A Funny Take on Why “Copyright Math” is Bogus

By many accounts, one of the more entertaining talks at TED in 2012 was Rob Reid’s look at what he calls “copyright math.” Reid is the author of Architects of the Web and he founded Listen.com Inc., which created the Rhapsody digital music service. In a very tongue in cheek demonstration, he points out the bogus nature of the entertainment industry’s math when it comes to supposed losses due to copyright infringement. For example, he discusses how the economic loss due to copyright infringement, as claimed by the entertainment industry, would equal the combined collapse of the entire U.S. corn, fruit, wheat, cotton, tobacco, rice, and . . . sorghum industries. He goes on from there, in a talk that is worth several laughs.

If you’re not familiar with TED, you can check out the post that Anthony Russo did for us a couple of years ago. The YouTube video of Reid’s talk is embedded below.



It’s worth repeating what I’ve said here before. Content creators deserve to be compensated for their work. The industry’s handling of this issue, however, and the way it has stifled technological innovation to maintain its vice grip on its content (and on old business models), has been horrible.

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.


  1. I’ve often thought that, in a perfect world where all pirating was stopped, how much more would the content creators actually make? Not everyone who downloads an mp3, say, would actually go out and buy that song. So the loss of earning is much smaller. (That’s not an excuse to pirate it of course!)

    I wouldn’t be surprised if potential earnings would be less than 10% of that reported.

  2. Thanks for the share Evan, I always thought the maths was a bit off but who knew it was this bad haha, I do agree piracy does certainly cost the content creators a significant amount, but talk about over exaggeration.

  3. This is interesting Evan, as a musician I think this whole topic is continually evolving as musicians and artists gear themselves to working independently from big labels. I personally have been giving my recordings away online (as opposed to $10 digital downloads), and I’ve found a huge increase in people at my concerts. As an artist, I would much rather have a great turnout at my $15 show, than a $10 copy of a digital album.

    Martin, you are right on. I always like to use the example of someone downloading an album from an artist they know nothing about. If someone has never heard of an artist, and they listen to them via a pirated source, who’s to say they won’t purchase an album in the future? Without the ability to “test drive” said artists earlier material, would the industry make those sales at a later date?

    • I think you probably represent the new type of artist, Travis. You can do what you love, and have a greater share of the money go directly to you, bypassing the middleman.

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