Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

An interesting survey based project to try to answer the question of whether the cost of what the MPAA and RIAA does exceeds their forgone revenues to piracy.


The problem with their survey is that there is little reason to believe that the figures obtained from a self-selected survey of this sort are in any way accurate. When you ask someone filling in a survey form of this sort how much more they would have spent without anti-piracy mechanisms in place, you are getting a biased sample of a number that even if your respondents are honest, they can only really guess. Moreover, it is easy to suspect that someone surfing to this location might be opposed to the RIAA in general.

In short, I'm not sure we can learn anything useful or at all convincing from this exercise.

True, the sample is probably self-selecting. On the other hand, I don't think there is much incentive to give accurate information in other surveys either.

What I like is the way it calculates the formula on the fly. Pretty nifty.

I think it's a first step though. If they could get a more scientificially random sample of people and tune the questions to be more neutral, it might be more interesting.

I like the idea of this project, but I do not think that the results will ever be useful. The people hitting this page are more than likely on the upper end of the spending curve for digital content.

I may have completely misread their argument, partly due to tiredness and partly due to their dazzling powers of obfuscation, but surely the two figures they're comparing are unrelated.

They compare the cost of organising an 'anti-piracy' lobby with the estimated cost of unpunished filesharing and conclude that the organisation is a waste of time. This strikes me as similar to comparing the annual cost of a police force with the estimated cost of crimes they annually fail to prevent or punish.

The figure that supposedly justifys the RIAA's existence is always going to be a hypothetical one - the total cost of 'piracy' (filesharing etc.) if they didn't exist.

I wrote an article entitled the nine things that the RIAA does not want you to know at:



Regarding sample error - If people hitting the page 'are more than likely on the upper end of the spending curve for digital content', our model corrects their estimates. You can check the details. Beyond that scenario, does our method work? I think it depends on us getting a nice large sample.

Regarding 'numbers that don't exist' - that's the point of opportunity cost - the next highest-valued alternative you couldn't achieve because of the choice you made. It's *always* nonexistent - but it is a very real cost.

The bigger point: it's *not* the numbers themselves that matter - it's the relative *difference* between the numbers. It's a simple argument: If piracy costs $3 and antipiracy tactics cost $6, the media industry cannot benefit from antipiracy tactics. Of course, this leaves many nice and meaningful variables out of the equation.

Hope this helps, we are working to make it more accessible, thanks for the comments.


Sorry for the double comment, this got clipped from my last one (wierd egyptian keyboards will kill ya).

Regarding "there is little reason to believe that the figures obtained from a self-selected survey of this sort are in any way accurate" - we do filter against nonsense valuations.

But I think the bigger picture is about trust. If we can't *trust* open-source solutions, then open-source economics will always and everywhere fail. Is there a signal/noise relationship in trust - can *enough* trust do the trick? Markets suggest so. This is one of the things our experiment is testing.


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