by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 2nd 2011 2:50pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 9th 2010 4:25am
from the surely-that's-not-the-best-use-of-money? dept
Of course, this ignores the fact that such organized crime groups have actually discovered that it's harder and harder to make money with counterfeit software -- because more and more such software is just available for free online, leaving little reason to pay anything for it, especially from counterfeiters. But, what strikes me as most interesting through the blatantly ridiculous claims throughout the article from Microsoft's folks and its stand-ins at the BSA, is that all the company is really doing here is spending a ton of money to convince people to look at cheaper (or free) alternatives.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 18th 2010 7:24am
from the the-lies-the-bsa-tells dept
The latest is equally as ridiculous and makes the BSA look even more uninformed than usual. As a whole bunch of you have sent in, the BSA apparently sent the European Commission a letter, objecting to the proposed "European Interoperability Framework for European Public Services." You can read the letter below:
The BSA argues that "[m]any of today's most widely-deployed open specifications incorporate patented innovations that were invented by commercial firms...including WiFi, GSM , and MPEG."It really does make you wonder why anyone takes the BSA seriously these days, as it's even more ridiculous and unbelievable than your average protectionist industry trade association. What's amazing is that the folks at the BSA actually think such buffoonery is a good idea, when all it's really continued to do is sap the organization of pretty much any credibility.
This is an attempt to create a false dichotomy between "commercial" companies inventing patented technology, in contrast to "non-commercial" inventions which are not patented. In reality a great wealth of unpatented modern technology originating in commercial companies constitute globally implemented standards (such as HTML5), whilst continuing to provide their creators with revenue. There is no such divide, either economical or ideological, between hardware and software technologies which are patented, and those which are not. Yet the BSA divisively implies there is a difference between conventional and accepted business methods, which they associate with patents, and un-businesslike non-commercial organisations, which they associate with patent-free technology. Given the increasing prevalence of Free Software in Europe's IT service market, such a claim is plainly false.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 12th 2010 9:47am
from the do-they-get-anything-right? dept
Still, given how incredibly careful supporters of ACTA have been to scream "it's not a treaty!" every time anyone calls it a treaty, it's quite amusing to see the BSA, an active ACTA supporter, flat out call it a treaty and falsely claim that 37 countries have already signed on and agreed to imposing criminal penalties for software infringement. That's not true. No countries have signed on yet. 37 countries may have been involved in the negotiations, but that's no guarantee that any of them would sign on and some of the text is still very much in flux (thanks to Jamie Love for pointing out the BSA announcement).
Given the BSA's track record on accuracy, it should be no surprise that they would be so sloppy here as well. But, it does show how those involved view ACTA. To them, it's a treaty, and it's a done deal. In this case, perhaps the BSA is being a lot more honest than others in admitting what's really going on...
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 29th 2010 9:09pm
from the well,-look-at-that dept
Of course, most people know better than this, but a recent Matt Asay column highlights how more and more of the world moves to open source and cloud-based solutions could seriously change that equation. In it, there's a lovely tidbit about how much the BSA itself doesn't seem to believe its own claims about open source software -- or, even that good software is worth paying a license for:
Ironically, the BSA has discovered one of the few ways to "pirate" open-source software, and is apparently an advocate. The BSA's website apparently runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone CentOS. Surely a license-respecting organization like the BSA would want to pay full freight for a RHEL license rather than undermine Red Hat by choosing CentOS? Evidently not.Yes, so even in a case where the BSA itself can pay for a nice open source license, it chose to go with a free version instead. This is, of course, perfectly legal. But it seems pretty ridiculous that the BSA would claim that others wouldn't do what it seems to have done. That said, as you look into the details, it appears that the main BSA site does, in fact, run on Microsoft IIS (I'm sure with a nice license from BSA favorite member, Microsoft). The site that was claimed to be on CentOS was a separate "educational" (and I use that term loosely) site called b4usurf.org (gotta love the attempt to sound relevant using txt-spk). Oddly, I can't find any info on what that site now runs on Netcraft. Anyone have a better way of figuring this out?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 17th 2010 5:22pm
from the not-again dept
This year's study, of course, was no different than in past years, so we'll point you once again to the explanation we put together in 2008 of how the BSA blatantly misleads with statistics.
Beyond the basic report, though, the BSA likes to dribble out other ridiculous claims based on the same report from May. The latest, is the blatantly false and simply laughable claim that "reducing software piracy would inject $142 billion into the global economy and create nearly 500,000 new jobs. This is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it's been widely debunked a variety of times. There are two key (but related) problems. The first, is that IDC/BSA count "ripple effects," which they don't seem to realize mean double, triple or quadruple counting the same dollars. But, more importantly, they only count those "ripple effects" in one direction. That is, they look at how they believe software companies would make more money (and then hire more people and pay more taxes) if there was less software piracy, but they don't even pretend to cover how paying for such software would mean tons of others would employ fewer people and pay less in taxes.
And, if you dig into the details, as Glyn Moody recently did (amusingly, after having to dig through many, many different reports to finally discover IDC's questionable methodology), you realize that reducing software piracy actually would probably do more harm than good for jobs and tax revenue in many areas:
One thing that is always omitted in these analyses is the fact that the money *not* paid for software licenses does not disappear, but is almost certainly spent elsewhere in the economy (I doubt whether people are banking all these "savings" that they are not even aware of.) As a result, it too creates jobs, local revenues and taxes.Of course, a bunch of folks have been pointing out these kinds of problems with IDC's research methods and with the BSA's claims about them for the better part of a decade. At what point do people start actually holding IDC and the BSA accountable for blatantly lying with stats?
Put another way, if people had to pay for their unlicensed copies of software, they would need to find the money by reducing their expenditure in other sectors. So in looking at the possible benefit of moving people to licensed copies of software, it is also necessary to take into account the *losses* that would accrue by eliminating these other economic inputs.
One important factor is that proprietary software is mainly produced by US companies. So moving to licensed software will tend to move profits and jobs *out* of local, non-US economies. Taxes may be paid on that licensed software, but remember that Microsoft, for example, minimises its tax bill in most European countries by locating its EU headquarters in Ireland, which has a particularly low corporate tax rate....
So in addition to causing money to be taken out of the country (and hence the local economy), licensed software would probably also bring in far less tax than money previously spent on local goods and services, which would generally pay the full local taxes.
Another factor that would tend to exacerbate these problems is that software has generally had a higher profit margin than most other kinds of goods: this means any switching from buying non-software goods locally to buying licensed copies of software would reduce the amount represented by costs (because the price is fixed and profits are now higher). So even if these were mostly incurred locally, switching from unlicensed to licensed copies would still represent a net loss for the local economy.
Similarly, it is probably the case that those working in the IT industry earn more than those in other sectors of the economy, and so switching a given amount of money from industries with lower pay to IT, with its higher wages, would again *reduce* the overall number of jobs, not increase them, as the report claims.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 21st 2010 6:39am
from the lies,-damn-lies,-and-the-bsa dept
Glyn Moody points us to an article looking at the report's coverage of South Africa, and notes not only did IDC/BSA not survey anyone in South Africa, they're using these totally made up numbers to push for new copyright laws. As for how ridiculous the numbers are, well, here's the quick explanation:
How was the 35 percent rate arrived at? It's a guess, or rather, a combination of guesses combined with some market data and presented as a final authoritative percentage.Yup. It's not statistics when that makes IDC/BSA look bad. But when you ask them how they made up their numbers, suddenly it's a statistical analysis.
South Africa wasn't surveyed at all for the current report.
The BSA says surveys were conducted in 28 countries representing "a mix of geographies, levels of IT sophistication, and geographic and cultural diversity". These included, among others, China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Germany and Italy.
IDC extrapolates numbers from the 28 countries to form conclusions about the 111 that appear in the final report. But even for those countries that are surveyed, the sample size is woefully small given the number of PCs there are in the world: just 6 000 consumers and 4 300 business respondents are the world's global proxy for the final results. This works out to 150 businesses per four countries.
What's the statistical error and standard deviation of this sample? The BSA in the UK told Brainstorm that the study "is not a statistical estimation or survey that lends itself to probability analysis, so there is no standard deviation."
How then is the number of applications per South African PC calculated? Using, er, statistical analysis.
But where it gets worse is that the BSA in South Africa is apparently using these totally made up "findings" to push for ever more draconian copyright law in South Africa:
Andrew Rens, an intellectual property lawyer with the Shuttleworth Foundation, is unimpressed with the proposed changes.The Brainstorm article includes some laughably generic "woe is the software industry" quotes from the local BSA representative. It also does a nice job debunking the ever-popular "ripple effects" that the BSA loves to tout, but only counts in one direction (ripple effects work both ways), and ignores the fact that it's often double, triple or quadruple counting the same dollars. It's nice to see more publications challenges the bogus BSA numbers. It really does make you wonder why so many press reports still quote them as if they were actually representative of something real.
"Over the last five months lawyers for the BSA, as well as the BSA chairperson, have been quite vocal about changes that the BSA wants made to South African law," he says. "Those changes would shift the onus of proof so that when the BSA brings a case against someone, that person would have the onus of proof on him. They claim that these changes are necessary to combat the allegedly high level of software infringement in South Africa. But now it emerges that the claims themselves are suspect...."
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 12th 2010 8:56am
from the bsa-from-the-bsa dept
We've been covering these bogus stat reports for many years, providing a detailed look at how misleading the stats are, and pointing out how many in the press simply parrot the numbers without question. Two years ago, a VP at the BSA (who's now working at the Justice Department, of course) was kind enough to call me to try to explain the BSA's numbers (along with a PR person and a representative from IDC). When I challenged them on the whole "one copy equals one sale thing" they insisted that their numbers showed such a claim was accurate.
Thankfully, in the past few years, more and more in the press have started to sound skeptical of the BSA's numbers -- but it's still a minority. Last year, the BSA did a neat trick in getting some publications to run stories about the numbers, while then saying don't pay attention to the numbers as a way of fending off anyone who criticizes how incredibly misleading the numbers are.
This year, you would think the press would be extra skeptical, given that just a few weeks ago, the GAO report pointed out that these stats are totally baseless (and yes, the BSA was one of the reports they criticized). But, looking through the press coverage, most seem to be just reporting the ridiculous claims such as "$50 billion" in "losses" due to file sharing. Lots of the reports focus on "local" findings -- with local publications just covering the claims in that local country (for example, coverage in Malaysia, China, the Persian Gulf, the UK, Korea, India, Canada, etc.). Of course, in the past, even those numbers have been called into question. Last year, after people took a more detailed look at how "piracy" stats were counted in Canada, it came out that the findings were based on pure guesses. No one in Canada was surveyed. They just made up the data.
So, really, you would think that the mainstream press would at least put up some semblance of skepticism in seeing these same bogus numbers released yet again, with no serious changes to the methodology. But, for the most part the reports just repeat the BSA's talking points. Looking through the press reports, it's tough to find coverage that expresses any skepticism at all. They just repeat the numbers -- the same numbers the US government just said were bunk -- as if they were pure fact. Just a sampling: the AFP, the BBC, ComputerWeekly, Computerworld, the UK Press Association, Network World, eWeek and many, many others.
Business Week gets credit for being one of the very, very few sources that at least mentions the GAO's findings, though it does so in one sentence at the very bottom of the article. The National Journal also mentions the GAO report -- though neither seemed to ask (or get any responses from the BSA) to this rather crucial point. ITWire, at the very least, points out that the study is basically made up, noting that:
"estimates of piracy rates are based mostly on inferences and the 'gut feeling' of the BSA's research organisation IDC;But that's about all I could find. For the most part, the press -- the one's we're told are supposed to be asking all the "tough" questions, simply reposted the BSA's press release as fact. You would think that, given that this report has come out every year for the past seven years -- and the methodology has been debunked widely time and time again -- this year by the US government -- and that the report itself admits that many of the numbers are based on hunches and guesses, that the press would stop reporting them as fact. Wishful thinking, I guess.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 16th 2009 6:31am
from the how-is-this-legal dept
I'm concerned about how the BSA bullies small companies that lose paperwork, or are victimized by angry employees who destroy the single piece of evidence the BSA considers acceptable. What evidence is that? Want to guess? If you guess wrong, you pay a fine.He also highlights how badly the deck is stacked against small companies, and how there are almost no legal rulings on these sorts of things, because the BSA and its biggest members (such as Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk) know that it's cheaper for companies to settle rather than fight in court. As you read through the article, it just gets more and more ridiculous. Here's just a sampling:
Is the original software packaging enough? Pay a fine. The Certificate of Authenticity on the computer? Pay a fine. The original disks holding the software? Pay a fine.
Adobe, another BSA founding member, has started a program to audit companies for font abuse. Yes, fonts. Each font includes a copyright and you need a license. If someone sends you a Word document with a licensed font, and that font gets used by anyone in your company, it becomes a federal case. Literally.As Glaskin notes, none of this makes using unauthorized software right (especially these days, when there are so many legitimate alternatives), but the BSA's tactics are much worse. It's difficult to see how these sorts of things are allowed -- but as we've seen, various industry associations seem to get pretty much free reign in bullying whomever they want.
One of the BSA tricks Scott really hates is its unbundling tactic. Say you have a copy of Microsoft Office you can't prove is yours. Perhaps the shipping clerk stole the invoice as he left your company to call the BSA and get a reward (it happens all the time). The BSA comes, and charges you not for one piece of software, Office, but individually for each application within Office, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Each one brings a fine for illegal use.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 14th 2009 4:01pm
from the unprotected-file-sharing-is-bad dept
First, the BSA has its widely debunked "piracy" numbers -- but it's now getting news for focusing instead on how you're going to get malware if you file share. Since it can't actually back up its bogus numbers, instead it's hoping that most people don't know that correlation doesn't mean a causal relationship -- but at least we know that most of our readers know better. The report notes that there's a correlation between higher piracy rates and higher malware infections, but seems to totally ignore exceptions to that rule (the US) or delve into other variables that may explain either the piracy rate (already questionable) or the malware rate (education levels? poverty? shared computers? etc.). Even more amusing, they claim (with no actual evidence) that those who get malware have to spend more to repair their computers than it would have cost to get the legitimate software in the first place. I have no doubt that there are risks for those who file share, but this report does nothing to show the actual risks and is yet another in a long line of weak propaganda from the BSA, that despite being called on it for years, never seems to do anything to back up its reports with facts.
Then, we have the story of the MPAA apparently sending a bunch of anti-piracy comic books to New Zealand, home of one of many different fights on how to change copyright law. The comic book, like the BSA report, involves plenty of ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims about how file sharing will unleash nasty malware and viruses all over your computers -- but drawn in nice comic book form. Can we send those kids who got the MPAA comic book a copy of the Tales from The Public Domain comic books as well? There are free digital downloads for anyone who wants to hand them out in exchange for the bogus MPAA ones....