WaPo Tech Blogger’s Half Truths

Timothy B. Lee, technology policy blogger at WaPo, recently contributed a post with the headline “Here’s why Hollywood should blame itself for its piracy problems,” which was changed to “People pirate movies they can’t get legally,” eventually settling on “Many of the most-pirated movies aren’t available for legitimate online purchase.” Why the need for such clarification in the title of the blog?

Find out why Hollywood isn’t to blame for its piracy problems…

According to the Colombia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum, it’s because the blog had received a major correction that completely undermines the premise of the piece. Using bad data from piracydata.org (co-founded by researchers at the anti-government think tank the Mercatus Center), Lee argues that a major reason for online movie piracy is the unavailability of newly released films on the internet (shown in the data from piracydata’s graph). In doing so, he discounts a basic fact at hand, which Chittum points out: “People steal pirated movies largely because they’d rather not pay for something they don’t have to pay for, and because the consequences of breaking the law are almost nonexistent. It’s not very complicated.”

Noteworthy: Chittum points out that Lee never disclosed his former direct financial involvement with the people who published the site. Chittum writes that he contributed a chapter to a Mercatus book with the researchers.

After adding the correction to the piece, Lee also included a counterpoint from the MPAA’s Kate Bedingfield at the end of the story, stating “But Bedingfield counters that films get heavily pirated even when they’re made available in online formats. ‘The Walking Dead’ was pirated 500,000 times within 16 hours despite the fact that it is available to stream for free for the next 27 days on AMC’s website and distributed in 125 countries around the world the day after it aired,” she says. “Our industry is working hard to bring content to audiences when they want it, where they want it, but content theft is a complex problem that requires comprehensive, voluntary solutions from all stakeholders involved.”

Amazing what you can learn if you just “follow the money,” (this line was pirated from the HBO hit show ‘The Wire‘ who had pirated the line from the 1976 movie All The President’s Men).