Intellectual Property: Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods

How much does piracy and counterfeiting cost to the industry? This is an extremely valuable question. Depending whom you are listening the data change in incredible ratio.

Are their any reliable figures? This was teh question that the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) tried to answer following a request of the Congress. Last month GAO published its 41 page answer.

What is the answer? I will quote an excerpt of the executive summary.

We determined that the U.S.
government did not systematically collect data and perform analysis on the impacts of counterfeiting and piracy on the U.S. economy and, based on our review of literature and interviews with experts, we concluded that it was not feasible to develop our own estimates or attempt to quantify the economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy on the U.S. economy.

In other words, according to GAO, it is not possible to have reliable data. Nevertheless, the report makes an exhaustive review and analysis of the numerous reports proposing data. Each time, GAO explains the weaknesses in the methodology. The report offers an interesting exhaustive bibliography of existing reports on piracy.

At no moment does GAO take a position if the data are under estimating or over estimating the real data. it just states that there is no reliable way to estimate it. Which is totally logic. How can estimate something that you cannot measure, that you do not know, … Would the institutions have precise knowledge, they would then be in capacity to stop it.

In addition, the report gives a good qualitative analysis of the consequences of pîracy. The “positive” effect is rather anecdotic, although the argument that IT and telco industry did benefit from digital piracy was already claimed by Olivier BOMSEL.

Conclusion: Piracy and counterfeiting arereal. They have negative effects but nobody can give a reliable estimation of the real impact.

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