Can we trust any of these claims about piracy?
The US doesn't think so. In a new report out yesterday, the government's own internal watchdog took a close look at "efforts to quantify the economic effects of counterfeit and pirated goods." After examining all the data and consulting with numerous experts inside and outside of government, the Government Accountability Office concluded (PDF) that it is "difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the economy-wide impacts."
More specific studies that focus only on single industries don't fare much better because "the illicit nature of counterfeiting and piracy makes estimating the economic impact of IP infringements extremely difficult." And when it comes time to choose a substitution rate (how much of the infringing activity should be counted as a lost sale), we're left only with "assumptions... which can have enormous impacts on the resulting estimates."
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