from the lies,-damned-lies,-and-the-us-chamber-of-commerce dept
A few weeks ago, we did a step-by-step detailed debunking of the claims by the US Chamber of Commerce's Steve Tepp. He had gone on PBS News Hour to defend the illegal domain name seizures, as well as the plans for SOPA and PROTECT IP. He made claims about how "huge" a problem "rogue sites" are, and quoted some big sounding numbers in a very serious voice. We went through the details for where those numbers came from and discovered (spoilers!) that he was being extremely disingenuous in presenting the numbers. The details actually showed that he was conflating a few different issues, using ridiculously shoddy methodology, and mixing in a few dodgy assumptions on top of that. In fact, the actual numbers suggested the real problem -- that of dangerous counterfeit goods being sold, was a fairly tiny problem.
Techdirt reader Nick Dynice thought that the post would work well as a short documentary, and took it upon himself to use the post as a script to create the following video about how Steve Tepp and the US Chamber of Commerce mislead with statistics in a dishonest way to garner support for the illegal domain seizures, as well as the unconstitutional proposals for SOPA and PROTECT IP.
The issues of SOPA/PROTECT IP and censoring the internet are slowly creeping into more mainstream news sources. PBS Newshour hosted a brief debate, mostly focused on the recent domain seizures. The debate was between Steven Tepp, the former Copyright Office official, who jumped ship to the world's largest lobbying organization, the US Chamber of Commerce (who, along with the MPAA has been leading the charge in getting SOPA and PROTECT IP approved) and Larry Downes, author and consultant, whose excellent work on both the domain seizures and SOPA/PIPA we've mentioned repeatedly. Unfortunately, as you might expect in 10 minutes, it's hard for anyone to get into much depth. I think Downes made a key point early on in noting that these domain seizures are almost entirely "symbolic," since the sites themselves aren't seized.
But what I really wanted to focus on was how Tepp misleads with statistics. This is a specialty of the US Chamber of Commerce, and Tepp plays exactly to expectations here. First, you can watch the full 9 minute video, if you'd like:
And let's call out the specific examples of how Tepp misleads with stats:
"The scope of the problem is unbelievably huge. Rogue websites -- those dedicated to the theft of American intellectual property, our creative and innovative products -- get over 53 billion visits every year. That's 9 visits for every human being on the face of the earth. And they've been estimated to do at least $135 billion in harm to legitimate businesses. The products they sell are made in completely unregulated facilities, and can often be, not only shoddy, but harmful to consumers' health."
So much misleading in one little paragraph. Lets start with the 53 billion claim. Guess what? It's from a US Chamber of Commerce-funded study by an anti-piracy monitoring company called MarkMonitor. And the details suggest serious problems with the study. First, the study itself was based on Alexa, widely considered the least accurate web traffic measuring tool out there. Second, the number of "visits" to any site is an especially meaningless number -- especially when trying to discuss the actual economic impact of such visits. Who cares how many visits there are if we don't know anything about what people do on those sites?
Third, a large percentage of those visits all come from three sites: RapidShare, Megavideo and Megaupload. These are three cyberlockers that the industry has declared as "rogue," but which have significant legitimate purposes. Rapidshare, in particular, has been repeatedly ruled to be perfectly legal, both in Europe and in the US. The company follows DMCA takedown rules and has plenty of legitimate uses. Including Rapidshare in these calculations makes the whole thing a joke. And none of those sites are involved in "selling" counterfeit goods that put US citizens in harm's way.
Fourth, that "estimated to do at least $135 billion in harm," is a totally made up number. The US Chamber of Commerce cites a different MarkMonitor report to support that. But it's not actually a report or a study or anything like that at all. Instead, it's promotional "white paper" (read: sales pitch) from MarkMonitor entitled "Seven Best Practices for Fighting Counterfeit Sales Online." That report does say that "criminals" setting up ecommerce storefronts "will likely cost legitimate businesses $135 billion in lost revenue this year." But it doesn't source that number. Notably, other statistics in the report are sourced. Which makes you realize that the $135 billion is basically made up. But Tepp doesn't mention that.
Fifth, he focuses on "the products they sell." This is the really slimy part, for which Tepp should be ashamed (if the man had any shame at all). The obvious implication of all of this is that when you tie together these disparate numbers -- you've got 53 billion visits to sites selling counterfeit goods that may be harmful to consumers. We've already pointed out that the 53 billion is bogus -- but it's even more bogus when combined with this final sentence. That's because that same MarkMonitor report that gave us the 53 billion, also notes that the traffic to sites selling counterfeit goods is a minuscule percentage of the 53 billion. Specifically, the same report says that the sites selling counterfeit goods receive merely 87 million per year... or 0.1642%. That's not 16.42%. Or even 1.642%. It's 0.1642% of the total. In other words, the sites actually selling counterfeits... seem pretty small.
Sixth: even that exaggerates the problem -- because even then you'd have to assume that every one of those sites involves selling counterfeits that are shoddy or harmful. But that's crazy. Most counterfeits are merely replica versions, that are passable. They're not harmful in any way. So now we're talking about significantly less than 0.1642% of the big scary 53 billion he's talking about. Basically, the 53 billion, besides being meaningless in general, has no connection to the rest of the claims about losses and harm to consumers. It's complete and utter bunk.
What you have here is that Tepp and others are taking a real, but tiny problem: mainly an exceptionally small number of counterfeit drugs, and then pretending that the "harm" is broad and applying it to sites already judged to be perfectly legal, because some people use them for copyright infringement. The reports he relies on actually show what a tiny problem this is, but tries to mask that by lumping a bunch of totally disparate things together, from the tiny percentage of fake drugs out there... to the already judged to be legal cyberlockers like Rapidshare.
Tepp's misleading bogosity doesn't stop there. He then goes on to claim that these sites "steal jobs." Um, how? But beyond the rhetoric, lets get back to the misleading numbers. Later on he states:
"Another study, earlier this year, showed that 19 million Americans have jobs that rely on 'IP-intensive industries.' This is a huge part of the American economy. 60% of US exports are from 'IP-intensive industries' and $7.7 trillion dollars are output from 'IP-intensive industries.'"
This one we've attacked head on before. The intellectually dishonest bit here is easy to spot. It's the reliance on "IP-intensive industries." Not IP. The "study," if you can call it that, involves the biggest maximalists teaming up to fund a report that defines "IP-intensive industries" extremely broadly and then pretends that everything that comes from such industries... is because of strong IP laws. That's ridiculous, because you know who's included in the "IP intensive industries"? Basically every tech company -- including all of those which are fighting against these crazy new laws.
Tepp is being intellectually dishonest in the extreme here, suggesting that the only reason that the broadly defined "IP-intensive industries" are so successful is because of IP law. But that's showed to be bogus quite simply. As CCIA has done for years, it uses the very same methodology to show that exceptions to IP contribute more to the economy than IP laws themselves. You can't except one report without accepting the other since the methodologies are identical. There are only two logical conclusions from this: (1) the suggestion that those jobs, exports and output numbers are due to IP are complete bunk or (2) Tepp and the US Chamber of Commerce really believe we should do away with IP completely, since his own favored methodology shows that the less IP laws we have, the greater the output. So which is it, Steve?
Either way, Tepp is being painfully intellectually dishonest throughout the entire interview, citing facts and figures that are misleading in the extreme, if not completely bogus. What's unfortunate is that none of the press that lets Tepp speak his mind ever calls him on these ridiculous claims.
None of this will come as much of a surprise, but a former "anti-piracy" private investigator who worked for the MPAA's anti-piracy shell operation in Australia, AFACT, has explained to Torrentfreak how he helped inflate "piracy" numbers, was used to imply a non-existent link between infringement and drug trafficking, and how he basically handed police targets for raids. The guy was focused on physical counterfeiting of movies, and actually lost his job as the MPAA/AFACT started focusing more on online, rather than physical. But, still there are some tidbits that highlight pretty much how the MPAA twists things:
"He was adamant that we needed to boost our statistics to make the media sit up and take notice and that the large numbers would make it easier to get the local Police interested. This was especially difficult to do as local police had no jurisdiction over copyright infringing product and the AFP were desperately short on manpower. We were encouraged to find links to drugs and stolen goods wherever possible."
"We discussed the formula for extrapolating the potential street value earnings of 'laboratories' and we were instructed to count all blank discs in our seizure figures as they were potential product. Mr Gane also explained that the increased loss approximation figures were derived from all forms of impacts on decreasing cinema patronage right through to the farmer who grows the corn for popping."
"Funded solely by MPAA, AFACT lobbies hard for changes to Australian law and enhance the sexiness of their case by making vague references to links to terrorism. Sometimes not so vague. I was instructed to tell police officers that the profit margins were greater than dealing heroin. It was bizarre. A twisted logic that AFACT spewed out with monotonous regularity," Warren says.
One of the examples Warren gives is that they assumed that all burners and DVD replicators would run 24/7, making these operations appear very lucrative.
"Each burner cranking out ten discs an hour, multiplied by ten dollars per disc is potentially a hundred dollars an hour, multiplied by number of burners by hours in a year gives a yearly potential…. Very pumped up statistics."
There's a lot more in the story -- none of which is particularly surprising, but just interesting to see someone who was there come out and admit what most people knew already.
We recently noted that the MPAA was passing around a silly infographic chock full of bogus stats, and pointed out that someone had noticed that if you took the MPAA's "losses" claim seriously, it would mean that downloaders were buying 200 more DVDs per year. The MPAA folks were apparently not happy that people called them on their misleading stats, and have come out with a statement, which it claims is about "correcting the record."
If only that were true. Instead, we get more misleading bunk from the Masters of Propaganda.
First off, the MPAA admits that perhaps (just perhaps) their original graphic may have been a little misleading, and have put out a new version that moves away from implying that they were losing $58 billion, and now merely suggests that it's the US economy that loses this much money from the combined infringement on movies, music, packaged software and video games. This is complete and utter bunk -- and the MPAA folks either know this and are lying... or they're idiots. Take your pick.
The $58 billion claim comes from a study from The Institute for Policy Innovation that has been debunked so many times over, the fact that the MPAA would even bring it up is a laugh. And it's based on a very questionable analysis of the broadly defined "copyright industry." Of course, as we've noted in the past, the definition of "the copyright industry" for such studies includes all sorts of goods and services that do not rely on copyright at all, but are force-lumped into this study. So, if we're talking about actual products that rely on copyright, you probably have to ratchet down the scale by an order of magnitude. And that's just to start. From there, you have to realize that IPI's numbers use completely bogus math.
Tim Lee did an excellent job explaining the economic and mathematical fallacies of their methodology years ago (for which IPI kindly tried to get him fired from his job). The key issue is how the IPI counts "losses."
In IPI-land, when a movie studio makes $10 selling a DVD to a Canadian, and then gives $7 to the company that manufactured the DVD and $2 to the guy who shipped it to Canada, society has benefitted by $10+$7+$2=$19. Yet some simple math shows that this is nonsense: the studio is $1 richer, the trucker is $2, and the manufacturer is $7. Shockingly enough, that adds up to $10. What each participant cares about is his profits, not his revenues.
Furthermore, in IPI and MPAA fantasy-land, dollars not spent on movies simply disappear from the economy. And yet, anyone can tell you that's simply not true. That money continues to be spent elsewhere, and plenty of studies have shown that, despite growing infringement online, the amount of money that individuals spend on entertainment continues to rise.
So why would the MPAA rely on this number, which is so obviously false? Because it doesn't care about the truth or accuracy or "correcting the record." The MPAA's job is to get Congress to pass laws that divert money from what the market wants to its legacy studios who are slow to adapt. So it will use any number it can get its hands on, no matter how ridiculous. It's just that this time it got called on it, so it had to scramble to try to make the number look even a little bit legit...
We recently wrote about how the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, whose sole actual claim to fame appears to be that it takes on more students than any other law school, was suing some online critics. It had actually filed two lawsuits, one was against some online critics, and the other was against a law firm that had clearly been sniffing around some Cooley practices. Well, now the other shoe has dropped and, as ShellMG points out, that same law firm has sued Cooley in a class action lawsuit, claiming that the school posts false claims about its postgraduate employment rates. This is, clearly, what Cooley was trying to stave off with its original lawsuit, since in its lawsuit against the Kurzon Strauss law firm, it highlighted a message posted to a legal board asking students to come forward with information about Cooley's employment stats. Of course, the fact that Cooley sued first (with, as many people pointed out, lawyers who graduated from other schools) kind of makes you wonder what the school is hiding. That is, rather than wait to see if the law firm actually had anything, Cooley filed what could be described as a SLAPP suit, in that it appears it sought to stop the law firm from actually getting its message out to former students. It certainly makes for an interesting defamation claim. Can you accuse a class action law firm of defamation for reaching out to find people who had a bad experience?
In the end, I still think that Cooley comes out of this looking terribly. Suing critics never looks good. And now its stats are likely to get a lot more scrutiny. I'm curious how comfortable Cooley is with that...
A few years ago, we wrote about how the totally bogus job-loss and dollar-loss figures due to "piracy" made their way into the press and policy circles. Basically, someone made a random, unsourced claim once, years ago, and it got twisted and exaggerated as fact -- with different groups citing each other to give it the heft of "as said by [insert distinguished institution here]." The same thing happens in politics all the time.
Trails point us to a similar analysis of the discussion over the recent FAA shutdown (which finally ended). If you read the press reports, you probably saw claims that 74,000 people lost jobs because of the shutdown. It was pretty much everywhere (herearejust a fewexamples). Unfortunately, that number is totally and completely bogus.
The 70,000 figure entered the public sphere when the FAA turned to Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry group, to calculate the economic impact of the FAA funding impasse. The FAA had halted more than 200 construction projects totaling $2.5 billion.
AGC dusted off the 3-year-old study conducted by Fuller. His research, designed to show the "multiplier effect" of the president's stimulus package, concluded in early 2009 that $1 billion in nonresidential construction created or supported 28,500 jobs and added $3.4 billion to the Gross Domestic Product.
An AGC economist applied Fuller's formula to the FAA's $2.5 billion construction halt and came to the conclusion that it would put "24,000 construction workers out of work." Another 11,000 workers in related businesses "are also affected," the AGC said, and "as many as 35,000 jobs will be undermined in the broader economy, from the lunch wagon near the job site to the truck dealership across town."
Now that does add up to 70,000 workers (plus the 4,000 directly furloughed by the FAA to get 74,000). Except... of course, that 46,000 of those jobs weren't actually lost. They were just impacted. The guy who actually did the study admits that those other 46,000 jobs were not construction workers out of work, but people like "drug store clerks and restaurant waitresses, who might see 'a tiny bit less revenue flow.'"
But that didn't stop the press or the politicians. In fact, many of them quickly started inflating the already massively inflated 74,000 even higher:
"Seventy-five thousand people are now over the precipice," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said at a Wednesday news conference.
"We have 80,000 jobs at least on the line," said Majority Leader Harry Reid at one briefing Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO Executive Council got into the action. In a news release, it said House Republicans "jeopardized 90,000 airport construction jobs." Two sentences later, it went for the brass ring: "Congress must (act) to preserve almost 100,000 American jobs," it said.
That this is probably more than three times the actual number... well, why let facts get in the way. And people wonder why no one trusts the AFL-CIO any more...
If anything, Apple's announcement of iTunes MusicMatch has made opposing sides equally uncomfortable (a sign of disruption?). Whereas some are concerned about its possible use as a tool to identify infringers, others are more concerned about it 'legitimizing piracy' and are not afraid to pull numbers out of thin air to back up their claims.
One of these people is PRS for Music's chief executive Robert Ashcroft. Ashcroft claims collection societies like PRS for Music could experience an 80% drop in online licensing revenue if unauthorized downloads were to be admitted in locker services and then legitimized. It seems very unlikely that collection societies would even exist if one innovation would cut 80% of their business, but I'm very curious to see evidence to back up this claim.
I've been trying to come up with a scenario that would warrant this 80%, but most would be too far-fetched for a non-fiction blog like Techdirt. The existence of these locker services would have to lead to governments deciding there is no reason to keep downloading illegal. Then either new 'pirate' platforms would have to start outcompeting already existing platforms or most legitimate platforms would have to decide there is no value in having good relations with the artists and labels their users adore. Then most users must stop spending money on music. Why is this not realistic? Despite the increasing convenience of unauthorized downloads, authorized platforms such as Netflix are beating piracy in terms of traffic. If the suggested 80% decline would be realistic, it would have already happened. It didn't.
He further stated that:
“We are at a turning point. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else there is an admission you can’t get fair value from the internet, which would lead to lasting damage to the music industry.”
No, just no. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else? The internet is a revolution in computer networking and communication - it was never intended to be a replacement to CDs. The internet is a disruptive technology which among many great things has helped thousands (if not millions) of artists and musicians reach global audiences they would otherwise not have reached. It has helped artists gain exposure and popularity to generate the licensing revenue which helps pay for the salary of collection societies' staff. For this reason the new generation doesn't blame the internet (although sometimes they forget where they came from). Just recently I interviewed Para One, a successful French electro producer, who said:
“I personally see the internet as a blessing. It would be unfair to hate it, since it pretty much kickstarted our careers through forums, then MySpace, etc, a while ago.”
Let's just label the part where he says that the internet should be a CD replacement "or else" as the FUD that it is and move on. Actual research into this suggests there's actually money to be made for the music industry. Of course that remains to be seen and depends on a few factors such as how good consumers are at predicting their own behaviour. It's also dependent on the moves of other competing platforms such as Spotify and Google Music.
However, these are intelligent platforms, built in a reality where they have to compete with free and in which they must convert 'free users' into paying users. This is why I cringe when I hear people from a less reality-based side of the business say "piracy" needs to be stopped in order for these startups to succeed. A piracy-free internet would have to be so restricted (three strikes is not enough) that it would devastate these startups and most other future innovation along with human rights.
Every May, the BSA puts out its "Bogus Stats Again" report claiming to analyze the "software piracy" issue. And, every year we and many other blogs and reporters debunk the study as being so incredibly misleading (unless you're News.com, I guess, and then you just act like a PR distributor and basically repost the BSA's press release as if it's accurate -- reporting is hard). I was going to write up yet another post debunking it, but Glyn Moody did such an excellent job debunking it at Computerworld that we asked him if we could repost it here, and he agreed.
In the digital world, it seems, there are two certainties: that every year the Business Software Alliance will put out a report that claims huge amounts of software are being “stolen”; and that the methodology employed by that report is deeply flawed.
The commercial value of software piracy grew 14 percent globally last year to a record total of $58.8 billion, according to the 2010 BSA Global Software Piracy Study.
Just six years ago, the commercial value of the PC software that was being pirated in emerging economies accounted for less than a third of the world total. Last year, it accounted for more than half — $31.9 billion.
Notice that immediately we have the phrase “commercial value”; just in case you had any doubts what this might mean, it is explained in the methodology section:
The commercial value of pirated software is the value of unlicensed software installed in a given year, as if it had been sold in the market.
“As if it had been sold in the market”: this is, of course, a meaningless figure. The very reason that people pirate software in developing countries - the main focus of the BSA report - is that they cannot afford Western-level prices. So there is no way that pirated software could ever be converted to sales at those prices - it is economically impossible. Using it as a measure is pure fantasy.
A more sophisticated study would attempt to establish at what price people would actually choose to buy from dealers rather than other sources: then that could be used to calculate a realistic estimate of how much revenue is lost in developing countries. To do that, a good place to start would be the recently-publishedMedia Piracy in Emerging Economies, whose results can be summarised thus:
Based on three years of work by some thirty-five researchers, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies tells two overarching stories: one tracing the explosive growth of piracy as digital technologies became cheap and ubiquitous around the world, and another following the growth of industry lobbies that have reshaped laws and law enforcement around copyright protection. The report argues that these efforts have largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.
Exactly the same forces are at work in the world of software: this is a market failure, not a failure of enforcement.
But even if the BSA report had attempted this more realistic analysis, it would still draw the wrong conclusions from its results. Summarised in a section called rather risibly “Anti-piracy equity” - as if Western holders of intellectual monopolies really cared about “equity” when it came to exploiting developing countries:
Reductions in software piracy produce widespread economic benefits. For example, the BSA-IDC Piracy Impact Study found in 2010 that reducing the global piracy rate for PC software by 10 percentage points — 2.5 points per year for four years — would create $142 billion in new economic activity globally by 2013 while adding nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs and generating $32 billion in new tax revenues for governments. On average, more than 80 percent of these benefits would accrue to local economies.
One thing that is always omitted in these analyses is the fact that the money not paid for software licences 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.
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.
Thus the BSA's hypocritical plea for “equity” - how equitable is it trying to extract a month's wages from someone for a copy of Windows whose marginal cost is close to zero, say? - simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Eradicating piracy won't generate “new economic activity globally”, nor will it generate new tax revenues for governments. Again, as I pointed out last year:
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.
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.
So, as expected, this year's BSA report rehashes all its old errors, simply introducing even more unrealistic figures in an attempt to frighten governments into even more disproportionate and unjustified attempts to enforce intellectual monopolies.
But to be fair, the 2010 report does sport one novelty:
this year’s study also adds a new dimension: Deeper and richer surveys of PC users in 32 countries, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, one of the world’s leading public-opinion research firms.
Here's the context to the first questions:
“The laws that give someone who invents a new product or technology the right to decide how it is sold are called intellectual property rights. Which comes closer to your view...”
Two options were then presented:
“Intellectual property rights benefit people like me by creating jobs and improving the economy.”
“Intellectual property rights hurt people like me by making products I need too expensive.”
Notice how this is framed in terms of “rights” - the word is used twice. This is a biased term, of course - it suggests that it is “right” to have that right. But really the question should have been:
“The laws that give someone who invents a new product or technology a monopoly on how it is sold are called intellectual monopoly rights. Which comes closer to your view...”
Similarly, the questions already bias the response by hammering home the idea that these are “rights”. Reframing the questions as
“Intellectual monopolies benefit people like me by creating jobs and improving the economy.”
“Intellectual monopnolies hurt people like me by making products I need too expensive.”
might well have produced results less favourable to the report's position. Nonetheless, it's interesting that only 61% thought intellectual monopolies benefitted ordinary people, while 37% thought they harmed them - hardly a resounding vote of confidence.
Another question gave these alternatives:
“Intellectual property rights allow companies to generate profits which in turn benefit local economies.”
“Intellectual property rights concentrate wealth in the hands of multinational companies that do not deliver significant local economic benefits.”
Here, there was even more scepticism about the benefits - only 59% agreed with the first, while 40% chose the second option. Imagine what the results would have been had they been phrased thus:
“Intellectual monopolies allow companies to generate profits which in turn benefit local economies.”
“Intellectual monopolies concentrate wealth in the hands of multinational companies that do not deliver significant local economic benefits.”
Here's a third set of alternatives:
“It is important for people who invent new products or technologies to be paid for them, because it creates an incentive for people to produce more innovations. That is good for society because it drives technological progress and economic growth.”
“No company or individual should be allowed to control a product or technology that could benefit the rest of society. Laws like that limit the free flow of ideas, stifle innovation, and give too much power to too few people.”
Of course, the first question is loaded: who doesn't think that it's important for people who create new products or technologies should be paid for them? No wonder 79% chose this option. But that's not the issue: the issue is whether Western companies can charge unrealistic prices for their products in developing countries - prices that are literally unaffordable by the majority of the population there - and expect them to be enforced by local governments against the interests of their citizens.
Despite the bias of these questions, it is, however, interesting that BSA is trying to bolster its case with this supposed support for monopoly-friendly policies from ordinary citizens. It suggests that it knows that the days of its old approach - claiming implausibly large damage to economies based on flawed methodologies - are numbered, and that it must find an alternative soon. Otherwise we may have to forgo the pleasure of reading those entertaining annual reports...
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.
2010 was a great year for Techdirt. We thought we'd share some stats about 2010 with all of you (and yes, we're a little late on this but we finally got around to pulling together the numbers).
We posted 3,798 stories, generating 152,683 comments. According to Google Analytics, Techdirt had 11,490,135 visits in 2010. So, if Techdirt were a National Park (and you readers were visiting us in real life), we'd be the #3 most popular park in the country, just behind the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Or if we were a museum, we'd be well ahead of the top ranked Louvre, who only did a paltry 8.5 million visits last year. Yes, I know those are unfair comparisons but it's still a fun way to view things in perspective. Of course, if any of you really do want to visit us in real life, we'd love to have you.
Separately, the traffic numbers represented continued growth over the course of the year. If we're just looking at our December numbers, traffic in December of 2010 was 62% higher than in December 2009, and that was after continued growth throughout the year. So, it looks like we ended the year with a lot more folks here in the community than we started with, which is always a nice thing.
While certainly a large part of our traffic is US-based, the community here really is quite global with visitors coming from an astounding 230 different countries or territories (and yes, we did recently have a discussion about how there were fewer countries than that in the world, but Google Analytics counts "territories" too -- so a big shout out to you, the one visitor from Christmas Island).
Not surprisingly, the top four countries were all English speaking countries (US, Canada, UK and Australia) but Germany clocked in at number 5, followed by the Netherlands, India, France, Sweden and Spain. After India, Japan was the leading Asian country, which narrowly beat out China. Brazil was the leading South American country, topping Argentina by a decent margin. In Africa, not too surprisingly, South Africa was tops with Egypt coming in second. Of course, it looks like we did not get visits from every country in the world. Among those with no visitors at all were North Korea, Western Sahara & Chad. Pretty much every other country I checked had at least one visitor, though there may be some tiny Pacific Islands that I'm unaware of that didn't send any visitors and which I can't easily spot on the map.
Within the US, just looking at states, our top visitors were from California and then New York (with Texas close behind). The state that sent the least number of visitors? Wyoming. Not like anyone lives there anyway (kidding Wyomans, kidding). If we look at the top cities worldwide, New York dominated in terms of visitors, with a surprise second place finish from London, beating out all other US cities (perhaps less surprising taking into account population totals). San Francisco, LA and Chicago round out the top five. DC comes in at number seven. Sydney, Australia is the second non-US city and number 9 on the overall list.
Most of you still use Windows, followed by Mac and Linux pulling up in third place. iPhone visitors topped Android visitors (2:1) but I would bet that's going to change over the next year. Firefox was the most popular browser. Internet Explorer (?!?) eked out a tiny victory over Chrome, though I can't imagine that staying true much longer.
In any case, thanks to everyone for making Techdirt the thriving community that it is. Here's to a great 2011.
Top Ten Stories, by Unique Pageviews, on Techdirt for 2010:
It seems worth pointing out that there was almost no overlap between the stories that were most visited and those that had the most comments (only one story makes both lists). This is actually pretty common. Many people assume that more comments automatically means the most popular stories in terms of traffic, but that's almost never the case. Traffic and comments do not correlate nearly as much as you would expect. Some of the stories with the most comments often involve a very small number of people continuing to have a (often quite interesting!) discussion long after everyone else has moved on...