The Economist Shreds BSA Cloud Credentials Piracy Numbers

from the more-bs-from-the-bsa dept

If my time at Techdirt has taught me anything, it's that anti-piracy groups will pull more numbers out of their collective behinds than The Count from Sesame Street. It's a strange tactic, if only because once they are caught cow-pooping their own figures it seems to indicate that the problem is not nearly what they're claiming and therefore their response and policy recommendations no longer worth considering. Unfortunately, many members of the esteemed 4th Branch are inclined to simply parrot these fudged stats and report them as news.

Fortunately, The Economist is willing to call out the BS the BSA put out about the scary uber-dangers of cloud piracy (ooooooooh!).

Let's start with the BSA claims, shall we? Did you realize that 30% of people in wealthy nations and 45% of people in less-wealthy nations "have a liklihood of sharing log-in credentials for paid [cloud] services?" That's the conclusion drawn by the BSA's latest study. And if that seems like a lofty number to you, it may be because it's utter bullshit.

The Economist begins by correcting the BSA's pretend numbers:
"The percentages come from a question in which people were asked if they had ever shared their log-in details for paid services. Some 15% of people in rich countries and 34% in poor countries said they had for personal use. For business use, it was 30% and 45% respectively...Moreover the respondents were only those who had paid for cloud services, which was a fraction of users. Cloud services are generally based on a “freemium” model, whereby basic use costs nothing and a premium version is paid for. According to the BSA's own data, only half of computer users tap cloud services, of which only one-third use it for business, of which two-thirds pay. Of the small subset that remain, the minority share log-ins. This changes things considerably. If the BSA figures were adjusted for all this, the potential piracy figures could be as low as between 2% and 6% of users—as much as 20 times less than the group claims. (The BSA's data is online here.)"
In other words, through the magic of pretending like only a small subset of data is the entire data, the BSA has magically turned the number two into the number thirty. This would be laudable if those numbers were fish, the readers were hungry, and the BSA was trying to claim it had perfected what I lovingly refer to as "Jesus' Fish Fry Miracle", but they aren't, dear readers. No, they're going to policy makers with this nonsense.

And that isn't even the end of the story. The piece also points out that the BSA's survey failed to ask what might just be an important question: does sharing log-in credentials with a friend violate that service's TOS? If it doesn't, that isn't piracy. But the BSA doesn't bother to ask that question because they don't care, they're just looking for numbers that support their conclusions, here.

The article then points out a couple of other ommissions on the BSA's part:

"There are other anomalies. The BSA only considered PC use, when many people use cloud services over tablets and mobile phones, especially in poor places. And the survey, of 14,702 people in 33 countries, presumes to speak with confidence about the “developing” world but not a single African country is represented—an odd omission, since it is a fast growing market."

In short, these BSA claims are a "study" in the same way that snake-handling is a "religion": it isn't.

Filed Under: copyright, economist, losses, piracy, software, stats
Companies: bsa

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 Aug 2012 @ 4:46am


    Oh come on, Timothy was a gentleman and I laughed tons.

    If my time at Techdirt has taught me anything, it's that anti-piracy groups will pull more numbers out of their collective behinds than The Count from Sesame Street.

    I will make an effort to use the term "collective behinds" more in daily conversation. I'm pretty sure the opportunity will be there several times a day for my amusement and sadness at the same time ;)

    In another news, Beech fills a complaint at the senate that some law must be enacted to make the ones that make fun with Sesame Street a felon. For the children.

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