Today the Business Software Alliance (Wikipedia) released their 2011 ‘Piracy Report’. What a doozy. Their methodology alone really speaks to why they are less and less legit.
The industry association’s annual report — supported by large software companies including Microsoft, Symantec, and Intuit — focuses on global anti-piracy efforts. As many media outlets explain today, this report is used by the organization as a piece to encourage policymakers to take dramatic steps to reign in software piracy. There’s no question software piracy is widespread, but the BSA’s approach does far more harm than good. Over correcting the piracy problem stifles innovation and competition by raising barriers to entry for startups.
The report today uses almost entirely self-reported data. Obtaining a statistically reliable sample from a self-selected group of participants across the developing world seems unlikely and raises questions about BSA’s method. Further, in their definition of piracy they included software that is not fully licensed. How is an average user going to have any idea whether or not an application they downloaded is fully licensed or not?
The numbers seem rigged to overstate the BSA’s point; this is clearly not an academic report, but something far closer to political propaganda. Nevertheless, we should be able to expect a level of intelligent data analysis that is completely missing here. Almost every year BSA’s total “commercial value” estimate grows, generating headlines about piracy and fostering wrongheaded policies like those we saw in SOPA and PIPA. What’s missing from this conversation is unbiased, statistically sound research that shows the true nature of online piracy. My suspicion is that this kind of data would be much less useful tool to wield in a fight for drastic policy legislation