So I followed the trail to this white paper (pdf) issued by Futuresource Consulting, a British PR company. The actual figures they've come up with are 32% in the United States and 36% in the United Kingdom admit to ripping DVDs.
I call bullshit. There's no way these figures are accurate. Most people wouldn't even know where to start. And my guess is that people who (a) know how and (b) can be bothered would be more likely to download their content straight from the web. Even a figure as high as 5% would raise an eyebrow. If you think a third of all people have ripped DVDs, then you haven't met people.
Turns out the research was sponsored by Macrovision, who proudly claim: "Macrovision provides copy protection, digital rights management, digital content licensing and asset management technologies to video, music, entertainment and business software markets". No conflict of interest there then!
But surely even if Macrovision had hired them, Futuresource would still try and demonstrate their integrity. At least they haven't tried to hide the sponsor's name. But where did they find the 5,331 respondents? Slashdot? Usenet? You can't tell from the report. And how were they incentivized to take part? The report doesn't say. You would think that most people smart enough to rip a DVD would also have seen the warnings and promotional films at the start of EVERY SINGLE FILM warning them about piracy. They'd hardly admit to the crime. And what were the specific questions asked? They're not stated in the report. From my experience doing user research, you've got to be very careful not to put words into people's mouths. It's dead easy to manipulate these surveys.
But even still, I doubt very much whether they'd get 1/3rd of respondents to admit to doing something they probably don't even understand. I cast aspersions on thee, Futuresource!!
So, here's a helpful summary:
- Futuresource are puppets-for-hire, with no integrity
- Macrovision are so desperate to prop up their broken business model that they'll pay someone to make stuff up
- And at the very least, shame on Ars Technica for not at least reporting that the white paper was sponsored by Macrovision. You have a responsibility to your readers to do at least a little fact checking before running a piece like this.