Copytrack: “Stolen” Images Costs More than the GDP of the Planet

Copytrack has released some data about so-called image piracy. They suggest that the amount of revenue lost due to “stolen” images is greater than the GDP of the entire planet.

Over the years, there have been a lot of wild and unsubstantiated claims about the so-called “damage” caused by piracy. In 2013, I personally documented a case where INTA (The International Trademark Association) claimed that piracy costs more than the GDP of Australia. Another case stems back from 2006 where the Recording Industry Association (RIAA) suggested that one month of torrents costs more than the GDP of France.

It’s cases like that that have pretty much put the credibility of so-called losses due to piracy on the same level as random Internet conspiracy theories published by an anonymous user. It took years of convincing to get some outfits to stop using the highly flawed model of “one download means one lost sale”. That theory alone has pumped up bad piracy statistics for years.

Now, it seems another anti-piracy outfit is publishing some statistics that many find highly questionable. Techdirt is noting that the organization released a report saying that 1 day of “stolen” images costs the industry $600 billion. They then noted a tweet by Jef Pearlman who says that the GDP of the entire planet equals to about $240 billion. In conclusion, he said that he was skeptical about the numbers given that “stolen” images is apparently worth more than twice as much as the GDP of the entire planet.

What this winds up being is a fresh reminder why it’s extremely difficult to believe so-called piracy statistics. Do those numbers take things like fair use into consideration? What about how much if offset by people who purchased something they wouldn’t otherwise have purchased had they not pirated said material in the first place? How does one calculate value in the first place? Is there a reliable way to tell how much is being downloaded? The reality is, those questions are extremely difficult to answer with anything other than “no”.

If anything, this helps put statistics on piracy made by corporate interests into the realm of extremely questionable. Even if other corporate interests suggest that this is a rogue operator and not related to actual statistics gathering, the credibility damage is already done. A lot of those old credibility wounds are being re-opened yet again. It’s going to be a lot harder to try and make a case that piracy is even a problem with so much bad data out there.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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