Piracy stats BS, A?

Do a few hundred Aussies represent the rest?

I am sceptical of most surveys in the tech industry, and am inclined to take them with a grain of salt, but I burst into guffaw on receipt of one incredulous gem from the Business Software Alliance, a conglomerate of the world's largest software providers.

Apparently piracy rates in Australia dropped by 1 per cent last year.

This 'precise' figure covers every type of software piracy. It includes that burnt OEM copy of Windows that you installed on your rusty formerly-disused PC, that copied game your mate gave you, and every other conceivable means of piracy.

The scope is both ambitious and necessary in order to nail-down piracy rates. And the number-crunching theory seems equally solid. The final equation — the percentage of piracy is equal to the total unlicensed software units divided by the total installed — follows a series of other calculations and hundreds of “inputs”. IDC chief research officer senior vice president, John Gantz, details the methodology here, and I’m sure the veteran researcher has done a good job.

But my beef is with the empirical data. They collected 6000 consumer responses and 4300 business user responses across 28 countries, and did some fancy maths to fill in the gaps. The respondent count is massively inadequate for the job. To determine whether you or I downloaded, burnt or bought any number of popular or obscure applications or games, the survey — going by average — polled 375 people from Australia’s 22 million residents.

Those whimsical percentages flow right across the survey (did you know the commercial value of unlicensed software in Cameroon last year was $7, up $1 since 2008?) with the piracy-stick pointed typically at China, India and Brazil. Those countries are, so says the survey, responsible for increasing the global software piracy count from 41 to 43 per cent.

It is obvious to anyone that piracy decreases profit to copyright holders and resellers - and we don't condone piracy in any way, shape or form - but it seems the anti-piracy crusaders are prepared to play with loose lingo and fudged figures to shore-up their claims.

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