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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Yo Ho Ho and a Pinch of Salt

The headline for your article "Piracy hits industry for $160m" (The Age, 25/2) is merely an untested claim by private lobbyists. Many readers may have been left with the impression that the Australasian Film and Video Security Office is a govenment agency. It's not. Their figures are reported without comment in the Australian Institute of Criminology's recent study. However, this study does not provide a reference to how the AFVSO arrived at these magic numbers. (The only reference was to a study by another private pressure group, the Business Software Alliance, which just dealt with software piracy.) It's very disturbing that both The Age and the AIC could fall for such uncritical and naive use of information.

The agenda of the AFVSO is to maximise the perceived impact of copyright violations in this country. One tactic employed overseas is to report "industry losses" by taking the number of copies sold illegally and multiplying by the retail price. This is, at best, rotten economics as it doesn't recognise that quantity and price are inextricably linked, and that most people work within a budget (higher prices mean fewer acquisitions).

Is this how they calculated such staggeringly large figures? Without referenced studies - or questioning academics and journalists - we'll never know.


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