BSA Again Lies With Stats; IDC Should Be Ashamed To Put Its Name On Pure Nonsense
from the not-again dept
For nearly a decade now, research firm IDC has done research for the Business Software Association (BSA), which BSA has long used to purposely mislead the press and politicians. Back in 2004, at least, the research at IDC was willing to admit that the BSA was being purposely misleading with its report, and yet it’s continued to do the research and stand by it year in, year out — despite the continued efforts to use the stats to flat out lie. As far as I’m concerned, this makes all IDC research totally suspect. Until IDC steps up and admits that the research it has put together does not say what the BSA claims it does, IDC has to be considered a joke.
Beyond the basic report, though, the BSA likes to dribble out other ridiculous claims based on the same report from May. The latest, is the blatantly false and simply laughable claim that “reducing software piracy would inject $142 billion into the global economy and create nearly 500,000 new jobs. This is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it’s been widely debunked a variety of times. There are two key (but related) problems. The first, is that IDC/BSA count “ripple effects,” which they don’t seem to realize mean double, triple or quadruple counting the same dollars. But, more importantly, they only count those “ripple effects” in one direction. That is, they look at how they believe software companies would make more money (and then hire more people and pay more taxes) if there was less software piracy, but they don’t even pretend to cover how paying for such software would mean tons of others would employ fewer people and pay less in taxes.
And, if you dig into the details, as Glyn Moody recently did (amusingly, after having to dig through many, many different reports to finally discover IDC’s questionable methodology), you realize that reducing software piracy actually would probably do more harm than good for jobs and tax revenue in many areas:
One thing that is always omitted in these analyses is the fact that the money *not* paid for software licenses does not disappear, but is almost certainly spent elsewhere in the economy (I doubt whether people are banking all these “savings” that they are not even aware of.) As a result, it too creates jobs, local revenues and taxes.
Put another way, if people had to pay for their unlicensed copies of software, they would need to find the money by reducing their expenditure in other sectors. So in looking at the possible benefit of moving people to licensed copies of software, it is also necessary to take into account the *losses* that would accrue by eliminating these other economic inputs.
One important factor is that proprietary software is mainly produced by US companies. So moving to licensed software will tend to move profits and jobs *out* of local, non-US economies. Taxes may be paid on that licensed software, but remember that Microsoft, for example, minimises its tax bill in most European countries by locating its EU headquarters in Ireland, which has a particularly low corporate tax rate….
So in addition to causing money to be taken out of the country (and hence the local economy), licensed software would probably also bring in far less tax than money previously spent on local goods and services, which would generally pay the full local taxes.
Another factor that would tend to exacerbate these problems is that software has generally had a higher profit margin than most other kinds of goods: this means any switching from buying non-software goods locally to buying licensed copies of software would reduce the amount represented by costs (because the price is fixed and profits are now higher). So even if these were mostly incurred locally, switching from unlicensed to licensed copies would still represent a net loss for the local economy.
Similarly, it is probably the case that those working in the IT industry earn more than those in other sectors of the economy, and so switching a given amount of money from industries with lower pay to IT, with its higher wages, would again *reduce* the overall number of jobs, not increase them, as the report claims.
Of course, a bunch of folks have been pointing out these kinds of problems with IDC’s research methods and with the BSA’s claims about them for the better part of a decade. At what point do people start actually holding IDC and the BSA accountable for blatantly lying with stats?