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Misleading Data Undermines Counterfeiting Claims 91

An anonymous reader writes "Canada has been the home to a growing debate on counterfeiting with politicians, law enforcement, and copyright lobby groups all pushing for stronger copyright and anti-counterfeiting laws. Writing in the Toronto Star, Michael Geist reports that the claims are based on fatally flawed data. The RCMP, Canada's national police force, has been claiming that counterfeiting costs Canadians $30 billion per year. When pressed on the issue, last week they admitted that the estimate was not based on any original research but rather on 'open source documents found on the Internet.'"
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Misleading Data Undermines Counterfeiting Claims

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  • Wikipedia? (Score:5, Funny)

    by PaintyThePirate ( 682047 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:11PM (#20662665) Homepage

    open source documents found on the Internet.

    So... what are the chances they just browsed Wikipedia for it?
    • I would say the probability is as calculably close as you can get to 1.
      • Hey, "t3h intarwebs", and especialy wikipedia is always right !
        Especially if the last edit was a few seconds ago ! :)
    • MediaDefender (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My guess is they got it from MediaDefender and their ilk. I mean, they *bragged* about "blowing smoke" and making up wild piracy numbers.

      They also made sure to tell their guys when they wanted stats on some album that "we're not protecting this one, so the higher the better" (paraphrased).

      Hell, they also admitted to trying to sanitize their own Wikipedia page [] (click the discussion tab), so if they did get bad numbers from Wikipedia, I wouldn't be surprised if MediaDefender or someone like them put them the
    • by Erris ( 531066 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:29PM (#20662791) Homepage Journal

      So... what are the chances they just browsed Wikipedia for it?

      If they are browsing Wikipedia, it's to insert their own BS into it. They pulled "articles" from "news" sites and ignored their own GAO estimates based on random sampling of real markets. In other words, they pulled it out of some industry (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) press release and an "estimate" by the Chief Economist for the Canadian Manufacturing and Exporters.

      These estimate "pirate" product as %20 of the entire Canadian economy and that's insane. When you consider real estate, cars, domestic food product, gasoline and non branded commodities that dominate any economy, you would be lucky if %20 of goods were branded at all much less "pirated". How many fake Rolexes do these people think can be sold in a given year? Does anyone really believe that one in five dollars spent goes to something "fake"?

      • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:56PM (#20662947) Homepage
        Also, this sounds like RIAA logic in some ways. It seems like the number either assume that the people buying, for example, fake rolexes, don't know they are buying a fake, and are actually not getting the product they expect to, or it assumes that if they didn't buy the fake rolex, and the counterfeit product wasn't available, that they would have bought the real thing. For the majority of counterfeit products, people know that what they are buying isn't the real thing, and just want some cheap imitation. I know it sucks for the makers of the real things, but think about it this way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
        • I've got a fake Rolex that came from overseas. I know it's fake, but it still looks nicer, and the kinetic-motion part actually keeps a better charge than my previous authentic watch (which I think was a cardinal). I wouldn't take this one in the pool with me, but as a watch it works and looks better than my previous watches, despite costing less.
      • Does anyone really believe that one in five dollars spent goes to something "fake"?
        Computers water down the concept of "fake," since every copy is as pristine as its original. Surely they don't mistake a warez copy of a game or application as 'fake?'
      • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:18PM (#20663419)
        Does anyone really believe that one in five dollars spent goes to something "fake"?

        I think they are counting lost sales based on any fake would have been a real sale. Just considering my daughters 30 gig Zen would lead to that conclusion. The Zen has 2,200 files on it (I know from making a backup). With the back-up copy also being a pirated copy, that at a dollar per song is about 5K dollars worth of pirated stuff. That counts just my daughters Zen, not my son's iPod. In the last year using those figures, they have collected together over 15% of my income for the year. I think this is the figures they are running with.

        What they are failing to figure, is if all that music was paid for for each copy, is they could pocket that money. This is simply wrong. That money isn't there. At full retail with piracy eliminated the reality would be that neither kid would have any use for an iPod or Zen and they would be exposed to less music and would have bought far fewer CD's than they actualy did. With the portable music players and a large exposuere, they have become avid fans of some bands and buy CD's and go to concerts. Without the exposure, this would not have happend.

        I grew up in the 1970s. Through those years, I didn't go to any concerts. The local AM station played country. In high school the next town over got a couple FM stations, one was rock. Piracy was mostly non-existant, but so was my involvement with any music industry product.

        When I went into the Navy and spent time in the barracs, I was exposed to lots of neat music. I invested heavily in a very good stereo system including a linear tracking turntable and 2 cassette decks. I pirated a bunch of stuff and also bought a bunch of stuff. That was my peak music buying years. If Piracy didn't exist, I would have had little reason to get into stereo and invest in quality duplication decks in a big way. This is seldom figured in any anti-piracy study. For the new generation, the cassette decks has been replaced by PC hard drives and portable music players. The cost of duplication has gone down, the quality of copies has gone up and the media compainies still have way overpriced products.

        The biggest roadblock to stopping piracy at the moment is simply overpriced product. This has not changed since I was in the Navy. I would have bought a lot more of my favorite music if it didn't cost so stinking much. I'm glad to see Nine Inch Nails make an issue of that. They are dead right.
      • by enrevanche ( 953125 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:39PM (#20663535)
        While their number is ridiculous (about $1000 per Canadian), the Canadian economy is over 1 trillion. So their estimate is less than 3%.

        $1000 is not really plausible, especially since this includes a large part of the population (small children and the elderly etc.) who do not purchase any or very little media and who do not have the capability to "pirate".

      • Does anyone really believe that one in five dollars spent goes to something "fake"?
        Fake food? Pizza, Twinkies, Mc*** ?
      • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) *
        >>Does anyone really believe that one in five dollars spent goes to something "fake"?

        Certainly once genetic code can be copyrighted, trademarked or otherwise "protected" (as it often is in the form of plant seed), you can have consumers buying fake wheat, corn, oats even copyright infringing bananas.
  • just in case... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by __aasmho4525 ( 13306 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:12PM (#20662673)
    some readers might not realize that the phrase "open source" has a number of common uses.

    besides the one most slashdot readers are familiar with, another is possibly equally interesting to slashdot readers:

    click here [] for an alternative definition.

    • I agree with parent. Given the legal context, it's very likely that this is what the RCMP actually meant.

    • by skeeto ( 1138903 )

      some readers might not realize that the phrase "open source" has a number of common uses.

      You see, that's why we should instead use a name that is completely unambiguous: free software. This way no one will ever be confused.

  • Oh, come on.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:12PM (#20662677)
    Is it that big a surprise that government and reporting agencies bloat numbers .... or even just lie to get their agenda covered?

    It's not just Canada. It's the USA, all the countries in Europe, Asia..

    Any peoples with a government body lie.
    • That's not the issue. The issue is that we need to call them out on it every chance that we get. If you just dismiss it casually because they'll do it anyway, worse things will happen.
    • by westyx ( 95706 )
      Everyone bloats numbers to promote an agenda, from governments to individuals to corner stores.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:23PM (#20662751)
    As the Canadian dollar appreciates relative to the U.S. dollar, counterfeiters will make the transition from U.S. to Canadian money and Americans will save $30 billion per year. Not to mention that it's good for the Earth when counterfeiters find ways to cut down on their use of paper.
  • Obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:27PM (#20662783) Journal
    Canada's national police force, has been claiming that counterfeiting costs Canadians $30 billion per year.

    Umm no it doesn't cost Canadians anything, they're getting all that counterfeit stuff for free, that's kinda the whole point of piracy. It might be more accurate to say that $30 billion per year worth of wealth is more evenly distributed in Canada, thanks to counterfeiting. (I'm only being partially sarcastic)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

      You're assuming that each pirated copy would never have been a sale. Consider, though, that much of piracy (both in terms of counterfeit branded goods and software) involves unwitting consumers (the man who gets suckered into a Rolex deal that's too good to be true, for example). These are a lot grayer, and it could very well be that the consumer who bought the counterfeit goods would have bought the legit item if given the opportunity and the knowledge.

      So yes, while I agree that piracy numbers are severe

      • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:40PM (#20663537) Journal

        Consider, though, that much of piracy (both in terms of counterfeit branded goods and software) involves unwitting consumers (the man who gets suckered into a Rolex deal that's too good to be true, for example).
        Ummm... I'm going to have to disagree with you there, at least about the Rolex.

        People in the market for a 10~100 dollar (fake) Rolex are not the same people who are in the market for a 5,000~10,000 dollar Rolex.
        • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @05:40AM (#20665237) Journal
          People in the market for a 10~100 dollar (fake) Rolex are not the same people who are in the market for a 5,000~10,000 dollar Rolex

          Bingo. I think only you, in this entire discussion so far, even read the FP, much less TFA.

          Counterfeiting != Piracy, people.

          The RIAA has a pretty good argument (even if they use massively inflated numbers) when they say that the average person who pirated popular-song-X might have bought it instead. That doesn't scale up to tens of thousands of songs, but as a one-off, they have a valid point.

          When the IACC [] tries to make the same argument, it falls completely flat. These jokers make the RIAA look reasonable by comparison. The average person simply will not ever buy a $1500 handbag or a $5000 watch. This organization doesn't protect the average Joe (they even admit the counterfeit goods usually have comparable quality to the real thing, making them harder to spot); They don't protect the manufacturers (since counterfeiting results in no lost sales); They don't help anyone but the mega-rich.

          They make sure Paris Hilton doesn't need to run home and change because her cellmate wore the same (if $10k cheaper) shoes to the press conference.
    • Also could be seen as keeping 30Bn in Canada as opposed to US and all of the offshore accounts held by record companies.
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:54PM (#20662939)
    It's just too plain complicated process to come up with a simple number and claim "that's it", even for a team of neutral experts.
    And that's the ideal case (people are never neutral, especially on a topic such as this).

    The reason they need this number most is they want the government to put a law that artificially "restores the balance" by splitting the loss on blank media and players, taxing those.

    The flaws of this approach are visible from a mile away, even if you had the perfect data in your hands.

    So bottom line: we can't obtain proper data, but we shouldn't need it in the first place.
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @10:04PM (#20662993)
    Canada has been the home to a growing debate ...


    Debate: a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints

    There's plenty of opposing viewpoints, but really there's no "discussion" here ... the individuals and organizations in favor of these shenanigans have no interest whatsoever in debating anything with anyone. They simply want their way, and they'll do pretty much whatever it takes to get it. Nobody else's perspective but their own is of any consequence to them.

    A couple of more appropriate words might be "rubberstamp", or perhaps "steamroller". But not debate.
    • From Monty Python: []

      Argument: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition, an intellectual process.

      There's plenty of opposing viewpoints, but really there's no "discussion" here

      Which brings us to the next word of the day.

      Contradicting: Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.

  • by teh moges ( 875080 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @10:10PM (#20663029) Homepage
    I would wager that moves like "Evan Almighty" cost the industry more then piracy.
    • by pokerdad ( 1124121 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:10PM (#20663369)

      I would wager that moves like "Evan Almighty" cost the industry more then piracy.

      I know you were joking, but I thought that its worth pointing out, there is no longer such a thing as a bomb in Hollywood. Between the globalization of the film market(by which I mean that Hollywood is now king almost everywhere), DVD sales, PPV, broadcast rights, and merchandizing it is virtually impossible for a Hollywood film to lose money anymore. "Evan Almighty" made back $100 mil of its $175 mil budget just in domestic box office, and given that Hollywood films now generally make more money abroad than at home, its sure to show a profit before its done with theatres. []

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aladrin ( 926209 )
        I hear people say that X movie was bad, despite it raking in tens of millions of dollars in the first weekend... If it was REALLY that bad, they wouldn't have made that much money. In fact, I really enjoyed Even Almighty. I think it's a better movie than most movies 50 years ago. It may not be as good as the best movies, but it doesn't have to be. It just has to be entertaining.

        I think we've been jaded by so many truly good movies that we've lost sight of what a 'bad' movie really is. I've a friend wh
  • TFA:

    Similarly, this year the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which counts most industrialized countries as members, issued a comprehensive report on counterfeiting that placed the global cost at $200 billion annually. That analysis, which makes suggestions that Canadian counterfeiting costs $30 billion each year even more implausible, was less than a third of what some business groups had previously claimed.

    In fact, the OECD report concluded that while counterfeiting w

  • $900 per person? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myria ( 562655 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @10:15PM (#20663071)
    So, does anyone really believe that piracy costs Canadians about $900 per person per year?
    • by Joebert ( 946227 )
      Sounds like a job for Geico.
    • Have you checked out the price for a decent eye patch or skull and bones flag recently? I've been trying to get their manufacture outsourced foe years.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, those are Canadian dollars. *looks at exchange rate* Oh, wait.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I know I probably personally pirate $900 a year worth of stuff.

      But if I didn't have that opportunity, would I have spent that $900 on the same material? No. What would I have spent on it? $0.

      This is because movies I really like I always buy the DVD copy of anyway to add to my collection. Movies that suck, well, I download because I have nothing else to do when I am bored. If the ability to pirate this stuff was taken away I would just find something else to do with my time (and would probably lose interest
    • So, does anyone really believe that piracy costs Canadians about $900 per person per year?

      I do, in fact it is much more. Just that it is the total load government taxes that the pirates take from us. This is typical Canadian government misdirection. This sounds more like a ploy to make for an ever bigger government to fix a problem blown far out of proportion.

      Think, 2 of 3 days each of us has to buy a CD for life, maybe full of DRM/trojans too.

  • So a law enforcement agency overstated the threat/street value? I'm schocked, simply schocked...
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @10:24PM (#20663115) Homepage Journal
    It just means "consider the source." If Alan Greenspan edited a financial article on Wikipedia and authenticated himself on his user page, I'd take his edit as more authoritative than if made the same edit.

    On the other hand, if anyone including the folks at made an edit and quoted Greenspan, the quote checked out, and the edit itself was written well, I would consider it just as authoritative.

    You should ALWAYS consider the sources - and the original sources if it's not one - when using other people's data.
  • If you have to look it up like i did, I'll save you the trouble: Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

    I mean, they are still riding horses, did you really expect an elaborate financial analysis on the impact of piracy from them? Jeez...
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
      They mostly ride cars and helicopters these days, much like the US Cavalry.

      The horses do come in handy occasionally though.
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @10:59PM (#20663301)
    ... the RCMP announces the breakup of a massive counterfeiting operation based in Shivering Moose, Alberta.
    • You know, I'm Canadian (though not Albertan) and I still had to double-check that such a town didn't exist. We do get some weirdly named ones up here :-)

      Reminds me of an old joke.

      Two Americans - a man and his wife - become lost while driving around in Canada during their holidays. After wandering aimlessly for awhile, the man finally takes the advice of his wife and stop to ask for directions. They pull into a small gas station, and the man asks the burly attendant therein if he could tell them exactly
  • Who did the estimates of the billions lost by Google?
    Wasn't the RCMP, was it? []


  • by tgatliff ( 311583 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:01PM (#20663311)
    Last year I lost 500000 Billion dollars to people stealing my "stuff"...By my own internal research of course...

    In short, there is an old saying for this... You didnt loose what you never had... :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by warrigal ( 780670 )
      This being slashdot everybody thinks in terms of warez or music. How would you feel about being treated by a counterfeit doctor (it's happened in OZ recently) with counterfeit drugs? Dollar costs are hard to calculate in these circumstances.
      • Counterfeit doctors, drugs have been around since the beginning of times. The success of the current medical industry dictates that they put processes in place to manage this type of issue, and they do this quite effectively...

        What I dont hear the medical industry saying, however, is what Google is trying to say... And that is them trying to calcuate the business that these fraudulent vendors are taking away from them. Meaning, if they never made the money, then it does not belong to them in the first pla
  • I wish it worked the other way too.

    Australian government initiative to spend $84 million to develop a content filter.
  • by m0nkyman ( 7101 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:28PM (#20663483) Homepage Journal
    There is a growing problem with counterfeits outside of IP crap. There are the brand name knock-offs of stuff like designer goods, but there is more and more counterfeiting of things like tires and automobile parts. That genuine GM part might be a sub-par knock off out of a chinese factory.

    It's cool to pretend stuff like this doesn't matter, but it does.
  • Come on, if it's on the internet then it MUST be true!
  • ...counterfeiting saves Canadians $30 billion per year

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.