Commerce Dept Cites Bogus Stats, Chamber Of Commerce Uses Them To Ask Bush To Accept Copyright Czar

from the bogus-stats-are-fun dept

We’ve seen it time and time again, where totally bogus stats about the “costs” of “piracy” are floated (usually by lobbyists) and then suddenly accepted as fact. It’s even worse when it’s government officials citing the stats as fact. Yet, we’ve got that happening again. In urging President Bush to sign into law the ProIP bill, which would give him a copyright czar (something the Justice Department had said it it doesn’t want), the US Chamber of Commerce is claiming that 750,000 American jobs have been lost to piracy. Yet, it doesn’t cite where that number comes from.

Wired’s David Kravets tries to track down the source but finds no one can quite figure it out. Instead, they each point to different gov’t organizations which have all quoted the number — often citing each other, but no one pointing out where it actually came from. Chances are, of course, that the stat comes from a variety of reports, like the easily debunked piracy impact report from the BSA, put together by IDG. That lists out a number for job losses in the software industry that’s simply untrue, and is based on only the negative impact of “piracy” impacting jobs, leaving out any positive impact (i.e., if a company used only pirated software, it could hire more people). That’s not to defend piracy, but to note that the job loss claim is completely made up — and now repeated by a variety of different government officials based on… nothing.

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Comments on “Commerce Dept Cites Bogus Stats, Chamber Of Commerce Uses Them To Ask Bush To Accept Copyright Czar”

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Just some guy says:

Not to nitpick the substance of your post, but the headline is wrong. It says the “Commerce Dept.” is citing bogus stats in asking … blah blah. But the article is actually about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which, although it’s very influential and is located right across the street from the White House, is not a government agency. Unlike the US Chamber of Commerce, the Commerce Dept is part of the government, and in fact, it sent a letter to Congress a couple weeks ago objecting to the IP czar in the White House.

Dubya says:

Just the Facts

It is terrible when there isn’t any evidence to back up claims that are being made to influential people. That fantastic claim is merely a sensationalist headline grabber that will make unassuming people think, ‘Oh dear, that piracy problem is horrible. Our government should do something!’ When, in truth, the costs are more than likely nowhere near that stated figure. I think we’re going to be in the new generation of the Yellow Press.

Anonymous Coward says:

Whether or not the figure given is flaky, its flakiness palls in comparison with how the Dept. of the Treasury came up with its bailout number.

BTW, have you ever seen a CoC number that was not flaky, and I am not talking just about copyright? CoC support of taxpayer dollars to support professional sports facilities quickly comes to mind.

bob says:

I stopped pirating apps a few years back when I got into the software industry.
I did not start buying the stuff I had been pirating aside from copies of XP (at an M$ store discount … not worth retail)
What I did for the most part is find free alternatives that worked just as well as the stuff I’d been stealing.
Someone should run the numbers and figure out what the elasticity of demand is in people who pirate apps.
As soon as they realize every pirated copy does not equal a sale we’ll be better off.

Hulser says:


Actually, the article notes that the Chamber of Commerce GOT the figures from the Commerce Dept.

Yes, but issue was not about the content of your post or the original article, but the headline of your post. Before you changed the headline from “Commerce Dept Cites Bogus Stats In Asking Bush To Accept Copyright Czar” to clear things up, I think the nitpick by “Just some guy” was valid.

Charles Stephenson says:

I have noticed that anybody can make up any statistic they like to backup whatever warped opinion or goal they have. Piracy is also being used by the music industry to promote their albums. A couple of songs get “leaked” and people hear them, hear about it in the news, they get interested, and then buy them. As far as a privacy czar is concerned… What the hell is he gonna do that hasn’t already been done? Make bigger fines for people that get caught. That just enforces the don’t get caught rule.

Lance Bledsoe (user link) says:

Others are using the 750,000 number as well

This kind of circular quoting of statistics is not nearly as uncommon as you might think. Daniel Gardner, in his book The Science of Fear tells the story of “50,000 pedophiles prowling the internet at any given time,” a number widely quoted by a number of news reports and government officials, including former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This number turned out to be essentially a number that an FBI agent once heard and didn’t know where it came from, but thought was a “fairly reasonable figure.” (Gardner 0ffers this as an example of the use of what psychologists call the anchoring and adjustment heuristic.)

Also, FWIW, the 750,000 number from the Wired article is also quoted by the US Customs and Border Protection, which says the number comes from the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, but the IACC says the number comes from, you guessed it, the CBP.

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