Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aussie Piracy study is “Fantasy work”

What do you get if you take one study of estimated data, aggregate it, then use that to generate data on another country on the opposite side of the world? If you're the content industry, you call that 'an anti piracy study' and if you're a politician, you might call it 'evidence proving the need for more laws'. Personally, I call it utter crap.

The 'study' is actually more of someone's high-school maths homework, dealing in averages, and ratios – data from 5 countries are averaged, and the averaged figures then scaled to fit Australia. If it sounds unscientific, it is. In fact, it's about as far from an accurate or dependable study as you can find.

The base report, “Building a Digital Economy: The Importance of Saving Jobs In the EU’s Creative Industries” was commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce, and has already been critiqued extensively, mostly because it uses industry figures as data sources, rather than actual research. So, let's break things down, and count the estimates.

Industry estimates (1) are used to determine (2) a national figure, which is then used to estimate (3) a regional (EU) figure. This figure was then scaled (4) to Australia, and an 'impact' (5) created.

That means the final figure is a five-fold chain of estimation, which means it's not even remotely accurate. If we assume a 10% error in each estimate, by the time it gets to the end of the chain, it would be a 60% error, hardly a paragon of accuracy. If we increase things to 20% - again not unreasonable based on past track records of such studies, the cumulative error means that the end figure could be 1.4x the original one. However, as has been pointed out by many, including the US Government Accountability Office, industry estimates are often completely fabricated.

At the end of the day, this report shows the desperation of the copyright industries to protect their cash cows. It is incredible fiction with such a tenuous grip on reality, it should be classified as "Science Fiction/Fantasy". This report is an extrapolation of estimation, and does a poor job at that. Sadly, politicians will listen to this report as if it were fact, as it is delivered by a lobby group. However, at least we know why they wanted to keep it secret.

Also, there's something else to ponder. They've reproduced a fair chunk of data from the International Chamber of Commerce's study. I hope they licensed that content as it might be considered copyright infringement. Would make a fine point on the study, and the position of copyright these days....
Piracy Impact Australia| ACIG/Sphere

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