I’ve yet to encounter a technically clueful person who believes the Stop Online Piracy Act will actually do anything to meaningfully reduce—let alone “stop”—online piracy [..] But then I saw the very astute David Carr’s otherwise excellent column on SOPA’s pitfalls, which took those inflated numbers more or less as gospel. The bogus numbers Carr cites [..] represent a substantial retreat from even more ludicrous statistics the copyright industries long peddled [..].
Intellectual property infringement was supposedly costing the U.S. economy $200–250 billion per year, and had killed 750,000 American jobs. That certainly sounded dire, but those numbers looked suspiciously high, and I was having trouble figuring out exactly where they had originated. I did finally run them down, and wrote up the results of my investigation in a long piece for Ars. Read the whole thing for the full, farcical story, but here’s the upshot: The $200–250 billion number had originated in a 1991 sidebar in Forbes, but it was not a measurement of the cost of “piracy” to the U.S. economy. It was an unsourced estimate of the total size of the global market in counterfeit goods.