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by Leigh Beadon

Filed Under:
bogus stats, bsa, canada, software piracy

As Usual, Media Outlets Mindlessly Parrot BSA Press Releases With Zero Scrutiny

from the par-for-the-course dept

When the BSA released its annual report on software piracy, Mike dubbed it "Bogus Stats Again", because as usual it employs plenty of ridiculous methodologies and unfounded assumptions to inflate the supposed economic loss. The BSA doesn't have to worry, though, because most members of the media just obediently parrot their highlighted "findings" without even bothering to read the report, let alone read it critically.

As reader Robert points out, this is certainly the situation in Canada, where multiple different sources of news are running the same Canadian Press wire story about the BSA report. The CP story is completely one-sided, and certainly makes the situation sound dire:

The value of computer software piracy in Canada totalled just more than $1.1 billion last year with 40 per cent of computer users admitting they acquired software illegally, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Business Software Alliance study found that nearly one in three copies of software was unlicensed in Canada in 2011.

"If 40 per cent of consumers admitted they shoplift -- even rarely --authorities would react by increasing police patrols and penalties," said Jacquie Famulak, head of the Business Software Alliance Canada committee.

"Software piracy demands a similar response: concerted public education and vigorous law enforcement," Famulak said in a news release.

That story is based solely on the BSA's press release (pdf), which draws partially from the global study and partially from the Canadian user survey (pdf). If a single reporter or editor had bothered to spend five minutes doing research, they might have realized that the real picture is much different. The news reports sloppily mash together the 40% figure with the "nearly one in three" (specifically 27%) figure. The former is the number of users who admitted to pirating software in a survey, and the latter is the estimated percentage of pirated software as a portion of total software installs. The methodology behind both figures is highly questionable, but even putting that aside, the BSA's own numbers tell another story when examined more closely. For example, the 40% figure is a summary of several different categories. Take a look at the full graph:

Only 14% of people said they pirated software any more than "rarely", and only 6% said more than "occasionally". To say that 40% of people admitted to piracy is not technically inaccurate—it's just highly misleading in tone and tenor. Then there's the 27% piracy rate for software. The press release, and the news reports that copy it, leave out a very important detail: 27% is an all-time low, and the result of a steeper decline than in any other country in the world. Michael Geist points this out, plus the fact that the BSA called Canada a "low-piracy" country in 2009, and rates have steadily declined since:

For the past few years, the BSA report has repeatedly found that piracy is declining in Canada. In 2009, Canada was characterized as a "low piracy country", in 2010 the industry noted that Canada's piracy rate was at an all-time low, and last year it dropped further to another all-time low.

The latest report says the Canadian piracy rate dropped further in 2011. In fact, over the past five years, the Canadian rate has dropped by 18% (from 33% to 27%), the sharpest decline in the world. No other country has seen its piracy rate drop as quickly.

Seems like that would have been worth mentioning in a story that gets distributed to news outlets across the country. But instead, we see the same pattern all over the world: Europe, the UK, South Africa, India, Malaya—anywhere the BSA put out a press release. Thanks to some combination of laziness, incompetence and indifference ingrained in the mass-media news cycle, the BSA can say what it wants and rely on the press to be its own personal PR vehicle.

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  1. icon
    BeeAitch (profile), 25 May 2012 @ 1:51am


    not really, the numbers can be used to say what your looking for, you dont agree with the 40%, so you rip apart the graph to interpret what you want, then you don't even use the correct numbers, are you slightly color blind mike?, not a snarky remark, was wondering

    Ignoring the obvious spelling and grammar mistakes (which don't help to make your point, BTW), you criticize the OP for cherry picking (which is false, but anyway), then you cherry pick. Fail.

    Always 2%
    Mostly 4%
    Occasionally 8%
    rarely 26%
    never 54%
    Dont Know/Refuse 6%

    lets do math, those who admit to it, 2+4+8+26=40%

    you 'could, could' (sic) also add the 6% who dont know or refused to answer, as a "possible" indication of guilt and claim 46% pirate software and not be technically wrong

    You could add the 6% of "don't know" if you were being disingenuous. How many of the other 40% Weren't able to buy the product legally, or tried and then bought, or just plain weren't served by the market? Surveys suck at specific answers.

    And yes, you would be technically wrong. And generally wrong. Let's just say: you are wrong.

    It all depends on how the questions are put forth.

    Have you stopped beating your wife yet, AC?

    but, who is being disingenuous here?

    You are being disingenuous.

    Only 14% of people said they pirated software any more than "rarely"," above rarely is Always, Mostly, Occasionally
    so in other words, 14% of the people pirate the software at all times and 26% pirate rarely, adding together gives you......40% software pirates....

    Non-sequitur. You make no sense here whatsoever. Take the cock out of your mouth and try again.

    this is why i asked about the color blind, could also be a typo on your part as well, ""and only 6% said more than "occasionally"."" occasionally is 8%, DK/refuse is 6%

    Now you like Mike? Make up your mind. Or are you schizophrenic?

    "To say that 40% of people admitted to piracy is not technically inaccurate—it's just highly misleading in tone and tenor."" you try to cover yourself here, with your "not technically inaccurate"" bit, you admit it is NOT WRONG, but yet you still feel right claiming it is misleading????, the numbers are not misleading, you are steering people to see only what you wish them to see with your story

    ...and you finally lost it all. Good luck to you (and your therapist, he'll need it).

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