[2005-06-15] “BSA or just BS?”

Some time back The Economist published a small article titled "BSA or just BS?" (subscription required) that questioned the rather dubious statistical method used by IDC on behalf of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to come up with an estimate of lost revenues due to pirated software and use that to lobby for even more draconian legislation. In short, they asked a small group of users for the number of applications installed on their computer (ignoring free applications like Firefox, WinAmp, etc.), used the average number of applications per PC thus obtained to extrapolate to get the number of applications installed on all PCs bought in the country and subtracted the actual sales of applications to get their figure for the revenue lost due to piracy. Very bad and rather disingenious use of statistics that doesn't even stand up to common sensical analysis. So The Economist naturally called it a load of crap. This apparently enraged the BSA which promptly wrote a gem of a letter that appears in the latest issue and that is worth quoting in its entirety:

SIR - Your article on software piracy was extreme, misleading and irresponsible (`BSA or just BS?', May 21st). The headline was particularly offensive. The implication that an industry would purposely inflate the rate of piracy and its impact to suit its political aims is ridiculous. The problem is real and needs no exaggeration. Beth Scott Business Software Alliance London
I found the deadpan assertion of the penultimate line rather funny. The Economist also had an article on the recently released OECD report questioning the music industry's dubious assertions that the loss of sales of music CDs is entirely due to file sharing via P2P applications (and not at all due to the alarming lack of quality of the "music" churned out by the industry) which it then uses to convince legislators to come up with draconian laws limiting file sharing.

(Originally posted on Advogato.)

Other Posts from 2005