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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 3:51pm

    "40 per cent"

    LOL

    Stupid fuckers

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 5:44pm

      Re:

      yeah I agree these are the same stupid F's who reprinted a CCIA propaganda piece researched by some tech blogger without a clue! hang um'!

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 12:50am

        Re: Re:

        more censorship I see... how very SOPA of you, not very OPEN...

        so,yeah I agree these are the same stupid F's who reprinted a CCIA propaganda piece researched by some tech blogger without a clue! hang um'!

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 3:59pm

    software not FULLY licensed?

    If I was given this survey question, I'd be thinking about the demo-ware programs I've used (i.e. the programs that have annoying pop-ups or features disabled until you buy the full version).

    They're casting too wide a net with their survey.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous 314159, May 24th, 2012 @ 6:24pm

      Re: software not FULLY licensed?

      That's the reason why they included the "or not fully-licensed" bit: so they could inflate the numbers.

       

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        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 24th, 2012 @ 7:09pm

        Re: Re: software not FULLY licensed?

        What qualifies as "not fully licensed"? I have software here that's 100% free for home use, but it has an option for a license. I use it exclusively for home use, so it would qualify as legal, but would it qualify as fully licensed?

         

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          BeeAitch (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 1:20am

          Re: Re: Re: software not FULLY licensed?

          "I have software here that's 100% free for home use, but it has an option for a license. I use it exclusively for home use, so it would qualify as legal, but would it qualify as fully licensed?"

          No, hence the inflated numbers.

          (I know your question was rhetorical, I answered for the benefit of the slow. What do you want to bet they still don't get it?)

           

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    The news reports sloppily mash together the 40% figure...


    We see again what the relaxing of the ownership of the newsmedia has resulted in with the parroting of this article with out fact checks. The merger mania that has gripped this country has lead to mass layoffs. News today isn't what news was yesteryear. Instead you have a few people so-called reporting the news and they are not doing 'feet on the pavement' reporting but rather they are taking syndicated feeds and either reprinting them wholesale or rewriting them to seem that their local outlet was somehow responsible for the reporting.

    Gone is the day of the investigative reporting. Gone is the holding political offices and politicians responsible for their misdeeds. You can see this action in force, from the methods used to punish whistle blowers right on down to the incidents of reaction to Wikileaks over the exposure of what the US diplomats were doing in the citizens' names without having to expose the actions to public scrutiny.

    Today's news comes straight from the American version of Pravda.

     

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    Rich Kulawiec, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:04pm

    Let's just be blunt about this

    The BSA are lying assholes who make up stuff to please their corporate masters. Their reports are fiction, and anyone taking either the organization or its output seriously is a tool.

    Yes, alright, alright, I know I'm being far too kind. Sorry. I'll try to do better.

     

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    •  
      icon
      gorehound (profile), May 24th, 2012 @ 4:59pm

      Re: Let's just be blunt about this

      I should "Pirate" their Name for a new punk rockin sideband..........
      BSA for Bull Shit Art !!!
      Let us all use the Name BSA ! The Organization who floats in scum.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 6:11pm

        Re: Re: Let's just be blunt about this

        yeah! rabble, rabble, rabble! corporate bad! rabble, rabble, rabble... the CCIA corporate propaganda is the only kind that should be allowed! yeah! rabble, rabble, rabble! LOL...

         

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          Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 12:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Let's just be blunt about this

          and even more censorship! awesome! It's a censor party!

          this must really be a touchy subject, huh? creating propaganda for the CCIA is OK to be reported without review, but now the BSA... oh for love of the double standard I do love the hypocrisy...

          afraid the bosses at the CCIA might not like to have their covers pulled?

           

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            Niall (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 2:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Let's just be blunt about this

            I love how your argument is to rail against the (non-existent) censorship of a stupid post that adds nothing to the conversation (much like your post), but that you really can't add anything meaningful more than "BSA rool, CCIA suk, rah!"

             

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          BeeAitch (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 1:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Let's just be blunt about this

          U mad, bro?

           

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 9:17am

          Re: Re: Re: Let's just be blunt about this

          And who are you again...?

           

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    identicon
    Jeremy, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    Was the person who made that pie chart color blind?

    Really now, different shades of blue to determine which percentage? What a horrible chart. It looks like it was made so that it would be harder for people to take any knowledge away form it.

     

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      Chosen Reject (profile), May 24th, 2012 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Was the person who made that pie chart color blind?

      I can assure you that the person was not color blind. As someone who is, I probably would have used drastically different colors (no matter how ugly it looked) or more likely, not used a pie chart at all. The day everyone stops using pie charts will be a happy day.

       

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    Greevar (profile), May 24th, 2012 @ 4:09pm

    Of course Canada would be dropping.

    They have severe data caps on most of their ISP's. How can they download software if they have a 10-20GB cap per month?

    I'd like to see a side by side comparison of their reductions rates and the rate that people are accessing legal software from online sources. I have a feeling that the low data caps are reducing legal traffic as well.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

    I can't speak for others but I can say with 100% certainty that in the past 5 years or so I didn't acquire any illegal software.

    What I did though was look up what a piece of software did and find an open source alternative :)

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:32pm

    a)if the report told the truth, it wouldn't sound as interesting
    b)if the report told the truth, there would be no need for the BSA
    c)if the report told the truth and there was no BSA, there would be no Jacquie Famulak. she's gonna spin as much bull shit as possible to keep herself employed
    d)if the report told the truth, governments would need to find other excuses to keep backing the entertainment and software industries, ramping up copyright laws, penalising the public and classing everyone as a criminal so that more and worse surveillance bills can be introduced!

     

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    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
       
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 6:14pm

      Re:

      a)if the report told the truth, it wouldn't sound as interesting
      b)if the CCIA report told the truth, there would be no need for the CCIA
      c)if the report told the truth and there was no CCIA, there would be no MM. he's gonna spin as much bull shit as possible to keep himself employed
      d)if the report told the truth, governments would need to find other excuses to keep backing the tech and internet industries, ramping up disinformation, creating false fear in the public and classing everyone as a censor so that more and worse exploitation can be introduced!

      yeah... what I thought too...

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 12:55am

        Re: Re:

        ok, now I get it... any post that mentions the CCIA propaganda that they pay a tech blogger to write and distribute should NOT be mentioned in a thread about how corporate propaganda is distributed and reported in the press without review?

        it's a TD CCIA censorship party! yeah!

        a)if the report told the truth, it wouldn't sound as interesting
        b)if the CCIA report told the truth, there would be no need for the CCIA
        c)if the report told the truth and there was no CCIA, there would be no MM. he's gonna spin as much bull shit as possible to keep himself employed
        d)if the report told the truth, governments would need to find other excuses to keep backing the tech and internet industries, ramping up disinformation, creating false fear in the public and classing everyone as a censor so that more and worse exploitation can be introduced!

        yeah... what I thought too...

         

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      •  
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        BeeAitch (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 1:23am

        Re: Re:

        Your desperation smells good. Please keep it up.

         

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        •  
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          Ninja (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 5:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Just thought that. And it's amusing most ppl are just ignoring and not replying. Makes for a study here: at what degree of trolling ppl will simply 'heh' and don't bother to play with the troll?

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 11:54am

      Re: holy censorship batman!

      Holy censorship batman! You guys have completely removed multiple comments! WOW now that is SOPA CENSORSHIP...

      Thou shall not call out the CCIA on their propaganda and false stats as researched by a tech blogger! Oh, no, no, no...

      a)if the report told the truth, it wouldn't sound as interesting
      b)if the report told the truth, there would be no need for the CCIA
      c)if the report told the truth and there was no CCIA, there would be no MM. he's gonna spin as much bull shit as possible to keep himself employed
      d)if the report told the truth, internet co's would need to find other excuses to keep backing scaring the public and government, from enforcing copyright laws, penalising the public and classing everyone censors so that more and worse exploitation can be introduced!

      this time I'll take screen shots! oh for the hypocrisy!

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 5:24pm

        Re: Re: holy censorship batman!

        How big of an idiot are you? No comments have been removed. Are you to stupid to read the little pink line that says 'click me to read idiocy!'?

         

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        Leigh Beadon (profile), May 26th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

        Re: Re: holy censorship batman!

        You have an odd definition of "completely removed"

        Also of "censorship"

        Persecution complex, perhaps?

         

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    bill, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:37pm

    Anonymous Coward it sounded very INTERESTED!!!!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 4:54pm

    "..."nearly one in three" (specifically 27%) figure."

    With the penny on the way out, does this mean we will pay $0.35 for something costing $0.27?

    /s

     

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      Niall (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 2:31am

      Re:

      I like how they get from 'just over one in four' (25+2%) to the much further 'nearly one in three' (33-6%). Why not go the whole hog and say that 40% = 'nearly everyone'?

       

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    JustSomeGuy, May 24th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    Just like the phrase "to say that 40% of people admitted to piracy is not technically inaccurate" is misleading in tone and tenor.

    What that seems to imply is that the information is bogus but was presented in such a way that makes it look valid. Hear how different it sounds if you phrase it as "is technically accurate" :-)

    But, in fact, it that 40% figure _is_ valid. Totally valid, unlike most statistical manipulations I've seen in the past. Every one of the respondents, except the 54% who said they didn't pirate and the 6% who said "Get lost", _did_ admit to piracy. Even if "rarely" meant "once in my lifetime", that's still correct.

     

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      MrWilson, May 24th, 2012 @ 5:52pm

      Re:

      But this survey is being represented as being of current significance. People could indeed have interpreted the question to be asking if they have ever obtained software that is not fully licensed in their entire lifetimes. But it's not a relevant figure to include in a percentage of people "who admit to software piracy" the people who copied a floppy disk in the 80's or people who used shareware in the 90's after the trial period was over.

       

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    Gwiz (profile), May 24th, 2012 @ 5:45pm

    A Small Critique

    I'm not critiquing the article whatsoever, just the graph.

    A little more contrast in colors would be nice. That graph is a bit tough to decipher.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 6:55pm

    I pirate everything under the sun, but can honestly say I haven't pirated a piece of software in a long, long time. Open source has rendered that pointless

     

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      identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, May 25th, 2012 @ 3:44am

      Re:

      Excellent point. And that's one reason why all of these studies are horribly flawed: they're not measuring piracy rates, they're measuring open source conversion rates.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

    This has absolutely nothing to do with "laziness, incompetence and indifference" in the media. On the contrary, they are the exact opposite. The issue is that they no longer see themselves as reporters or journalists, they see themselves as "content creators", and/or owned by large "content creators". Of course, that term is in quotes because they almost never create their own content, but that's how they see themselves. It's a symptom of the much larger problem of the ownership mentality. How often have we had stories about news agencies locking away information behind paywalls, and threatening lawsuits for just linking to an article? Of course they're going to parrot the BSA's report, because it's exactly what they themselves want to hear.

    There is no laziness involved. That's what's scary.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 8:50pm

    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

    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%

    hmm...40%....
    you could, could 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

    but, who is being disingenuous here?

    "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....


    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%

    ""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

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 24th, 2012 @ 9:43pm

      Re:

      Wow, you didn't even make it one sentence without making yourself look dumb.

       

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

      Re:

      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%

      hmm...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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      Leigh Beadon (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 6:46am

      Re:

      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%


      "Only 6% said more than occasionally"

      As in, 4% for mostly + 2% for always = 6% more-than-occasionally.

       

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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 3:55am

    Please remember most of our news media outlets are owned by the entertainment companies. Should this be a surprise they're publishing the same misinformation?

    After all, they're the Masters of Misinformation.

     

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    Dog On a Teflon Floor (profile), May 25th, 2012 @ 7:13am

    Anyone know what 40% of a 5th Estate is?

     

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    Any Mouse, May 25th, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    Let's keep in mind the question. It says 'pirated or not fully licensed.' See, to me that includes software that is acquired legally but without a full license. Trial versions, versions for home use, etcetera. Given the question, it is not possible to conclude that any of these people pirate even as often as the report suggests.

     

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