Lies my numbers told me…

CBC is reporting that “Software pirates abound in P.E.I.” according to a study [warning: insane Flash-based website] by the Business Software Alliance.

I did an interview with Island Morning the last time these folks released their crazy study (which also showed the Island as “software piracy capital of Canada), and everything thing I said that time applies again.

Basically their study is not based on empirical research, it is based entirely on extrapolation.

To calculate the demand numbers, the study says they do the following:

PC shipments by province were estimated from a detailed review of the employment and population of each province, and the application of U.S. market research to estimate the PC penetration rate variation among provinces. From this basis, estimates of PC shipments could be made for each province.

On the supply side, they went through a similar guessing process:

To estimate the supply of legal software by province, IPR relied on detailed industry sales data. This data was compiled only for those software applications that were studied in the BSA global software piracy study. For that study, only business software applications that correspond to the three Software Application Tiers were used.

So, basically, they guessed at the number of computers they think Islanders should be buying, guessed at the amount of software that Islanders should be buying, and thus declared that our ratio was the worst in Canada, and thus we are a province of software pirates.

My main point the last time this issue came up was that if you are going to disparage the reputation of my province, you’d better have more than guessing to back you up. And it applies this time as well.

There is no doubt that some Islanders have and use pirated software. As a software developer myself, I am against the use of pirated software. But these goons do not represent me or my interests and they should stop releasing these grossly over-generalized studies.


stephen's picture
stephen on October 17, 2002 - 20:52 Permalink

My favourite number quote — forget who said it, it’s just sortof around:

IQ testing reminds me of how they weigh pigs in Texas. You build a seesaw or teeter totter like for kids in a playground except you put wooden boxes at each end. On one end you put in the pig that you want to weigh. On the other end you put in rocks until the rocks balance the weight of the pig. Then you guess how much the rocks weigh.

Michael Reynolds's picture
Michael Reynolds on October 18, 2002 - 15:43 Permalink

Peter, why don’t you apply for ACOA funding and commission your own study and publish it on your web site. I’m sure no one would dispute your findings.

D. McKie's picture
D. McKie on October 29, 2002 - 04:27 Permalink

I think Peter is right. I think those numbers are mostly made up. However, I must say that I think their findings may be little on the conservative side. I would have estimated pirating as being alot higher if you consider all occurances of pirating. I even went so far as to make up a little anonymous survey of my own that may be a little more accurate as long as all respondants tell the truth. If you want to help prove a point fill out the six question survey. I promise not to rat anyone.

D. McKie's picture
D. McKie on November 7, 2002 - 14:25 Permalink

Survey is over. Results are in. 50% of those surveyed claim that they pirate software. Not too far off from the original results. More alarming however is that 88% pirate mp3’s and 75% use pirated movies or tv shows. If you are interested in seeing the complete results you can check them out here.

Ron Kelly's picture
Ron Kelly on October 23, 2003 - 13:26 Permalink

From what I heard of the original CBC interview with a Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft representative, their survey methodology certainly is suspect. They apparently formed part of their assumptions by taking the number of software purchases in each province and dividing that by the population base in each province. Those provinces where the purchases per person rate was lower than in other provinces were therefore using more pirated software.
This totally ignores other possible factors, including things like the difference in average incomes between provinces. If Islanders have a lower average income than, say, Albertans, they may very well purchase (and use) fewer software programs. This doesn’t mean that they are using any greater (or lesser) numbers of pirated software programs, however. They may simply be doing without the full range of software programs that their counterparts in Alberta use.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on October 23, 2003 - 21:45 Permalink

They engage in “Province-slander” while discussing software piracy

Kevin's picture
Kevin on October 23, 2003 - 21:56 Permalink

Michael Reynolds: Your comment could be taken in two completely different ways. One, a very reasonable suggestion, and the other way? — well, it would be something like a sarcastic slur directed at Atlant Canada. Since I don’t know any context from which you might have written it, I honestly don’t know which you would have me adopt as your intent (seriously).

(‘don’t wish to embarass, but would like to know which one)

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on October 24, 2003 - 13:11 Permalink

Using the amount of software purchases in the province as a measure would not work very well here. I purchase most of my software from SoftChoice in Toronto (order it by 5 today, it’s usually on my desk by 09:30 the next morning), since the stores here carry mainly consumer-oriented packages. They also don’t deal with site licenses, volume purchases, etc., which are requirements of larger businesses and government entities.

I expect this much of the software purchased by PEI businesses, governments and NGO’s is not trackable by CAAST’s methods.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on October 24, 2003 - 14:34 Permalink

My PC’s are clean, and nobody checked with me. Many PC’s (Dell is big on this)today are coming preloaded with software selected by the purchaser, making the need for further software purchases unnecessary — another reason why this study is not credible. Why doesn’t the CBC do a story on the outsourcing of software development to India, where companies take advantage of low wages and poor working conditions to bring a product to market, while increasing retail prices to fatten the profit margin of dot-com companies whose CEO’s pad their wallet. No excuse for anyone to break the law, but still, the plight of these companies does not tug at my heartstrings.