Disclosure, and discussion

Last month, I wrote about the GAO report that assessed various “efforts to quantify the economic effects of counterfeit and pirated goods”. One take-away: I was encouraged to read a report that called for data-driven assessments of the true impact of piracy.

In that same spirit, two other posts are worth reading. Writing at The Media Institute, UC – Berkeley professor Peter Menell critiques the GAO critique, describing the report as “limited and cautious”. Professor Menell points to several other research studies that are generally more likely to see a quantifiable impact from piracy.

Professor Menell argues that incomplete assessments weaken the debate around the impact of piracy:

“Intellectual property law and policy are fundamentally about balance and adapting to change. But balance cannot be assessed without a framework and baseline. The GAO Report provides a useful starting point toward that end. It highlights the complexities of calculating economic losses from illicit activities. Rather than polarize discussion, all players should work toward constructive discourse.”

A good example of that “constructive discourse” can be found at Copycense, “the online journal of code and content“. In February, the site posted an extensive, thoughtful critique of a Princeton study authored by Edward Felten and Sauhard Sahi. The two had published work that found only 1% of BitTorrent files were “non-infringing” with respect to copyright.

Helpfully, Copycense asks a number of questions about the study’s design, data collection methods and statistical analysis, all of which are seen as critical to establish before developing conclusions that might drive policy and practice.

We all have biases. Both The Media Institute and Copycense call for disclosure (and breadth of discussion) to make those biases easier to spot and address. With respect to piracy, that’s needed now more than ever.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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