money and making plans to travel.

    To hell with the companies and ignorant politicians.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    I lost nothing. I didn't have the rights to the stuff to start with, I could only obtain it by violating someone else's rights.

     

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      Anonymous Coward (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      could only obtain it by violating someone else's rights.

      Then you lost everything, because it was all denied to you. The RIAA isn't saying that pirates are reaching into their collective pocket and taking actual cash-in-hand, they're saying pirates are DENYING them monies they they should be rightfully entiled to. No one is taking money from them, it is being denied to them.

       

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      I like how all the naysayers comment like this. "I lost nothing because I'm not a filthy pirate." You need to look past your own inability to create an individual thought and see what has been lost. Look at all those people out there who have really creative ideas but can't use them due to this war on copying. When people start losing money due to six hits on a drum, it's costing people money. And think about all those people who are too afraid to be creative due to the fear of a lawsuit.

      Since we're talking about money not passing hands (since piracy does not equal a loss), there's probably billions not passing hands due to the Anti-Copy efforts.

      Look at Team Four Star. You would probably see them a horrible pirates who just live off of other people's work. But you don't see that they're creating something new. Yes it's based off of something old, but it's still new. These are people who can make some serious money, but can't due to overzealous copyright. And even though they are still withing the law (as much as you don't want them to be), they are still getting harmed by copyright laws.

       

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      Any Mouse (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

      Re:

      Ahh, trying to be a sneaky one, are you? But considering the cultural works that should have been in the public domain, the medications that should have been released to the generic companies, etc.? Well, then, you should have had rights to those things by now. But you don't. So you have, indeed, lost.

       

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      crade (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

      Re:

      Well put 0$ then. I lost enough to average you out anyway.

       

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        crade (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Of course, not "actual" losses, but losses calculated using the methodology the labels use to calculate losses due to piracy.. Take whatever I have ever made during my entire career and multiply it by a factor of 3.7 and you get your losses!

         

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      Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2011 @ 6:02am

      Re:

      When you say "someone else's" are you talking about Mozart?

       

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    freak (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    My methodology was simple, and limited in scope.

    I compared my largest per-year consumption of copyrighted works, (ignoring barely significant sources), to my current consumption.

    My largest consumption was during my childhood, when the locasl library

     

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    freak (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

    My methodology was simple, and limited in scope.

    I compared my largest per-year consumption of copyrighted works, (ignoring barely significant sources), to my current consumption.

    My largest consumption was during my childhood, when the local library provided as many books as I could read, (until I had read everything in there, availability drops to nothing), and through trading, betting, begging parents, scraping together money and buying tons of them really cheap at garage sales, I bought A LOT of video games.

    Anyhoo, assuming $60/game and $20/book, (a good estimate of cost these days, yeah?), that gives me nearly $80,000 in goods I would have otherwise consumed.


    I am still unhappy with the scope of this estimate, however, because I feel that feel that making books and games free, as these calculations estimate, is not assuming good copyright laws. I want 'weaker' copyright laws, not the abolishment of them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2011 @ 3:38pm

    "However, an anonymous commenter made the absolutely brilliant suggestion that we should create our own study, using their methodology"

    It wasn't a brilliant suggestion at all, it was a joke, to illustrate how much of a joke their study was.

     

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      Chargone (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 8:15pm

      Re:

      which is why it's brilliant.
      do it, present it, and they either have to accept that the first one is garbage and thus they cannot act on it, or they have to accept this one as valid as well...

      in both cases the consumer wins.

      of course, there's no way it will turn out like that so it's probably just an interesting little mental exercise, but still.

       

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    Greevar (profile), May 24th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    Here's a less ridiculous method to try.

    Why not tally up how much tax money has been spent on enforcing copyright and court costs for lawsuits and divide that by the number of citizens over the age of 13 (age allowed for contracts)? That number is how much copyright has cost each of us. Can anyone get those figures? Mike?

     

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    Decline, May 24th, 2011 @ 11:22pm

    How do you put a dollar number onto something you will never have known you missed out on. It is like pricing the Mono Lisa before it is painted.

    (my roommate just added: Or buying insurance on a wife you haven't met yet)

     

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    Karl (profile), May 25th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Costs

    Some of my music has samples in it (mangled and manipulated, of course). Luckily, I haven't been at the receiving end of a suit or injunction, and my music thus far has not been blocked. But I have friends who are not so lucky.

    One made an album of manipulated pop songs from the 80's. It was a kind of personal examination of her teenage years. She tried to get a CD pressed here, but they wouldn't press it as she didn't have the rights. So, she spent a lot of money, and paid the royalty rates - but the pressing plant still wouldn't press it. In the end, she had to go with an Australian pressing plant.

    A similar thing happened to a friend who runs a small label. An LP he put out had short samples on it from documentaries and TV interviews, as is common in "industrial" music. He went through the whole process of getting the plates mastered, put in a deposit with the pressing plant, etc - and at the last minute, the record pressing plant (United) refused to press the record. They didn't give him back the plates or the deposit, either. He was able to get it pressed somewhere else, but that little stunt cost him a considerable amount of money.

    There are millions of similar artists across the country. If this sort of thing happens to even one percent of them, that's tens of millions of dollars lost, due to situations like this alone.

    How much have artists suffered because of the ICE seizures? The dajaz1 website was sent in material by the labels themselves; they wouldn't do that unless they knew they could increase interest in that material. Similarly, Rap Godfathers got shout-outs from several members of the rap community for helping kick-start the careers of young rappers. Any benefits to artists were immediately lost through ICE's actions.

    That's not even considering the harm to the public that results when the government is simply allowed to shut down domains without due process, whatever the reason may be. It's hard to put a dollar value on the loss of freedom.

    Naturally, we must also include works that are banned because they're infringing, like "Comin' Through the Rye," or Negativland's "U2" album. But there's also dollar costs to consider. For example, public domain works are generally cheaper, and often of higher quality, than works still under copyright, because publishers don't have monopoly priviledges and must compete against each other. For example, I can buy a Dover Thrift Edition of classic literature for a fraction of the price of a new book. How much has the public had to pay because publishers are forbidden to compete against each other?

    All in all, I'd say recent (post-1996) copyright laws have done no public good whatsoever, haven't helped artists overall, and cost the entire nation a significant amount of income.

     

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