Media Uncritically Cites Flawed Piracy Studies, Again
from the balance-needed dept
The Washington Post has a story about the never-ending lobbying campaign for more draconian penalties for copyright infringement. It's extremely one-sided, quoting several industry executives but not a single person on the other side of the copyright debate, who could have pointed out that Congress has passed "tougher penalties" repeatedly in recent years and the results haven't exactly been good. The report also cites the widely discredited series of piracy reports that, as I explained here and here, dramatically overstate the effects of piracy on the copyright holders by double- and triple-counting uncaptured revenues by adding in “ripple effects.”
Those previous studies covered the movie and music industries, and both made the same basic error: after they counted some amount of CDs or movie tickets unsold as “lost revenue,” they then counted the same lost revenue again by calculating how much less the movie and music industry is paying their suppliers due to those lower revenues. In some cases, they count the same dollar a third or fourth time when those suppliers pay their suppliers less than they would have without piracy. But that's obviously silly. What matters is the total number of dollars earned, not how many times each dollar changes hands. When you strip out these spurious double- and triple-counted revenues, and correct some of the other questionable assumptions I detail in the posts linked to above, you find out that uncaptured revenues from music piracy to the recording industry are around $3.2 billion, not $12.5 billion as the report claims. Similarly, IPI claims the uncaptured revenue for the movie industry is $20.5 billion, but if you strip out the double-counting, you find it's more like $6.1 billion. I pointed these problems out to them after they released the movie study, yet they still made the same flawed assumptions for the music study, and presumably their latest study has the same problems. The Post says the latest study finds that the combined cost of movie, music, and software piracy is $58 billion. I think it's a safe bet that this number, too, is wildly overstated, and that the actual figure is closer to $15 billion. Unfortunately, this reporter apparently didn't have the time to dig into the report in detail, or to pick up the phone and call someone who could offer a critical perspective. Once again, readers will see these inflated numbers reported as fact and assume there must be some rigorous methodology behind it.