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Calling BS On the BSA Global Piracy Report 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-think-that-stands-for-bachelor-of-skepticism dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Business Software Alliance released their annual global piracy report earlier this week. In addition to the usual claims of software piracy (PDF) and the grudging acknowledgment of open source software, Michael Geist noted that the report ultimately undermined one of the BSA's core arguments — that countries which enact DMCA-style legislation experience significantly reduced piracy rates. Questions have also been raised over the BSA's methodology, as has happened in the past."
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Calling BS On the BSA Global Piracy Report

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  • did some1 already sue the BSA once?
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @01:42PM (#27987535) Journal
    If a report said, for example, that people prefer digital distribution over physical media, or vice versa, they'd simply make sure that their distribution model was optimised for the market. They wouldn't continue to commit resources to the distribution method that doesn't work.

    Logically they should look at this report, realise that DMCA like legislation doesn't work and divert resources elsewhere. Why do I think they're not going to do this?
  • by delphi125 (544730) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @01:47PM (#27987567)

    "... and lower than all but three Asian countries (Japan, Australia, and New Zealand)"

    I read the fine article, but not the whole report. Wondering where this came from!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mpe (36238)
      "... and lower than all but three Asian countries (Japan, Australia, and New Zealand)"

      If their ability to understand geography is any guide then at best they might get things right a third of the time!
      • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:12PM (#27987705) Homepage
        Businesses commonly make territory designations (for sales or distribution purposes) that do things like lump "Australia" in with "Asia". It often makes a lot more sense to base things off of "physical proximity" or "economic interconnectedness" (or maybe even "cultural similarity", though that's not the case here) than basing everything off of plate tectonics.
    • by Gorgoth (815511)
      The proper term for the Area is Asia Pacific they just ignored the Pacific region
    • by Akzo (1079039)
      You may have heard of the terms Australasia or Asia Pacific. Australia and New Zealand are commonly known as Asian countries due to the relative closeness.
  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @01:48PM (#27987569) Homepage

    I used a megaphone to yell "HA, WE USE LINUX!"
    Then I back-flipped onto a motorbike and sprayed them with sand.

    Actually that might have been a dream.

  • Looks like Slashdot isn't above taking money from the BSA. In the bar above I see "Anti-Piracy Organization" - Rewards Offered up to $1 Million! It was a Google ad so I clicked on it, which hopefully costs them a few bucks.

    • by ani23 (899493)
      Well its definitely not influencing the stories on slashdot so that s a good thing. also very mature of u to click on google ads so they lose money.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Omestes (471991)

        also very mature of u to click on google ads so they lose money.

        Very mature of you to avoid having to reach for that inconvenient "shift" key, and saving all that effort of typing "y", and "o". Really "y", "o", and "u" are all withing FOUR characters of each other, the fingers almost stumble upon them like some miraculous accident. I can understand eschewing that pesky "shift" key though, you mustered the effort to hit it once, and once should always be enough. Overuse of anything can lead to problems, t

    • by cskrat (921721)

      Maybe I should turn ads back on to get a laugh or two. Out of curiosity, was it just a karma threshold that I crossed to get the option to turn ads off or is it some sort of seniority thing?

      • by vlm (69642)

        Maybe I should turn ads back on to get a laugh or two. Out of curiosity, was it just a karma threshold that I crossed to get the option to turn ads off or is it some sort of seniority thing?

        Maybe if you have adblock on for too many years, they figure you'll never see them anyway, so why waste the bandwidth trying to?

        • by jez9999 (618189)

          I've never used AdBlock on principle, and I got the 'disable ads' checkbox for 'making a great contribution to the community'. Go figure.

        • by cskrat (921721)

          I've never used adblock or similar. I just get that little checkbox on the /. frontpage allowing me to turn ads off.

  • hanging (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:13PM (#27987711) Homepage
    How did they bring piracy under control before, didn't they use hanging ?

    Maybe that's what we have to do again.
  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eugene2k (1213062) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:18PM (#27987735) Homepage

    >Questions have also been raised over the BSA's methodology

    BSA has a methodology?

    • Re:huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2009 @07:42PM (#27989765)

      > BSA has a methodology?

      Yup. "Sue no matter what."

      They break in to your place of business, having convinced federal marshals that you would destroy all the evidence on your computers if they didn't. Then they take all your computers, based on whatever tip they got from an ex-employee or other anonymous source and had a judge sign off on while you weren't there (hearing held ex parte). They run their own infringement finding software that attempts to scan your network and seize all the computers they can, shutting you down whether you were guilty or not.

      Finally, they sue you unless you can provided dated purchase orders for each and every computer and piece of software. Yes, every. And no, the little "Genuine Windows" sticker on the PCs won't save you. It doesn't count.

      After this, you get dragged into court and urge you to settle for $bignum while getting really expensive site license agreements that protect you so long as you pay them way more than all your software is actually worth. This has never happened to me personally, but I refer you to the case of Ernie Ball [cnet.com].

  • by Jens Bergqvist (20661) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:20PM (#27987749)
    Earlier in the week BSA representatives here in Sweden all but admitted that the figures for Sweden were made up.
    http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.229795/bsa-hoftade-sverigesiffror [www.idg.se] (sorry, link in Swedish only)
    They used a combination of general estimates and figures for other countries. No Swedish businesses were involved in the study at all...
  • by rs232 (849320) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:28PM (#27987797)
    "the report ultimately undermined one of the BSA's core arguments -- that countries which enact DMCA-style legislation experience significantly reduced piracy rates"

    The fallacy being that the crooks will comply with the law, as .. beign crooks, they are prone to break it. Same with ID-cards, being pushed by the consumer sector to reduce Credit-Card fraud. All it will do is boost the trade in fake IDs ..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by T Murphy (1054674)

      Same with ID-cards, being pushed by the consumer sector to reduce Credit-Card fraud. All it will do is boost the trade in fake IDs ..

      If someone picks up your credit card and doesn't need an ID, they can start charging as soon as they walk into a store. It takes time to get a fake ID together, time in which you can discover your credit card is missing, and call it in.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        That depends purely on the advances in fake ID methodology and technology.

        It is still merely an arms race. The honest man wants to save costs, because it is his money. The criminal is willing to invest in a fake ID printing machine that will fit in his car, primarily because he purchased it with stolen funds...

  • by Stevecrox (962208) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:30PM (#27987815) Journal
    The study found seven countries with piracy rates of 90 percent or higher: Georgia, Bangladesh, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Sri Landa, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

    Why is the BSA even surveying countries which recently had a major war, are having battles with rebels or are suffering hyper inflation to the point their economy is broken? Is a surprise that people pirate in such conditions? Shouldn't there be some acceptance that in a country where physical property is hard to come by/keep that people ignore intangible property?

    Roughly speaking the firm takes an estimate of the amount of computers shipped to individual companies, takes a further estimate of what software should be on those machines, and compares that, not to exact software sales, but to interviews with software vendors.

    I don't see how such data gathering methods can give a legitimate support either, I don't think such sloppy researching would pass any scientific rigour, combine that with a test group of 6000 out of a supposed 6 billion and you8 don't have anything actually useful to go by. Its like setting up a small niche website and then estimating world web browser usage based on adding up the monthly percentages of visits from each browser.
    • by cskrat (921721)

      That and Zimbabwe has a per-capita income of about $200 USD per year. By the time someone there saves up for Vista, the Duke Nukem trademarks will have entered the public domain and DNF will go gold as an open source project.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by turbidostato (878842)

      "Why is the BSA even surveying countries which recently had a major war, are having battles with rebels or are suffering hyper inflation to the point their economy is broken?"

      BSA is about piracy, isn't it? Well, I'd say high seas and recent war scenarios are the most suitable for pirates, don't you think so? Arrrrh!

    • Why is the BSA even surveying countries which recently had a major war

      Probably because many of the BSA's biggest members, such as Microsoft, are headquartered in a country that is still fighting a major war.

      Its like setting up a small niche website and then estimating world web browser usage based on adding up the monthly percentages of visits from each browser.

      Yet Slashdot users so often brag about declines in Windows Internet Explorer's share at w3schools.

      • Probably because many of the BSA's biggest members, such as Microsoft, are headquartered in a country that is still fighting a major war.

        Major war? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the life of ~6000 US men and women in the armed forces. Sure, thats a lot. But when compared to many battles of WWII thats a small amount, the invasion of Normandy alone took the lives of 1/6th that number, and that was slightly longer than a month. These wars have been dragging on for over 5 years.

        Yet Slashdot users so often brag about declines in Windows Internet Explorer's share at w3schools.

        Um, perhaps thats because W3schools is quite heavily IE-centric? Including many niche tutorials over things only supported by IE (such as a series on VBSc

        • Major war? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the life of ~6000 US men and women in the armed forces.

          Wikipedia says 4,296 (4,614 total coalition, excluding Iraqi police forces).

          Sure, thats a lot. But when compared to many battles of WWII thats a small amount, the invasion of Normandy alone took the lives of 1/6th that number, and that was slightly longer than a month. These wars have been dragging on for over 5 years.

          Individual American Civil War battles cost more lives than all of Iraq. Both sides in the Battle of Gettysburg lost nearly 4 times as many (using your 6,000 figure).

    • by http (589131)
      It seems less scientific than a slashdot poll.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpe (36238)
      Why is the BSA even surveying countries which recently had a major war, are having battles with rebels or are suffering hyper inflation to the point their economy is broken? Is a surprise that people pirate in such conditions? Shouldn't there be some acceptance that in a country where physical property is hard to come by/keep that people ignore intangible property?

      That "physical property" including computers to run any software on as well as the electricity necessary to operate them. Maybe the BSA dosn't
    • by SharpFang (651121)

      I wonder how many legal outlets do they have in these countries.
      Like, how far would you have to travel to purchase a legal copy of Windows?

      Also, how many average salaries one such copy is?

    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      Roughly speaking the firm takes an estimate of the amount of computers shipped to individual companies, takes a further estimate of what software should be on those machines, and compares that, not to exact software sales, but to interviews with software vendors.

      I think this is total bullshit method for determining piracy rates. This means that if you sold a computer if they sold it with Linux on it, Microsoft would only have to say that one of every machine needs Windows on it (because every system needs an OS) and BAM inflated piracy numbers. Just like Adobe says about 1 in 10 computers should have Photoshop, but if they're all equipped with GIMP.

      After all how likely do you think it is that someone like Microsoft is going to acknowledge Apple's marketshare... Or

  • by cskrat (921721) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:53PM (#27987977)

    A pirated copy is not necessarily a lost sale. If you look at the highest rate list compared to the lowest rate list for countries you'll see that the countries with the highest rates of piracy generally have the lowest per capita GDP. This shows a link between ability to pay for software and actually paying for it.

    To put a face on this, the recent college grad with a job at 7-11 and $50k in student loan debt is going to need tools to make the money needed to buy tools.

    Another factor is the fact that the BSA still counts an install of Adobe's $2500 Master Suite on Mom's computer as being a lost sale. Trust me when I say that Mom only has that because she thought it was neat to paste pictures of her and Dad standing on top of the Eiffel tower. She does not use it commercially and therefore cannot justify spending $2500 on an idle amusement. If Adobe managed to make a DRM scheme that couldn't be cracked they still wouldn't get a sale from her. Instead she'd just go back to scissors and rubber cement.

    In fact according to the BSA PDF.

    Consumers generally install more software on their
    computers, both new and old, than businesses. Hence,
    while consumers account for 45 percent of PCs shipped,
    they account for 55 percent of PC software deployed.

    This fits well with the idea that consumers are installing professional software that is never used commercially.

    Cost and ability to pay are the biggest factors of piracy. The BSA needs to segregate their report into two sections for consumer piracy and commercial piracy. Consumer piracy is less likely to be a lost sale than commercial piracy.

    Furthermore, companies whose professional software packages may have consumer appeal might want to try performing a trial where they make the latest version of their software package available for free as a beta or time limited trial with semi-anonymous usage tracking to figure out exactly what patterns distinguish a professional user from someone just screwing around. This would allow the company to use this data to offer a mostly functional 'Home' version for dirt cheap that has just the right features disabled to make sure that professional users won't ever touch it. A home user of Photoshop, for example, will probably never work with 100MB images whereas a professional designing a poster or magazine spread will. Careful analysis and planning will allow these companies to actually make a few extra sales off of lower budget consumers without cutting into their customer base for professional users.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A pirated copy is not necessarily a lost sale.

      I think there's a good chance that a pirated copy is a lost sale, though not necessarily of the pirated software. I mean, even if Photoshop suddenly became impossible to pirate (I assume it isn't already), people would still need to manipulate images. They'd just have to use some cheaper - or free - alternative.

      • by cskrat (921721)

        Not counting FOSS offerings, many of the cheaper alternatives are of such low quality that they're not worth installing at any price. I'm talking about application crashes, unnecessary drivers that won't install on x64 operating systems, hijacking system functions like auto-insert detection, etc. And some software such as Windows just simply doesn't have cheap alternatives that will function appropriately for consumers. And before you say that Linux is a viable alternative to Windows, I want you to drive to

    • by mark-t (151149) <markt.lynx@bc@ca> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @04:27PM (#27988609) Journal

      To put a face on this, the recent college grad with a job at 7-11 and $50k in student loan debt is going to need tools to make the money needed to buy tools.

      My 18 year old griped at me a few weeks ago because I wouldn't let him install a pirated version of photoshop on a computer that is on our home LAN. He presented almost this exact same argument. I still don't buy it. If he needs tools to learn, he can pick them up at an academic discount while he is still a student and gain experience with them that way. After he graduates, he doesn't need to own the software himself as a business professional unless he's going to only do freelancing.... which, I am compelled to point out, is a poor business plan if one is intending to repay a $50K student loan.

      • by cskrat (921721) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @05:01PM (#27988843)

        Your situation is slightly different from what I was talking about (and had to go through myself) where the student is no longer living at home and has to be able to budget rent, utilities, food, transportation, tuition, books and tools on a part-time income while only qualifying for enough financial aid to pay for most of their tuition. I have faith that since your son is still living at home and that you are claiming him as a dependent in lieu of charging him rent he was able to afford the $449 to $999 (after educational discount) to pick up a CS4 suite package that contains the software he needs.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Why is that Adobes or another software firms problem? In fact why is that anyones problem accepts his/hers? You want free software for the poor now? Perhaps you should suggested this too your local social welfare representative along with free rent and free cars.

          If you can't afford an apartment, stay at home or with family. If you can't afford a sports car, don't buy one. Its not the car manufactures fault. If you can't afford a 16 core 65Gb ram number crunching monster server, don't buy one, its not IBM
      • by cskrat (921721)

        Addendum:

        Some companies are very accepting of student usage. Autodesk (i.e. AutoCAD) offers their software for free for personal or educational use. Microsoft offers Express Edition versions of their Visual Studio applications for free for personal or educational use. VMWare offers their products for free to educational institutions, though students do still need to purchase a license for use on their personal systems.

        As a note on the MS Express Edition products. Yes they are stripped down versions of the f

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kramerd (1227006)

      Hang on one second...what the hell is a college grad with 50k in debt doing working at a 7-11?

      Secondly, why would "mom" download a $2500 adobe master suite when the features she gets from her free copy of photoshop that was installed for her on her windows box from Dell (thus driving up the profits for the manufacturer) provide all the picture amusement she wants?

      Now for a long rant. To ignore the rant, read outside the brackets.

      [Begin Rant]

      If adobe thought they could make more money by lowering their pric

    • by ljw1004 (764174)

      Adobe already produce a home version of Photoshop. It's called "Photoshop Elements" and comes bundled free with many digital cameras and scanners. And still has more features than most home users seem able to use.

  • by Celc (1471887) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @02:57PM (#27988005)
    • BSA is killing at least 9 babies every day.

    • 5 our of 10 RIAA employees snort crack.

    • MPAA responsible for 80% of Global Warming.

    In line with the BSA methodology this has all been confirmed through the use of chicken intestines, tea leaves and and an unhealthy amount of LSD.

    • by shogun (657)

      MPAA products are used by %99.95* of the people who are responsible for climate change.
      * (the remainder are both deaf and blind)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by almechist (1366403)

      • 5 out of 10 RIAA employees snort crack.

      You do know that crack, being insoluble, can't be snorted? Of course you did! How silly of me, delivering a product by the most inefficient means possible is an riaa specialty. I have to say, it's good to see they live their personal lives by the same rules they want to foist off on the rest of us.

      • by dkf (304284)

        • 5 out of 10 RIAA employees snort crack.

        You do know that crack, being insoluble, can't be snorted?

        I won't tell them they've been snorting (and paying top prices for) icing sugar cut with talc, baking powder and dandruff if you won't...

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        Always remember to use a clean needle when you inject marijuana!

    • No, no, no.... You're doing it wrong. You need to link the BSA, MPAA, and RIAA to child pornography and terrorism. Then politicians will outlaw these organizations and angry mobs will gather pitchforks and torches while marching to the organizations' respective headquarters. Don't make the link just yet though. I still need time to set up Jason's Pitchfork and Torch Emporium. ;-)

  • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @03:03PM (#27988055)

    Michael Geist noted that the report ultimately undermined one of the BSA's core arguments -- that countries which enact DMCA-style legislation experience significantly reduced piracy rates.

    Yeah, but you can't fight these guys with logic. All they'll say to that is "See? The problem is so bad in those countries we need *even stronger laws*!

    Logic and evidence is pointless when the statistics and facts in this situation are so highly open to interpretation. That makes it problem solvable only by lobbying, not facts. Those of us who are against their draconian measures need to become as politically influential as they are - something that seems unlikely right now.

    • by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Sunday May 17, 2009 @04:59PM (#27988825) Homepage

      I have noticed that with few exceptions, the people who would make good politicians - that is, the people who actually know things about relevant issues - are drawn to professions that would actually earn real money. For example, how many computer programmers do you know who have run for office?

      Almost any programmer worth his salt is going to be earning a lot more money programming than he could in public office - it's irrelevant whether his knowledge would be directly applicable to laws that would be passed during his term.

      If we want smart people in office examining our laws, we need to pay them what they're worth.

      • the people who would make good politicians - that is, the people who actually know things about relevant issues - are drawn to professions that would actually earn real money.

        Completely agree. And consider those who actually can make money at a "real" profession but choose to slog their way up the political ladder - what kind of narcissistic SOB does it take to do that?

      • The best person to have power is someone who does not want it. Unfortunately these people are not on the candidate list.
  • legitimate interests to protect. They are just going about it in a way that delegitimizes themselves and makes heroes out of thieves. It doesn't have to be that way.
  • But few people will ever hear the truth so the lie will be perpetuated, and laws will continue to be passed, and more restrictions will be put into place.

  • Methodology ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gearloos (816828)
    "Questions have also been raised over the BSA's methodology," If I remember right the best "methodology" BSA had was to get disgruntled employees to turn the company in for the satisfaction of watching the boss squirm. Only problem was, once accused, you were guilty until proven innocent; I.E. the burden of proof rests on the defendant. Great business model. BSA asshats ftw
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      Actually you're innocent until proven guilty. Just because the BSA makes an accusation does not mean you are obligated to help them prove their case. It is just in a civil case the bar for guilt is lower. If it is a criminal case the bar is 99% or beyond a reasonable doubt. In a Civil Case its like 50%+1, or preponderance of the evidence, basically whichever side makes a better argument.

  • One of their key 'facts' that the BSA uses to demonstrate that pirating is endemic in poor countries (in the executive summary of the report) -

    "While emerging economies account for 45 percent of the global PC hardware market, they account for less than 20 percent of the PC software market."

    So, if a poorer person wants a computer only to be able to browse the internet and handle email, that means he's a pirate. Because richer people routinely also pay for MS Office for letters, and MS Money for banki
  • by AlgorithMan (937244) on Sunday May 17, 2009 @04:44PM (#27988743) Homepage
    "All FOSS Users and non-upgraders are Pirates!" - Thats basically what the BullShit Alliance says... Their Calculation goes like this:

    piracy = software necessity per PC (estimate) * number of PCs - sold software
    (see: Wikipedia [wikipedia.org])

    as you can see, they just have to raise their estimates of "how much software a PC needs" to skyrocket the piracy... also they don't consider people using older versions of software, so all in all their piracy report means nothing more than "we would have wanted to sell THIS much more software!"

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      Well, in a world where 'installed software' = 'potential sale', this is pretty close to true. By not upgrading to Vista, like you know you should, you're stealing the opportunity of that sale from Microsoft, from their point of view.

      They don't have anything to prove to you; they're the dominant force in the market. You're the one who's out of line, and they're trying to figure out why...

      'Pirate' just becomes the label they grab first. 'Non-customer' would be a more neutral term, but I think to the BSA th

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think people are missing the REALLY bad news from this data- that even in countries without a software market (high piracy), free options like Linux STILL fail to compete.

    It's the death of a talking point. They aren't "forced" to use Windows, since they aren't buying new computers. They can use anything... yet they would rather STEAL Windows than legitimately use a free Linux.

    If Linux were somehow a viable option if only it weren't for that evil old Microsoft forcing everyone to use it... then why isn't

    • Firstly, how do you know they're not using Linux or something other than Windows? I mean, I assume they're not like you're doing, but we don't know. The BSAs methodology is basically to estimate the number of PCs and then look at sales figures in the region and assume that there should be corresponding software sales. Since Linux isn't sold, if Linux usage was 99% there'd still be a massive disparity between the number of PCs and the number of OS sales. Very little piracy, though.

      Additionally you argue the

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