How Reliable Are Industry Announced Piracy Statistics?

from the depends-on-your-definition-of-reliable dept

Eric Goldman sent in a link to a recent research paper that aimed to look at the reliability of industry-released reports on piracy. That sounded interesting, as we've spent plenty of posts picking apart why almost all of their released numbers are bogus. In particular, we've pointed out how incredibly bogus the BSA's statistics are. So, it was somewhat surprising to have the study say that the BSA's were the most reliable, when compared to other groups like the RIAA and MPAA. If anything, though, that really just suggested that the RIAA's and MPAA's stats were even more bogus (remember, things actually got so bad for the MPAA that it had to admit how bogus its own stats were). That actually seems likely, as the BSA is the most upfront about the methodology used.

However, reading through the actual report, it does little to vindicate the piracy numbers that the industry reports always trumpet. That's because the report actually focuses on the rate of unauthorized use, rather than the cost or impact of that unauthorized use -- which is the key point to come out of these reports. The rate of unauthorized use is fairly meaningless, so it doesn't matter that much who is the most accurate. It's the impact that matters. While reports used to do silly things like count every unauthorized copy as a lost sale, most have stopped that, and now use a multiplier. Some have started using a questionable ripple effect that counts the same loss multiple times and ignores the "ripple effects" in the other direction that benefit the industry. So, yes, perhaps the BSA is the best of a bad bunch, but even if the rate of unauthorized use is somewhat accurate, that has little bearing on the actual impact of those unauthorized copies.
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Filed Under: copyright, impact, piracy stats, reliability
Companies: bsa, mpaa, riaa


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  1. identicon
    JS Beckerist, 27 Mar 2008 @ 12:29pm

    Re: it's called piracy math

    Well let's be serious about this! Granted I'm using massive hyperbole and insane "guestimates" but...here we go:

    71% of the current US population uses the internet. 71% of 3x10^8 = 213,000,000 US internet users. (A)
    44% of all internet connections are broadband. I think it's safe to say there isn't much piracy over dialup (at least enough to ignore for the purpose of this demonstration.) That leaves 94 million broadband users in the US. (B)
    Of that 94,000,000 people, it's said that 65% use it from home as opposed to work (C). I would assume most piracy is from home too, and not in the workplace. Even allowing tolerances of 10%, that means that of the 94,000,000 people, 70,000,000 people:
    Are using the internet over broadband from home.
    Of that 70,000,000 people, only 57% download music (D) leaving only 40,000,000 people to download music.
    According to Wired, 200,000,000 people use iTunes (E). According to MacObserver, 100,000,000 people use iTunes (F). So let's say that only 20% of the worlds iTunes users are from the US. Of the 200,000,000 world users, only 40,000,000 are from the US.

    Therefore, since there are 40,000,000 iTunes users in the US, and there are 40,000,000 individuals that download music in the US, all music downloaded MUST be legal...

    ...at least using piracy math!


    Sources:
    (A) http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm
    (B) http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/08s1128.pdf
    (C) http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/08s1127.pdf
    (D) http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/08s1129.pdf
    (E) http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mac/commentary/cultofmac/2005/10/69193
    (F) http://www.macobserver.com/stockwatch/2005/10/17.1.shtml

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