Report blames piracy on excessive prices

Trying to legislate against online piracy is pointless, according to a report from the Social Science Research Council. Instead, it says, companies could reduce piracy significantly by cutting prices.

The study, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, focused mainly on Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia. And, it concludes, “The problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.”

Relative to local incomes, it says, the price of a CD, DVD or copy of MS Office is often ten times higher than the cost in the US or Europe, making it almost impossible to create a reasonably-sized legal market.

There’s little if any stigma attached to piracy in these countries, and in countries with overburdened legal systems, it’s hard to get governments to take the problem terribly seriously.

“The failure of legal markets to provide access to goods at prices that are affordable in terms of local incomes fuels a situation in which high piracy becomes the primary form of media access,” says study editor Joe Karaganis.

And despite some claims, the study found no connection between piracy and organized crime or terrorism.

“The Social Science Research Council’s study is a landmark in the copyright literature: an actual empirical investigation into what works and what doesn’t in the enforcement arena,” comments William Patry, senior copyright counsel for Google.

“If policy makers want to be guided by evidence and not rhetoric, they will begin with the Council’s study and stay with it for a very long time.”