Numbers lie all the time. Let's get that out of the way at the onset. Whenever anyone offers up some enormous number to "estimate" the probable loss or gain of a course of action it's probably close to total B.S. Take the UK music industry's claim that expect to lose as much as £200 in 2009 (thanks Ars Technica) as a result of piracy. There's no way to actually calculate that number, because it's impossible for us to know what people would have purchased legally if they didn't have access to it illegally.
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Sure, Ted the Income tax adjuster probably would have bought that DvD of "Coupling" if he hadn't had access to Bittorrent. But I doubt that Jimmy the 9th grader or Bob the College Student would've spent over £20,000 each on movies, music, and software if 'legal' was the only option. Just because someone pirates a lot of media doesn't mean they would have bought it legally if the free option wasn't available.
Thankfully, the ISPs in the UK are firing back at the Music Industry with some big, B.S. numbers of their own. According to Ars, the music industry wants to create a "three strikes" rule in order to cut down on piracy. This privacy prevention plan would be expensive for the ISPs, and for the individual customers themselves. In fact, they "estimate" their expenses will top over $365 million a year.
That number is too round and too exact to be close to right; it's another approximation that's probably just as flawed as the music industry's "projected" losses. That said, there can be no denying that fighting piracy has some very substantial costs. So what's the right move to make?
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Content providers need to understand that the Internet is a game-changer for their industries. The same strategies and tactics that worked twenty years ago will not stand up now. You can fight pirates all you want, but that won't increase your sales. Only adapting to the digital age and finding ways to make customers want to buy your product will work.