Giving a recent TED Talk, author Rob Reid, creator of the online music subscription service Rhapsody, illustrated for the audience exactly why so-called "copyright math" is almost completely bogus.


"Copyright math" is a term used for the extrapolations published by groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which lobby Washington for tougher laws on copyright infringement by claiming exorbitant financial and job losses due to online piracy.

Of course, it's hard to claim those losses when so many executives are seeing their largest salaries ever, with box office profits continually spiraling higher.

Yet in 1999, the content industries got together to lobby for an "improvement" to copyright law that put a $150,000 price tag on every single act of infringement, and Washington granted their wish.

"Now when this law first passed, the world's hottest MP3 player could hold just 10 songs, and it was a big Christmas hit -- because what little hoodlum wouldn't want a million and a half bucks-worth of stolen goods in his pocket?" Reid asked, using copyright math to illustrate the absurdity of their claims.

"These days, an iPod classic can hold 40,000 songs... Which is to say, eight billion dollars worth of stolen media, or about 75,000 jobs," he deadpanned. "Now you might find copyright math strange, but that's because it's a field that's best left to experts."

Both the MPAA and the RIAA have weighed in heavily on other nations' copyright laws in recent years, facilitated by the Obama Administration. They also recently brokered a deal with all the major Internet providers to set up network operators as the de facto copyright police, who will begin spying on customers to detect piracy later this year.

This video is from TED Talks, published Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Updated from an original version.