US government finally admits most piracy estimates are bogus

Well, well. Sanity begins to dawn. This from ArsTechnica.

We’ve all seen the studies trumpeting massive losses to the US economy from piracy. One famous figure, used literally for decades by rightsholders and the government, said that 750,000 jobs and up to $250 billion a year could be lost in the US economy thanks to IP infringement. A couple years ago, we thoroughly debunked that figure. For years, Business Software Alliance reports on software piracy assumed that each illicit copy was a lost sale. And the MPAA’s own commissioned study on movie piracy turned out to overstate collegiate downloading by a factor of three.

Can we trust any of these claims about piracy?

The US doesn’t think so. In a new report out yesterday, the government’s own internal watchdog took a close look at “efforts to quantify the economic effects of counterfeit and pirated goods.” After examining all the data and consulting with numerous experts inside and outside of government, the Government Accountability Office concluded that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the economy-wide impacts.”

Yep. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t losses due to piracy, just that the numbers produced by industry lobbyists to scare legislators on both sides of the Atlantic are, well, mostly hogwash. If we had had evidence-based policymaking in relation to the Digital Economy Bill, then Parliament would have commissioned the same kind of critical report as the one produced by the US GAO. Instead, MPs were moved by the bleatings of Cliff Richard & Co.

GAO Report (pdf) can be downloaded from here. It makes for interesting reading.