Mike Masnick over at TechDirt pointed me over to a “study” put out by Rick Falkvinge, a member of the Pirate Party, who claims that
for every job lost (or killed) in the copyright industry due to nonenforcement of copyright, 11.8 jobs are created in electronics wholesale, electronics manufacturing, IT, or telecom industries — or even the copyright-inhibited part of the creative industries.
Masnick has at least as many problems with Falkvinge’s methodology as I do, but the content industry plays this game too. See this example of similarly muddled reasoning over at The Copyright Alliance Blog, which attempts to connect almost 14 million illegal downloads with the 2,000 production jobs in L.A. Are readers really supposed to think that Hollywood blockbusters are imperiled? If so, the Alliance Blog probably shouldn’t have picked as its example a movie that’s made over $800 million worldwide. (At the box office alone.)
I think Masnick’s analysis is spot-on:
I don’t think anyone actually believes [Falkvinge’s] numbers are accurate. But it’s using the same basic methodology, assumptions and thought processes behind the studies in the other direction. You can also, obviously, claim that Falkvinge is biased. He is. But is he more biased than the entertainment industry legacy players who do the other studies? It seems clear that the industries are likely to be more biased, since they have billions of dollars bet on keeping the old structures in place. I think both studies are probably far from accurate in all sorts of ways, but if you’re going to cite the entertainment industry’s claims based on this kind of methodology, it seems you should also have to accept these claims. [emphasis added]
Numbers can be powerful weapons. But it helps if they actually mean something and aren’t simply empty rhetorical flourishes.