No sense? No shame?

June 19, 2007

I’m not posting this to get into a copyright/IP debate. Rather I’m posting this in my continued outrage at people’s utter lack of common sense and/or shame when dealing with statistics and orders of magnitude. Arstechnica reports:
Copyright coalition: Piracy more serious than burglary, fraud, bank robbery

“Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned,” Cotton said. “If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions [of dollars] a year.” Cotton’s comments come in Paul Stweeting’s report on Hollywood’s latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill.

There are two obvious rejoinders to such a ridiculous statement. The first is that “hundreds of billions of dollars a year” is a myth. The MPAA’s own cherry-picked study from Smith Barney in 2005 put their annual loss at less than $6 billion, and while the music and software industries also like to publish trumped-up claims, the figures are nowhere near hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Projected 2007 revenues for all of the U.S. content producing industries are about $400 billion combined. I’m assuming that he means to specify the potential income not received as a result of piracy. That would be the highest figure. It should be immediately obvious to anyone what the difference is between losing potential income and actual property. That aside, this fellow is either shameless enough to assert that fully half of potential sales are lost to piracy, or clueless enough about the size of industry to think it’s in the trillions, or careless enough to look up the statistic for other crimes and not for industry revenues.
By the way, if we were to start counting the costs of crime in terms of potential revenue not received, I’m sure we could drastically increase the estimate for other crimes. Particularly, I imagine the losses due to white collar crime and corporate fraud will be tremendous when you factor in potential income for all shareholders, lost productivity, and so on. And let’s not forget the $1.54 million for each human life lost to drunk driving, negligence (medical, corporate, industrial), as well as violent crimes prorated for annual figures. Not to mention the ripple-effects of hospitalization, trauma, and so on on all of the people in an individual’s life and their productivity.

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