Highly Flawed 'Piracy' Report Used To Support Positions That Are Unrelated
from the just-saying... dept
Last year, we pointed out that Steven Tepp, who worked at the US Copyright Office at the time, and was heavily involved in pushing for ACTA (and downplaying the legitimate concerns of ACTA critics), jumped ship to the private US Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the stronger supporters of such bad laws. The Chamber of Commerce, which is basically a lobbying organization for some of the world’s biggest businesses, has a history of making up absolutely ridiculous claims about intellectual property, so it’s really not a surprise that it would hire Tepp, who did the same thing from within the government.
However, when Tepp speaks out in support of greater protectionism, especially based on a complete lack of evidence, shouldn’t the press point out that he was heavily involved in the crafting of some of the legislation he’s now supporting from the “outside”? For example, Hillicon Valley has an article about a silly new study from MarkMonitor, which notes the unsurprising fact that, gosh darnit, there are a lot of sites out there that offer infringing products. Big shock. But the article then quotes Tepp saying:
“Online counterfeiting and piracy is a destructive force that threatens consumers, hurts our businesses, and costs American jobs.”
That’s a sort of go to line that we hear all the time. Funny thing is, no one supports it with any actual evidence. It’s purely faith-based. What’s the neat trick that Tepp pulls is he says this in commenting on a report that sounds like it’s presenting evidence to back up his claims. It is not. The report says that there are lots of sites out there offering pirated or counterfeit content. That’s different than proving that those sites are “destructive” or harm consumers or businesses. In fact, over and over again, when you have independent research that looks at those actual questions, you discover that the actual impact of such activities is significantly less than industry lobbyists would have you believe.
So rather than just letting someone like Tepp, who is inherently biased, comment on a report that does not make the claims he says it makes, why not speak to folks who might question some of the claims from the report… or at least note that Tepp is hardly an impartial observer here, but someone who is paid to pretend that the impact of copyright and trademark infringement is significantly worse than any of the evidence actually suggests?
As for the actual report that Tepp was commenting on, it doesn’t actually say what Tepp says it says. You can read the details of the report (pdf) here. It’s almost laughably weak in its methodology. Nowhere does it support any of Tepp’s claims — and you would think that a journalist wouldn’t quote a biased commenter making claims that have nothing to do with the report in question. Specifically, the MarkMonitor report simply looked at some sites that are used for infringement, then assumed that they were used entirely for infringing purposes, and then used Alexa ratings (perhaps the least credible measuring system out there) and simply added up all visits, and seemed to suggest that this was all for infringement. When it came to pharmaceuticals, the researchers did not appear to make much of an attempt to determine which offerings were really gray market importers of generic drugs, as opposed to counterfeits. Instead, it just made some assumptions based on the sites themselves.
So basically, all the report actually shows is that, according to Alexa (again, not considered to be even remotely accurate), some sites that may have some infringing downloads or may sell some unauthorized products get a lot of traffic. Like that’s a surprise. And yet, that leads to a quote from a biased ex-government official, now paid to hype up the “threat” of infringement, as if this study proves we need the new laws he was a part of writing? How is that responsible journalism?