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
    Shaun, 27 Mar 2008 @ 9:09am

    Re:

    I'd have to agree on that one, as per the Bible:
    "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place"(NAS, Luke 21:32-33)
    So it's been about 2000 years since it was supposed to happen and still going strong...

    Sort of reminds me of the accuracy of the argument for DRM: if we don't use it the music will be freely spread on the internet - while everyone else says duh it still is and always has been.

    Don't know if I linked these very well - not that the link is relevant to the original post anyway. Basically waiting for something that was supposed to happen ages ago compared to saying something will happen if you change things when it already happened ages ago.

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