GAO Concludes Piracy Stats Are Usually Junk, File Sharing Can Help Sales
from the completely,-painfully-unsurprising dept
For many years we’ve explored how entertainment and software industry piracy statistics are very reliable — at least in terms of being consistently and notoriously wrong on an annual basis. Each year companies (especially the BSA) like to throw out marginally-coherent data "proving" the supposedly-huge impact piracy has on the economy, national security or employment. The claims are quickly debunked as nonsense — yet the same claims return year after year, and often get cited by U.S. politicians as gospel.
Carl was the first amongst many to direct our attention to a new study by the GAO on the effects of piracy (covering all sectors, even toys, clothing, automobile parts, and medicine). The GAO’s study unsurprisingly found that U.S. government and industry claims that piracy damages the economy to the tune of billions of dollars "cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies." The full GAO report is worth a read, and not only argues that claims of economic impact have not been based on substantive science — but that file sharing can actually have a positive impact on sales:
"Some experts we interviewed and literature we reviewed identified potential positive economic effects of counterfeiting and piracy," The GAO wrote. "Some consumers may knowingly purchase a counterfeit or pirated product because it is less expensive than the genuine good or because the genuine good is unavailable, and they may experience positive effects from such purchases. Consumers may use pirated goods to ‘sample’ music, movies, software, or electronic games before purchasing legitimate copies," the GAO continued. "(This) may lead to increased sales of legitimate goods."
Study after study have supported the conclusion that file sharers purchase more media — though the idea never resonates the same way as claims of economic armageddon caused by file sharing. While the GAO’s report does obviously highlight some of the negative impacts of counterfeiting, the GAO goes on to argue that any overarching conclusions of piracy’s impact on the broader economy may not even be possible. The GAO was instructed to study piracy’s impact as part of the Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (PRO-IP Act) — which delivered plenty of handouts to the entertainment industry. ProIP was ironically pushed through using unreliable studies to justify its creation. Of course we’ll soon be swimming in new dubious data “proving” the GAO wrong — and around and around we go.