The Latest In Hollywood Mathematics: A 46.3% Employment Increase Equals 'Countless Jobs Lost'

from the what-is-this-i-don't-even dept

As Mike pointed out in his post concerning the “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy” report, the entities behind the push for greater IP enforcement continue to deliver laughable numbers with a straight face, expecting legislators to accept these inflated “loss” numbers with complete credulity. Also par for the course is the chorus of supportive voices echoing the catch phrases and magical loss numbers contained in the report, starting out with Techdirt favorite Creative America, which revived its mostly dormant blog to drop some quotes from AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on the continued “impact” of “digital theft” on “American jobs.”

Trumka delivered these remarks during the presentation of the report, taking time out to laud the “heavily unionized” but unsung heroes of the entertainment industry, especially those who make up the constantly-threatened demographic of “middle class professions.” Trumka does the usual “it’s not movie stars, it’s the heavily unionized middle class” that suffers the most when infringement occurs, touching on the “downstream revenues” that provide the unsung heroes with their income. And he drops the almost-obligatory (and always unchallenged) statement expressing just how many jobs have been lost to “digital theft:”

But along with billions of dollars each year, digital theft has cost the U.S. entertainment industry countless jobs.

I’m inclined to agree with Trumka’s estimate on lost jobs. It certainly is “countless.” No one trotting out this anti-piracy trope seems to be able to provide anything more specific than “billions of dollars” and “countless jobs.” You know, the Bureau of Labor does a little counting now and then and, according to its reported figures, the movie and music industries employ slightly over 400,000 people, all of whom have lost their jobs to digital theft within the past half decade, if statements like Trumka’s are to be believed.

Of course, the more Trumka says, the further away he travels from anything resembling a “fact.” His “corroborating evidence” speeds past the exit marked “Last Normal Talking Point for 500 Miles” and heads straight for the Hollywood suburb of Pure Speculation:

A 2011 report from the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated conservatively that if China protected intellectual property as the U.S. does, there would be approximately 923,000 new U.S. jobs.

So, if we’re going to take this report at face value, the entertainment industry isn’t actually losing any jobs, it’s just failing to create new ones. I haven’t “lost” every job I’ve never been hired for. Trying to claim that jobs “not created” is equal to “jobs lost” is the sort of last-ditch semantics deployed by spokesmen who know they’ve got nothing solid to work with. If Trumka’s statements are taken at face value, simply getting China to play nice with American IP would more than triple the number of people employed by the movie and music industry.

What’s even more confusing is that pro-IP groups can’t even get their own numbers to paint the same picture. The Copyright Alliance blog has its own post dealing with the “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy” report, which paints a very different picture.

Industries that rely heavily on patents, trademarks and copyrights have a significant impact on the economy and have a ripple employment effect to other industries not directly focused on IP. The report cited an employment increase of 46.3% among copyright-intensive industries between 1990 and 2011.

OK… So, which is it? Is the US creative economy leaking jobs at an alarming rate or is it stronger than it’s been in over 2 decades? If these industries can show an employment increase of 46.3% while weathering the threat of blank CDs, Napster, BitTorrent, the Pirate Bay, personal computers, DVD burners, streaming services, file lockers and, well, pretty much everything Google-related, than what seems to be the problem? Is China really eating our IP lunch? Are we somehow simultaneously losing and gaining entertainment jobs at such a breakneck pace that even those delivering talking points can’t even get on the same page of the report?

Yes, in fairness, these numbers are looking at different things. Trumka refers directly to the “entertainment industry,” which to the AFL-CIO generally refers to the motion picture industry, where unionization is more prevalent. The Copyright Alliance blog simply mentions “copyright intensive industries,” which somehow include the same industries (software, computing) that took a stand against the last major “copyright intensive” legislation push, not to mention unrelated things like “dairy products”. Nevertheless, there is quite the contradiction between the soothsaying on one end and the cheerleading on the other.

In the rush to make it appear as though many millions of Americans (40 million, according to their own numbers — 20% of the nation’s workforce) are somehow dependent on thriving “copyright intensive” industries, the cheerleading squad manages to contradict its own claims. Either the inclusion of the tech industry to the “copyright intensive” workforce is responsible for the entire 46.3% jump in employment (or more actually, considering “countless jobs lost”), or the entertainment industry (read: movies and music) isn’t shedding workers quite as fast as the surrounding panic would indicate. In fact, the industries affected the most by”digital theft” seem to rise and fall at the same rate as “non-IP intensive” industries, as indicated by information included in the IP-sky-is-falling report.

The final question remains: why would anyone believe these numbers? The jobs theoretically affected by “digital theft” range from the Bureau of Labor’s reported 400K to the industries’ own estimates, which vary from 5.1 million (“…creative community, including software, content and computing industries…”) to a thoroughly ridiculous 40 million (“…IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contributing $5 trillion dollars to the economy…”). Without a true baseline, the numbers mean nothing. “Countless jobs lost” will remain unenumerated due to a lack of information, which works out just fine for the industries’ lobbyists and spokesmen. Nothing’s scarier than unspecified amounts. Leaving the job losses “countless” allows them to be as large as anyone wants, needs or imagines them to be.


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Comments on “The Latest In Hollywood Mathematics: A 46.3% Employment Increase Equals 'Countless Jobs Lost'”

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varagix says:

Am I the only one who notices that according to that graph from the Sky Is Rising article, patent intensive industries are having a general downward trend in employment, and out of all of them, non-IP intensive industries are effected least (eyeballing it, I’d say half as much) by reductions in employment?

Also copyright is effected most by both increases and decreases in employment. But that’s probably due more to entertainment being a luxury, and thus one of the first things cut from personal spending when times are tought.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The final question remains: why would anyone believe these numbers?”

How can people willing donate big bags of campaign cash POSSIBLY be wrong about something! Are you saying that companies like BP, who gave me over $10 million in campaign contributions, don’t really know best about protecting our oceans from oil spills!

Anonymous Coward says:

‘expecting legislators to accept these inflated “loss” numbers’.

and there hangs the problem. the stupid, easily led, easily bought politicians, do accept these figures and the more they are ‘encouraged’ to accept them the more they spout the figures and back up the industries. if those on the ‘reduce copyright’ side of the fence were to hold as many meetings and give as many interviews as these people, a much more fair picture would emerge. as that doesn’t happen, everyone that matters in law enforcement and politics are able to continue down this road unchallenged.

Ed C. says:

Truth about Hollywood's jobs numbers.

To make sense of Hollywood’s endless job “loses”, you have to look at how Hollywood works. Basically, every movie is a production “company”. When the movie is finished, the majority of the employees are laid off. The little part they never mention is that those same “jobless” masses just get hired on by other productions.

If infringement had any real effect, there would be a decrease in the number of productions and real yearly employment. However, the numbers just don’t show it.



I find it ironic that they mention union jobs. I worked as a union projectionist for years and “the industry” only ever did their best to destroy my job and replace me with a high school kid. In the end, they did just that. A more anti-union trade organisation than the MPAA would be hard to find. Why are movies made in Canada when they supposedly take place in the US? To avoid paying “countless” people the going U.S. rate perhaps? “Union” has been a dirty word to moviemakers since the first silent print was developed behind Edison’s back. Now they mourn for us. Touching.

Lorpius Prime (profile) says:

I think it’s worth making the point that Techdirt’s articles (though I couldn’t say about individual authorship) have often emphasized the opportunity cost of stricter IP enforcement on innovation (i.e. that patent trolling tends to dampen the speed of invention and technology adoption). If that can be a legitimate complaint, then so could the film industry emphasizing opportunity costs of piracy on film industry employment, so that they may have a legitimate if piracy simply slowed new hiring without actually turning it negative.

I still think their copyright positions are fundamentally awful, and I’d be looking for evidence that employment is actually impacted in the way they claim. But it’s still a good idea to be wary of hypocrisy in argument.

AC Cobra says:

Unions yes - MAFIAA bullshit no!

I am a unionized film worker, one of the “middle class” Trumka refers to, and I assure you he is full of shit in this case. Does piracy hurt our industry? Yes it does take a bite out of it. Is it decimating the industry, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs? Hell, no! The actual impact of piracy is vastly overstated by the industry lobbyists and Trumka is just acting as publicity arm by passing on their message.

I find it especially disingenuous their statements about the Chinese market. Although this is the largest growing and potentially lucrative new market, who is deluded enough to think they can afford to pay first-world prices for our content? And once they get their own production capability fully up and running they will be creating their own content, they may even become a net exporter to us!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“A 2011 report from the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated conservatively that if China protected intellectual property as the U.S. does, there would be approximately 923,000 new U.S. jobs. “

All of which would immediately be offshored to countries with lower wages and fewer safety rules so they could employee as few as 300,000 people.

Ninja (profile) says:

What’s even worse than the delusional numbers the MAFIAA presents is that our politicians swallow them whole and legislate over them. But if you think about they are also legislating over the ominous and impersonal vague threat of the Anonymous. I wonder if terrorism and other threats are actually all just a product of the very fertile imagination of our Govts collective imagination.

Anonymous Coward says:


I mean… “lost sales” don’t equal a loss (not that there have been any definitive numbers on how piracy is reflected in lost sales… but the numbers that don’t come from hollywood seem to show that pirates buy ~more~ than non-pirates).
We didn’t make as much money as we wanted too, we didn’t create as many new jobs as we could have (not that the realy want to create more jobs since that would eat into their profit margins).

Why am I seeing Southpark in my head “They took my JOB”, I can only assume this is the reaction they were going for.

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