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
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jan 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ooootie Call.

    That is perfectly fine. It is capitalism: if you cannot run a business, get out of business. If a type of business is not successful, it dies off.

    I always get a laugh out of this argument, because it is very unrealistic in the current terms.

    What would you call it if all the stores in your area closed because of excessive shoplifting? What would you say if every visitor to a restaurant did a dine and dash, if every bar patron stiffed the bartender and took the beer without paying, or if everyone in the movie theater just snuck in?

    Would those all be unsuccessful business models?

    No, I am not comparing piracy directly to the theft of solid goods. Rather, the idea is what would happen if we as a society tolerated that level of thievery? The answer is clear, those businesses would close and that would be that. Are their business models wrong? Not in the slightest. It isn't a business issue, it's a moralistic issue.

    The public, through government, sets up copyright arrangements and permits their restrictions only because the public expects a good deal overall.

    Piracy violates that agreement. It wouldn't be such an issue if the public didn't want the product. But they do. In droves and masses. But some people feel that they can ignore the agreement made, and still enjoy the fruits without having to fulfill their side of the agreement.

    The public gets a great deal. The can see a $200 million movie for $10. They pay 0.000005% of the cost and get to enjoy the entire product. Holy crap, that is the bargain of the millennium.

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