Why Won't Copyright Holders Run Studies On The Actual Impact Of Piracy?

from the wouldn't-they-want-to-know dept

A bunch of folks have sent in this recent O'Reilly Radar interview with Brian O'Leary, concerning the data on the impact of ebook "piracy," with many pointing to the following quote:
Data that we collected for the titles O'Reilly put out showed a net lift in sales for books that had been pirated. So, it actually spurred, not hurt, sales.
Of course, if you read the details, he's actually saying this is from a study from a couple years ago, and the focus of his point is that there really isn't enough data to say yet. He's hoping that other publishers will work with him to do more research on this subject, but so far, they haven't.

O'Leary, correctly, points out that there are lot of factors involved and it would be nice to have more data to look at the actual impact. But what really struck me is that line about how publishers simply aren't willing to collect the data and study the actual impact of unauthorized copies. I'm trying to figure out why this is. There are so many copyright holders who whine and complain about the impact of unauthorized copies, that you would think they would be all over the idea of working with some researchers to figure out the actual impact (good or bad), so that they can respond accordingly. That they refuse to do so seems oddly telling. It's as if they don't want to know. I can only speculate as to why, but as a guess, I would imagine that some firms are afraid of finding out that the impact isn't as bad as they think (or, as O'Reilly discovered, that it's positive on sales, rather than negative), and suddenly they've lost their "bogeyman" that they've been able to blame poor sales on.

Filed Under: ebooks, piracy, stats, studies
Companies: o'reilly

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  1. identicon
    JezuitX, 14 Jan 2011 @ 11:41am


    I'm just going to go out on a limb here, and say that these guys don't want to fund a study for two reasons. The first is that it's never going to be accurate. I mean how can one group find out how many folks downloaded their book when the internet is so huge? We're not just talking one or two sites hosting this stolen material we're talking about thousands or hundreds of thousands. I mean just think about that.

    How can one group possibly go around to all those sources, confirm that they were distributing the stolen work, and then ask for stats to show how many people did indeed steal it? It would be an expensive, arduous study of a group who for legal reasons probably don't want to admit they distributed the stolen work, and all this study would bring about is my second reason..."oh wow a lot of people stole our book!"

    I mean at the end of the day that's all these studies are going to come up with. I mean if you think getting accurate stats from websites is going to be tricky try tracking down the actual people who downloaded said book to see how many of them bought it or suggested it to other who then bought it. However, let's just say that someone was crazy enough to fund this survey and they got accurate results.

    We already know what they're going to say. A small number of people bought the book and recommended it to others who then bought the book. That number will still be very small compared to the actual number of people who downloaded the book illegally. The study will be published and the good people of the web will all sigh and go "but how many of those people wouldn't have bought the book if someone else wouldn't have stolen it and recommended it?" So what good does an exhaustive study of internet piracy do for a company....NONE AT ALL!

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