Tall Tales about Piracy

by on May 23, 2006

CNet blithely reports the BSA’s latest study purporting to show that piracy is costing software companies $34 billion.

The Inquirer, on the other hand, is not so credulous:

It says the highest piracy rates are found in Zimbabwe and Vietnam, where it reckons 90 percent of the software in use is illegitimate.

A quick squint at the CIA World Fact Book shows that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is 80 percent, as is the estimated proportion of the population living below the poverty line. Other estimates put the average income in the country at around $500 per annum. A further quick squint through the windows of PC World in the UK shows that a copy of Windows Home costs £89 – $168. We’ll let you do the math[s].

While we’re at it, the BSA cobbles together its figures in a manner not wholly approved of by its hired researcher IDC.

IDC says it used “proprietary statistics” for software and hardware shipments, conducted 5,600 surveys and enlisted IDC analysts in 38 countries to confirm software piracy trends.

IDC, however, is on record as suggesting that perhaps one in 10 unauthorized copies might be a lost sale. John Gantz, director of research for IDC, is on record as saying that, in developing nations, many users cannot afford imported software from the West. “I would have preferred to call it the retail value of pirated software,” he said of last year’s BSA report.

As Jim wrote last time the BSA published a wildly exaggerated report on this subject, a bit of skepticism is called for when reporting a study like this. When an industry trade group funds a study that’s transparently in their self-interest, you would think the reporter would give some thought to the ways it might be exaggerating the result to the benefit of the client. He might even call someone who’s not in the pay of the software industry to get an independent opinion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: