The Economist Shreds BSA Cloud Credentials Piracy Numbers

from the more-bs-from-the-bsa dept

If my time at Techdirt has taught me anything, it's that anti-piracy groups will pull more numbers out of their collective behinds than The Count from Sesame Street. It's a strange tactic, if only because once they are caught cow-pooping their own figures it seems to indicate that the problem is not nearly what they're claiming and therefore their response and policy recommendations no longer worth considering. Unfortunately, many members of the esteemed 4th Branch are inclined to simply parrot these fudged stats and report them as news.

Fortunately, The Economist is willing to call out the BS the BSA put out about the scary uber-dangers of cloud piracy (ooooooooh!).

Let's start with the BSA claims, shall we? Did you realize that 30% of people in wealthy nations and 45% of people in less-wealthy nations “have a liklihood of sharing log-in credentials for paid [cloud] services?” That's the conclusion drawn by the BSA's latest study. And if that seems like a lofty number to you, it may be because it's utter bullshit.

The Economist begins by correcting the BSA's pretend numbers:

“The percentages come from a question in which people were asked if they had ever shared their log-in details for paid services. Some 15% of people in rich countries and 34% in poor countries said they had for personal use. For business use, it was 30% and 45% respectively…Moreover the respondents were only those who had paid for cloud services, which was a fraction of users. Cloud services are generally based on a “freemium” model, whereby basic use costs nothing and a premium version is paid for. According to the BSA's own data, only half of computer users tap cloud services, of which only one-third use it for business, of which two-thirds pay. Of the small subset that remain, the minority share log-ins. This changes things considerably. If the BSA figures were adjusted for all this, the potential piracy figures could be as low as between 2% and 6% of users—as much as 20 times less than the group claims. (The BSA's data is online here.)”

In other words, through the magic of pretending like only a small subset of data is the entire data, the BSA has magically turned the number two into the number thirty. This would be laudable if those numbers were fish, the readers were hungry, and the BSA was trying to claim it had perfected what I lovingly refer to as “Jesus' Fish Fry Miracle”, but they aren't, dear readers. No, they're going to policy makers with this nonsense.

And that isn't even the end of the story. The piece also points out that the BSA's survey failed to ask what might just be an important question: does sharing log-in credentials with a friend violate that service's TOS? If it doesn't, that isn't piracy. But the BSA doesn't bother to ask that question because they don't care, they're just looking for numbers that support their conclusions, here.

The article then points out a couple of other ommissions on the BSA's part:

“There are other anomalies. The BSA only considered PC use, when many people use cloud services over tablets and mobile phones, especially in poor places. And the survey, of 14,702 people in 33 countries, presumes to speak with confidence about the “developing” world but not a single African country is represented—an odd omission, since it is a fast growing market.”

In short, these BSA claims are a “study” in the same way that snake-handling is a “religion”: it isn't.

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Companies: bsa

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Comments on “The Economist Shreds BSA Cloud Credentials Piracy Numbers”

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LDoBe (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No they won’t. They’ve been told to explain why there hasn’t been public comment, and they have ’till August 31st.

They’ll just ignore it, and the DoJ will say: “shape up or will get very mad at you.”

The TSA will ignore that, cycle repeats, DoJ does nothing as it’s full of toothless cowards who aren’t willing to arrest relevant assholes who ignore the court.

If I am ordered to appear before the court and ignore it, I’ll have a bench warrant for arrest in much shorter than a year.

Why does the TSA who are exposing people to radiation, and constantly violating peoples’ civil and human rights get to be treated differently?

Beech (profile) says:

That is un-fucking called for! How dare you compare the BSA to the Count? In my formative years I was an avid watcher of Sesame Street and and a huge fan of The Count. Never once did the guy EVER mess up his counting. His numbers were always rock solid. And never once did they come from his “behind.”

Just goes to show that you pirate apologist techdirtbags don’t care who you throw under the bus to make your point. But hey, who cares? He’s only a foreigner, right?


But in all (read: no) seriousness, a much better burn would have been something along the lines of “The BSA’s numbers are about as funny as one of Fozzie Bear’s jokes.” Or, “With the amount of skill shown by the BSA in cooking their books, one might wonder if they hired the Sweedish Chef.”

You see? There you’re comparing the BSA being bad at the numbers to children’s characters who are similarly bad at their jobs. For reals, leave The Count alone, he does good work.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh come on, Timothy was a gentleman and I laughed tons.

If my time at Techdirt has taught me anything, it’s that anti-piracy groups will pull more numbers out of their collective behinds than The Count from Sesame Street.

I will make an effort to use the term “collective behinds” more in daily conversation. I’m pretty sure the opportunity will be there several times a day for my amusement and sadness at the same time 😉

In another news, Beech fills a complaint at the senate that some law must be enacted to make the ones that make fun with Sesame Street a felon. For the children.

Donnicton says:

Matt Reid(or someone claiming to be), Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the BSA had this to say in the comments section of the article:

I was disappointed by several distortions and inaccuracies in your story. Unfortunately, BSA did not have an opportunity to talk with you about the data ? which we offered when we shared it with you. Your reporting ? and your readers ? would have benefited by that discussion. I’d like to address a few points head on to provide your readers with a more informed perspective on the research.

Our survey on cloud usage and credential-sharing behavior was conducted as part of the wider survey research done for our Global Software Piracy Study. In it, we highlight the trend that many people who use paid-for cloud services are sharing credentials. Paid-for cloud services still represent a small portion of the overall IT market ? though the numbers are growing fast. By looking at trends among those who are using paid for cloud services today, we are able to anticipate some of the potential issues that will develop as this market continues to grow. And, while it is possible to calculate these numbers as a portion of the overall IT market as you have done, that tells you very little in terms of the trends among cloud users today.

Regarding the countries selected for the study, Ipsos conducted surveys in 33 countries representing a mix of geographies, levels of IT sophistication, and geographic and cultural diversity. The survey countries are selected on a rotation to maximize worldwide coverage year over year while ensuring that most markets are surveyed at least once every three years. South Africa and Nigeria were surveyed last year as part of that rotation.

Finally, your summation of the methodology for our Global Software Piracy Study is flatly wrong, both in the 2005 story you link to, and in this article. Determining piracy rates and the commercial value of pirated software is a complex endeavor. We do not, as you suggest, simply multiply ?the estimated number of computers containing pirated software with the retail price of the software.? Instead, as part of our research, IDC determines how many software units were installed in a given year, how many units were licensed (including paid-for software as well as open source/freeware), and also carefully estimates pricing in each market ? including retail, volume license, OEM, free, open source ? across five categories of software. The average software unit price is significantly lower than retail prices one would find in stores. This information is readily available in the methodology section of our study and on our website.

BSA recently asked two independent academics to review the methodology for our study to help us improve on the research. Their assessment is that the BSA methodology represents a ?rigorous and well-designed effort? and provides ?reliable estimates of piracy rates and the commercial value of pirated software.? Their full assessment can be found in the Global Piracy Study section of our website.

We appreciate your acknowledgement that piracy is a serious problem, but would also value the opportunity to help you better understand our research.

Matt Reid
Senior Vice President, External Affairs
Business Software Alliance

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

um, that’s a lot like doubling down without backing up your assertions, Mr. Reid. That’s not smart. The methodologies used in these “costs of piracy” studies are highly flawed, as the people performing the study cannot access all the numbers, including those who pirated, and then bought and told their friends about the software.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My friend is a Biologist and he works with snakes (in some sort of research and conservation facility). Does that make him the priest? Or THE priest?

Or is Samuel L. Jackson THE priest?

On a side note, I always thought this was an internet meme. But it’s a goddamn film. Today, looking for the banner, I lost my faith in humanity.

ejoftheweb (profile) says:

bogus arithmetic

I worked in copyright licensing for twenty years. I still think that authorship creates some kind of link to the work authored, which is the principle at the heart of copyright. In the business, I spoke out against using bogus arithmetic to support ludicrous claims. Real numbers based on solid evidence make a real – if not so spectacular – case. But the people who paid me didn’t want to hear me telling them not to be stupid.

So now I’m a baker. Oh well.

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