GAO doubts the industry quoted piracy figures

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released results from a year-long study into the monetary damages reportedly caused by peer-to-peer piracy and counterfeiting.

There has been a recent controversy as copyright groups offer what are believed to be ballooned numbers when asked about the effects of piracy on the industry’s bottom-line.

The report ultimately found that it is extremely difficult to try and find a real number for economy-wide impacts related to P2P file sharing.  Furthermore, the FBI previously estimated counterfeiting loss at $200-$250 billion, but couldn’t provide source information as to how that number was calculated.

GAO doubts the industry quoted piracy figures

“Three widely cited U.S. government estimates of economic losses resulting from counterfeiting cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies,” according to the GAO.  “Each method (of measuring) has limitations, and most experts observed that it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the economy-wide impacts.”

Many observers questioned the accuracy of industry-provided numbers related to piracy – with many critics noting how each pirated music track or movie isn’t necessarily a lost sale. Even so, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) face declining sales and increased pressure to battle piracy.

This GAO report was released at an interesting time, now that the DoJ has stated they support higher copyright infringement fines.

This report will likely have little impact on the continued effort by the RIAA and MPAA to stamp out file sharing.  The RIAA has sued thousands of accused file sharers, but now wants ISPs to begin enforcing copyright infringement.  ISPs don’t necessarily want the task of policing users, and are reluctant to do the music industry’s dirty work while alienating subscribers.

The European Union (EU) wants the United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and other nations to sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — new legislation that would clearly outline what happens — and who is involved in future file sharing cases.