BSA: Bogus Stats Again

from the and-here-we-go-again dept

Well, it’s the middle of May, so it’s time for the BSA to do their yearly ritual of putting out their bogus stats on how much software “piracy” is costing the industry. They do this every year… and every year the numbers are quickly debunked. In fact, a few years back the numbers were debunked by the very research firm that collected the data for the BSA. Basically, the BSA takes every report of pirated software and counts it as a loss. It also fails to count how much legitimate software was purchased after people got hooked on unauthorized copies of the software. In other words, the numbers are totally useless. However, it looks like the press may finally be catching on. Rather than trumpeting the “loss” numbers, most of the press reports are focusing on the supposed percentage of software that’s unauthorized — which actually is a pretty meaningless number when you think about it. The Associated Press report even included a single sentence noting that critics have pointed to problems with the BSA’s numbers, but still noting that “$180 billion” could be lost in the next four years. I guess it’s progress that the headlines aren’t focused on the loss number, but the press still doesn’t bother questioning where the BSA came up with its numbers or how accurate (or inaccurate) they may be.

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Comments on “BSA: Bogus Stats Again”

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Designer Joe says:

The numbers are bogus, yes...

I agree that the numbers are bogus to some degree. Many of the people who download photoshop would probably have used a different software instead of spending the $2000 for the adobe suite.

As a designer, though, I can tell you that all good designers do use adobe photoshop, and that more than half of the designers I know use pirated copies. If pirated copies were not available, they would have to purchase the software.

I would guess that the 180 billion is closer to 45 billion, which is still a VERY large number.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The numbers are bogus, yes...

Or use GIMP or one of many other applications out there.

nope… I have not heard of one designer that uses Gimp .

I have heard of developers and more tech savy people using Gimp, but not professional designers. I would guess that 99.99% of professional designers use adobe products

The Truth Beacon says:

Re: Re: The numbers are bogus, yes...

Or use GIMP or one of many other applications out there.

I think that is about a likely as seeing the CAD industries shy away from Autodesk. The problem is not only file portability, but usability. Few of the other programs match the efficiency of Photoshop, just like there is very little software which is on par with what Autodesk offers, as horrible as Autodesk is.

Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Costing Software Companies Money

My preferred method of taking potential earnings away from software companies (e.g. Microsoft) is to use free software (e.g. Linux). Other people use pirated versions of non-free software. Either way, the software companies lose money. In fact, I’m probably costing them a lot more money than the hypothetical pirate since I’m not using something that I might buy later when I can afford it.

So, Microsoft should worry a lot more about me than about someone using a pirated version of WinXP.

UnstrungPuppet says:

What about the impact of piracy on competition?

Reading the comments left here about Gimp and Photoshop, I am led to wonder if the open-source community is hurt by piracy. With regard to Gimp, I only know one user personally, and he has assured me that Photoshop is the superior product. My thought is that if piracy of Photoshop were not an option, how many more users would start to use Gimp, rather than hand over enough cash in licensing fees to rebuild their computers for the sake of having Photoshop? Might the increased size of the community then lead to more impetus behind improvements to Gimp? In other words, to what extent is the size of the open-source community limited by the availability of pirated versions of expensive software that has managed to corner the market?

Matt says:


I do know professionals who use gimp. There was an independent film designer in chicago who used gimp for his graphics. I might add gimp has the same functionality as photoshop, simply a different interface (and with so much documentation on photoshop vs gimp you can imagine why people use one over the other).

I do think adobe is a great program. I do not think anyone who uses gimp or something other than adobe would have used adobe, as far as piracy numbers. But pirating photoshop? Too bad for adobe, I believe if they didn’t cripple the software so much perhaps use would be more widespread.

emichan says:

I agree with most of the previous posters – photoshop is the superior product for the most part, especially for print as gimp does not yet support cmyk output. However, if it weren’t for piracy, i think that the Gimp would be a lot better simply out of necessity. FYI, Gimp is still being developed by a small core group of users without any kind of sponsorship.

If not Gimp, there would be something else, simply because photoshop is out of the price range for most burgeoning graphic designers/photographers. I think Photoshop is one of the best examples of piracy helping a product rather than hurting it. Most designers I know started out working on pirated copies of ps. Then, when they were able, they bought it, or their companies did.

Best, Emi

anon. cow. says:

“Most designers I know started out working on pirated copies of ps. Then, when they were able, they bought it, or their companies did.”

I like to think of this as the “starter software subsidy program”, under which clever people acquire … extended trial versions of popular s/w titles, in order to further their knowledge of the program’s workings, and subsequently qualify for a job using it.

you can just feel the s/w execs fuming over that statement, and in fact the whole concept: all these evil people committing these egregious acts of piracy, feeding its marketplace with experienced users who go out in the workforce creating a demand for their product.

Gary Loffler says:

media and numbers

Every time I see a report on the media just accepting numbers, I always think back to the time when some group released an article stating that there were 50,000 kidnapped children a year. All the news sources ran this number and then the diary industry voluntarily started printing pictures of kidnapped kids on milk cartons. After a couple of years of the same two or three kids, a reporter finally asked the FBI about the numbers only to be told they were completely wrong and hugely overstated.

The real problem with this is that no one even bothered to do the basic math. 50,000 kids means 1,000 kids per state per year. 1,000 kids per year means nearly 3 per day. You don’t even need a calculator to do the math here, just a small amount of skepticism.

bshock (profile) says:

Isn’t it wonderful how the free market “corrects” itself?

Of course, some might point out that the BSA is irrelevant to the subject of free markets. Which is right enough, to the extent that free marketeers have always ignored the most basic principle of unregulated markets: businesses accomplish their goals any way they can, including dirty tricks such as the stealth foundation and funding of predatory groups like the BSA.

Rob Harmer (user link) says:

We don't care how much the software industry is lo

For the last 14 years there have been industry surveys that annually (yawn, yawn) talk about how much the software, music and movie industry is “losing due to piracy”.

Many do NOT believe the statistics being used by these industry surveys, hence they tend to ignore even the advice of the BSA.

“Really, it’s not really that important how much the software, fonts, music and movie industry is losing, but what should be relevant is “by how much” businesses could improve their own bottom line and cash flow!

Further Information:

Rob Harmer

Compaholic (user link) says:

These numbers will always be inflated

The BSA, MPAA, RIAA, and others will always inflate these numbers to make it look worse than it really is. Even when they pay 3rd party data collectors to do the work for them they will try to find a way to fudge the numbers.

Five or so years ago the PC gaming community was larger than it is today. Now most game developers focus more on game consoles and release(maybe) the same game on the PC half a year later. Everyone used to pirate games back then for the PC. I think the numbers they show for the loss of PC games nowadays are funny because I don’t even think the PC gaming business is breaking $1 billion/year anymore in revenue.

Al says:


I’ve actually never liked Photoshop, though I used to use Elements on a student license. I used to use Fireworks, back when there was a Macromedia. I loved Fireworks and Freehand. Then I got a Mac, and my old copy of Macromedia Studio was for Windows. So I looked into getting a copy of Studio for Mac. By this point, Adobe had purchased Macromedia, and jacked up the price on everything. I wasn’t about to pay $1000 bucks for the student version (student version of Macromedia’s was $200), which did have more programs, but I only wanted Fireworks and Freehand (which was replaced by Illustrator). I suppose I could pirate a copy, but instead I just used the GIMP for bitmaps and Inkscape for vector graphics. As far as I’m concerned, the GIMP is just as good as Photoshop, and Inkscape kind of sucks compared to Fireworks/Freehand, but I don’t really believe in pirating software. Precisely because I know that if I did, I would buy a legal copy as soon as I could afford it, and I don’t want to support Adobe.

Generally I can find free alternatives to software I don’t want to pay for, and I’ve only come close to pirating software once–when I needed MatLab, for one assignment in a computer science class. Mathworks used to offer month demo-versions, which is why the instructors included it, but the company had gotten wise to the fact that a lot of schools did this, and discontinued demo versions, instead offering several hundred dollar student versions. Which I would have bought if I were ever going to use it again. There are plenty of open source alternatives to the program, which I will use if I ever need to the kind of stuff MatLab does in my work, so irritated am I at the tactic. Professors across the country were using this program on the assumption that there was a free demo version, and students who really needed it for their work would buy it. It turned out that my father’s coworker had a copy, so I used that instead of pirating it. But if he hadn’t and there were no pirated versions, I would have skipped the assignment rather than pay MathWorks a red cent.

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