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BSA Admits Canadian Software Piracy Rates Estimated; Canada Viewed as Low Piracy Country

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Wednesday May 27, 2009
As part of the attempt to characterize Canada as a "piracy haven," the Business Software Alliance's annual Global Piracy Report plays a lead role.  The Conference Board of Canada references the findings, as do their funders in their reports on the state of Canadian intellectual property laws (Chamber of Commerce, CACN).  Moreover, the report always generates considerable media interest, with coverage this year in the Globe and Mail and Canwest papers.  For example, the Globe cited the data directly in the Download Decade series stating that "about 32 per cent of the computer software in Canada is pirated, contributing to losses of $1.2-billion (U.S.) in 2008 alone, according to a report from the Business Software Alliance."

This year the BSA reported that Canada declined from 33 to 32 percent.  Michael Murphy, chair of the BSA Canada Committee claimed that "despite the slight decline, Canada’s software piracy rate is nowhere near where it should be compared to other advanced economy countries. We stand a better chance of reducing it significantly with stronger copyright legislation that strikes the appropriate balance between the rights of consumers and copyright holders."

Yet what the BSA did not disclose is that the 2009 report on Canada were guesses since Canadian firms and users were not surveyed.  While the study makes seemingly authoritative claims about the state of Canadian piracy, the reality is that IDC, which conducts the study for BSA, did not bother to survey in Canada.  After learning that Sweden was also not surveyed, I asked the Canadian BSA media contact about the approach in Canada.  They replied that Canada was not included in the survey portion of the study, explaining that:
"Countries that are included in the survey portion are chosen to represent the more volatile economies. IDC has found from past research that low piracy countries, generally mature markets, have stable software loads by segment, with yearly variations driven more by segment dynamics (e.g. consumer shipment versus business shipments of PCs) than by load-by-load segment. IDC believes that in mature markets, piracy rates are driven less by changes in software load than other market conditions, such as shipment rates and volume licensing errors. Canada is also a country that IDC studies regularly using confidential, proprietary methodology to examine PC deployment, software revenues and distribution channel dynamics, all of which help determine both software load and piracy rates."

This is a very revealing response.  First, it is an express acknowledgement that the Canadian data this year is a guess.  The data is never publicly presented in this way - the BSA cites specific numbers, the newspapers report it, and groups like the Conference Board of Canada and the Chamber of Commerce extrapolate these guesses into specific claims about job losses and economic harm.  Second, contrary to the claims of the U.S. government and the copyright lobby groups, Canada is characterized as a low piracy market.  The notion that Canada is the piracy equivalent to China or Russia has always been unsupportable and it now appears that the BSA's own research partner agrees.  Third, the response acknowledges that it is not copyright laws that alter piracy rates in countries like Canada, but rather "market conditions such as shipment rates and volume licensing errors."

The Conference Board of Canada's plagiarized, deceptive report, completed with funding from copyright lobby groups and with the rejection of its own independently commissioned research, opened the door to how public policy may be manipulated through inaccurate data masquerading as authoritative.  The revelations about the BSA's software piracy data further demonstrate that the rhetoric simply does not square with the reality.
Comments (24)add comment

Steve Song said:

Defending the indefensible
Thank you for placing the large, pointed hat labeled "Morally and Intellectually Bankrupt" on the Conference Board of Canada. I hope they wear it publicly for some time to come. One might have had sympathy for them if they had come clean after the plagiarism came to light but to defend the indefensible... they deserve everything they get.

Canada owes you a debt for unpacking the hype and keeping the debate honest and open.
May 27, 2009

Nemo said:

We need legislation to outlaw lying to the public.
These people are shameless. Could you draft legislation that would make such disgusting lies illegal to circulate? I am getting quite perturbed by the level of corruption in this country. But all the Mulroney's go free.

Is the law only for keeping the underprivileged in their place Micheal?
May 27, 2009

crade said:

In politics, they call them spins
It's more a process of trying to reveal and conceal certain portions of the real story in order to manipulate and mislead people.

I was raised with the interpretation that intentionally withholding information for the purpose of misleading is the same as lying, but this does not seem to be a widespread interpretation, especially when it comes to politics and the law.

For some reason, if they are caught producing false truths for their report, they can get in more trouble with the law than if they are caught intentionally withholding relevant information. It is strange to me as I have always thought the two forms of lying to be morally indistinguishable.
May 27, 2009

fair_n_hite_451 said:

morals? Those have no place in this discussion
Tracing it back to the decision to define corporations as "persons" and executive benefit packages which emphasize share price and short term returns over all, morals in business are sadly seen as a completely outdated concept.

I'm quite sure that in an individual sense, everyone involved with the Conference Board would agree with crade's view. It is lying. But when it's done in the guise of "business", and with the out of "it wasn't me, it was the company that said those things" ... then they have no problem uttering outright falsehoods, or manipulating data and statistics to present a twisted and one-sided picture.

That's why a person is always best served by following the money whenever some sort of study is released. "Who paid for it" invariably reveals "what bias is it bringing to the table unspoken".
May 27, 2009

Eric W said:

The rate is red herring anyways, focus on the impact
I agree that this is very telling, but feel like the whole discussion is focused on the wrong thing. According to the BSA report Canada isn't even in the top 10 in terms of impact of piracy, trailing France, the UK and Germany. As a mater of fact, the US is #1 with losses of $9,143M vs Canada at $1,029M.

Reducing Canada's piracy rate by 1/3 to get it at or below the US rate, would result in a savings of $403M, which would be less than a reducing the us rate by 5% which would yield a savings of about $457M. If they really want to focus on reducing the impacts of piracy they should start there.
May 27, 2009

Gerrit said:

Same approach as Reefer Madness?
Hi, while on a recent cruise we are regaled with reruns of the Reefer Madness series of misinformation movies from the US. The same non-factual rhetoric approach is seemingly applied on piracy. Very little if any actual facts are used to support serious allegations from the industry. While watching some of those old movies now is comic relief, it is still a strong reminder of how obvious nonsense data can still be the basis for policy that affects the public.
May 27, 2009

"BS" of America (BSA) said:

...
The BSA pays disgruntled employees to snitch. They probably extrapolate statistics from these rotten sources. See:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2007/07/bsa-announces-1-million-award-for-piracy-snitches.ars
May 27, 2009

crade said:

...
The problem with focusing on the impact is that the U.S. is that the U.S. will just "estimate" that 101.5% (or so) of the impact of piracy in the U.S. is caused by the vast army of pirates from Canada. Despite our relatively tiny population, we are somehow the cornerstone of their digital economy, and if we were not wasting our time pirating their software, obviously we would all be spending that time buying photoshop and windows for some crazy inflamed price (rather than grabbing free alternatives once we figure out how crazy the inflamed prices are) they would be raking in Jazillions more that should be in their pockets already.

Captcha words: bossiest Al
May 27, 2009

tax payer said:

Septic Tank
The US is just jealous of us up north. If they had it their way blogs would be outlawed and Dr. Geist in gitmo.

With what the CCBoF tried to pull on the Canadian population and at the Canadian tax payer expense, they showed they are not a think tank, but rather a septic tank.

Captcha words: northern mapped

forgot to put a name... Captcha words on 2nd attempt: corporation worriers
May 27, 2009

Joe said:

...
Wonder how much it would cost to to have a 3rd party do our own commissioned survey of piracy levels in Canada. I would certainly pitch in for something like that.
May 27, 2009

here it comes said:

vice-president, public policy at the Conference Board speaks.
6-hrs ago:
Canada's failure to protect intellectual property hinders innovation: Conference Board
Gilles Rheaume, vice-president, public policy at the Conference Board

http://www.canada.com/ Canada+failure+protect+intellectual+property+hinders+in
novation+Conference+Board/1636134/story.html

"Basically what is happening is that we are a major laggard when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights on the Internet. That is a big issue for us," said Gilles Rheaume, vice-president, public policy at the Conference Board. "We are the illegal file swapping country of the world - the leading country, when you look at Canada compared to other OECD countries.



Captcha words: assumed finishes
May 27, 2009

Stoneman said:

We're thirty million people - less than California
I mean come on. Dr. Geist you really hit the nail on the head here. All this is, clearly, is the US copyright lobbyists (translation: Big business) trying to push their outdated laws on a country with the population of California (perhaps not even that).

Stoneman
autorevu.blogspot.com
May 28, 2009

SARKOZY SAYS 1$ FER YOU said:

AND what does canadas 50 year copyright do for society ANYWAYS
Like for real something made to day im never going to see value of it in society so what the frak are they about

its nothing short of economic terrorism. AND they are trying to use whats left of there cash to screw the rest of the world.

WELL SCREW YOU
OBAMA + BIDEN = FORBIDEN
May 28, 2009

SARKOZY SAYS 1$ FER YOU said:

AND last but not least ...WE PAY A LEVY MORONS
THERE IS NO PIRACY IN CANADA
you buy the media to put it on your paying htem OMG THE STUPIDITY OF THE LAND
May 28, 2009

Dale Curtis said:

BSA responds
Michael, it is not accurate to say BSA’s estimate of PC software piracy in Canada is a “guess,” nor that our figures are “never publicly presented in this way.” BSA has always been open about the methodology, which is a model, not a scientific measurement.

The methodology is explained in detail in the white paper, which is online at www.bsa.org/globalstudy. Briefly put, IDC bases its piracy rates and loss estimates on a model that includes many well-established, widely accepted data sets, including figures on new PC shipments, the installed PC base, new software shipments, and average software prices in each country. Data on the average amount of software loaded on PCs in a given country is based on more than 6,000 end-user surveys in 24 countries, plus reams of similar data from previous years. The survey sample size is large enough – and consistent enough over time and geography – that IDC believes it is as accurate as it can be. The surveys on software loads are just one piece of the overall model.

Countries that are included in the survey portion are chosen to represent the more volatile economies. IDC has found from past research that low piracy countries, generally mature markets, have stable software loads by segment, with yearly variations driven more by segment dynamics (e.g. consumer shipment versus business shipments of PCs) than by load-by-load segment. IDC believes that in mature markets, piracy rates are driven less by changes in software load than other market conditions, such as shipment rates and volume licensing errors. Again, the surveys are just one piece of the overall model.

Bottom line: There is no way to measure software piracy with scientific precision, and BSA does not present its figures as such. That said, the study uses a robust methodology that provides us with the best estimates and trend data available.

Also: BSA has never said Canada is “the piracy equivalent to China or Russia;” those are your words. Canada attracts criticism not because of its piracy rate but because it has yet to modernize its copyright laws and ratify the WIPO treaties that were signed years ago. A 2008 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit on IT industry competitiveness found that Canada lags behind other countries including Australia, Germany and the UK when it comes to fostering a legal environment for stronger intellectual property protection.
May 28, 2009

Ed in Calgary said:

But Dale, there is a way to find out actual piracy amounts...
Dale, BSA's model is like predicting electricity usage based on electronic equipment sales. There is a true scientific methodology- its called research and survey where you can estimate the accuracy 19 times out of 20 within 3-5% points.

A research paper I did at RRU showed that losses in piracy are often over-claimed 10 to 100 times.

To show actual losses, you need to prove that the pirated products are true profit losses. Those who use pirated software because they cannot afford the product cannot be included (they will never or will be in the future a potential client). Adobe Photoshop is a classic example – hundreds of dollars per licence but Adobe doesn’t mind. Industry Canada research proved that companies know that home use often leads to business use.

The bigger issues for piracy are often overlooked. My research showed that copyright issues are not from piracy from individual users but a three-fold problem:
1. Companies with poor license tracking
2. Companies knowing avoiding licensing and support fees by using pirated products.
3. The sale of counterfeit media as the Real-McCoy but not known to the customer. Its equivalent to buying the latest Britney CD but it’s a clever fake.

Counterfeiting and copyright violations are different legal issue as but is often tied into Piracy – which is another issue.

My research of the $1.2 Billion claim actually is around $50-100 Million (CAD) in lost revenue from point 1 alone. It’s accurate 19 times out of 20.
May 28, 2009

Anon said:

Dale...
Your argument may have more "credibility" (not the right word) if the report were to list margins of error with it. Additionally it would benefit from stating which countries were surveyed, and which were estimated... and in the case of estimated, what criteria were actually used for the estimate (for instance, what "proxy countries" were used... see page 17).

As far as not ratifying WIPO; frankly, so what? We are compliant with Berne (also a WIPO treaty).
May 28, 2009

PorkBellyFutures said:

...
Thank you Dale Curtis for your response.

I agree that it's not at all fair for Professor Geist to dismiss the statistical merit of the study as a 'guess' without any discussion of the soundness of the methodology. Ultimately all studies and surveys are 'guesses', but we use statistical theory can give us some degree of confidence that the guesses are reflective of reality.

However, the arguments being put forward by the BSA and other groups are no more honest. There is good reason to cast doubt on the figures for supposed 'losses' that copyright infringement represents*, because it introduces assumptions without any statistical basis -- in particular, the assumption that most people who make unauthorized copies of software would have paid for it were they unable to do so.

The far greater flaw, however, is the lack of solid evidence that so called 'modernization' of copyright laws makes a significant difference to such rates, or that the ancillary costs of such legislation are worth any benefit they might provide. For instance, the leap from "31% of software in Canada is not legally licensed" to "we need blanket prohibition on all tools used for circumvention of technological protection measures" misses a huge number of intermediate steps that legislators must consider. While advocates lean on the WIPO treaty and legislation in other countries as their justification for the supposed need for these measures, this also fails the test of sound logic. If those were written because of the same inadequate arguments as are being presented in Canada, then they should carry absolutely no weight at all.


* As opposed to the losses that 'piracy' represents: millions of dollars for an oil tanker is a definite quantity
May 29, 2009

theskyrider said:

Still guessing
"including figures on new PC shipments, the installed PC base, new software shipments, and average software prices in each country."

So basically it is still a guess. How do you figure Linux and other Free Software installations into your equations? If you use software costs in your equations, how do you multiply or divide by zero and still get billions? You can't.

What if one hundred thousand complete PC component sets were shipped (you count them as PC's, obviously) but those users installed Linux instead of the $200.00 OS? Do you count that as piracy? Sure you do. That's 20 million dollars that you can add to your 'piracy loss.' Oh, I forgot - you don't use actual costs, you use manufacturer's suggested retail - that makes the $200.00 OS actually a $400.00 OS and jacks up your 'piracy loss.' to 40 million dollars instead.

See, using BASIC Math and the same numbers, I can put the 'piracy loss' greater than the GNP of the ENTIRE WORLD, when your 'piracy loss' was actually ZERO.

Just because people don't BUY from the BSA members, opting for 'FREE' software instead, does NOT mean 'PIRACY LOSS.'
May 30, 2009

Anon said:

The other problem with the methodology
is that it is way too easy to tailor a survey to give you the results that you want. Simply by the wording of the questions and targeting a specific portion of the population as the recipient of the survey. Let's say that you want to publish a survey about the abortion debate, and your target is that it should not be allowed. You send the survey to twice as many people registered in anti-abortion groups as the general population. You can still produce numbers, indicating a statistical accuracy, however the numbers are completely bogus since you skewed the results intentionally (or does this qualify under the 20th time?).
June 01, 2009

Michael Shirer said:

IDC
IDC has conducted research for the BSA’s Global Piracy Report for the past six years. As the information technology industry’s leading global market research and advisory firm, we stake our reputation on conducting sound market research and take strong issue with recent stories suggesting findings in the Piracy Report are based on ‘guesses’ or ‘hunches’.

The methodology approach implemented by IDC to determine a country’s piracy rate relies on a combination of inputs that, together, provide a triangulated view of country-level market conditions, in this case software sold and deployed in a country and the number of platforms on which it is deployed. This is the same basic approach IDC uses to provide market data to companies, IT users, and governments around the world.

Specific inputs to the study included proprietary statistics for software and hardware shipments and installed base, software prices and availability, and average PC configurations. This information is gathered through surveys of vendors, users, and the channel (resellers, partners, and consultants), and validated by IDC analysts in over 60 countries familiar with local market conditions. The survey referenced is only one of many inputs to the study, and results are triangulated with other market data, including the level of IT sophistication in various countries as tracked by IDC’s Information Society Index, custom market research, and channel interviews done in the course of IDC's normal business. As with any survey, it has its limitations, but IDC believes that surveying the countries we do improves the overall accuracy of the entire study of 110 countries. Being able to compare and contrast so may geographies improves the triangulation process.

With the Global Piracy Report, IDC provides the BSA with the best trend data available in order to understand the evolution of the software piracy issue. We stand by our methodology, which is clearly and publicly presented in full at www.bsa.org/globalstudy, as an accurate basis upon which to inform the debate about ways to improve the current piracy situation.
June 03, 2009

Don Thompson said:

IDC Reports Whatever...
IDC says "...we stake our reputation on conducting sound market research and take strong issue with recent stories suggesting findings in the Piracy Report are based on ‘guesses’ or ‘hunches’."

Good for them. Like most other financially successful consultancies, IDC reports what their paying customers want to hear. In this case BSA wants people to think they are poor hard-working honest folk being destroyed by bands of evil-doers. CRAP.

Reality suggests that in Canada, zero piracy might add 1-2% to BSA members' sales. Most of the people loading pirate software don't really use it much, and wouldn't be buying it at retail anyway. BSA should chalk it up to advertising because things like MS Office become a bit more ubiquitous and therefore salable thanks to the efforts of the pirates.
August 19, 2009

Frankie said:

I Disagree
I can't imagine Canada being any better or worse when it comes to piracy. We download movies via torrentz now. My gf actually got a call from blockbuster asking us why we don't rent movies anymore. LOL. That's piracy and I'm not in denial. Nice post.

Frankie
http://canadarates.ca
March 28, 2011

Frankie said:

I Disagree
I can't imagine Canada being any better or worse when it comes to piracy. We download movies via torrentz now. My gf actually got a call from blockbuster asking us why we don't rent movies anymore. LOL. That's piracy and I'm not in denial. Nice post.

Frankie
I can't imagine Canada being any better or worse when it comes to piracy. We download movies via torrentz now. My gf actually got a call from blockbuster asking us why we don't rent movies anymore. LOL. That's piracy and I'm not in denial. Nice post.

Frankie
http://canadarates.ca
March 28, 2011

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