Julian Sanchez has an excellent post at the CATO website debunking claims in the U.S. on the financial impact of counterfeiting and piracy, which is being used to promote the dangerous Stop Online Piracy Act. The post focuses on the fake $250 billion per year claim that is frequently invoked by copyright lobby groups, noting that the number is not based on an actual study but rather a 1991 sidebar in Forbes that took a guess at the global market. In 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined the counterfeiting data claims and found that they could not be substantiated and last year the Social Sciences Research Council released a massive study on counterfeiting and piracy that thoroughly debunked the claims.
Given the return of fake counterfeit data, it is worth remembering that the same ploy has been used in Canada for many years. In 2007, I took a closer look at RCMP claims of $30 billion in losses in Canada, a number that was based on a single bullet point in a powerpoint presentation from an industry association that was a guess based on 3 to 4 percent of Canada’s two-way trade. The RCMP has since distanced itself from those claims, but the Canadian Chamber of Commerce revived the fake figure last year in its lobby effort for new IP-related border measures (its response to being called out involved pointing to more unsubstantied data). As Sanchez notes:
The movie and music recording industry have gotten away with using statistics that don’t stand up to the most minimal scrutiny, over and over, for years, to hoodwink both Congress and the general public. Wherever you come down on any particular piece of legislation, this is not how policy should get made in a democracy, and it’s high time they were shamed into cutting it out.