I’ve been doing a bit of research and the point you make is exactly correct. Bang on the money!
The consumer considers 16/44 to be lossless, because formats below that used by Spotify and others use lossy compression.
In the technical literature, codecs that allow the original file to be reconstructed are considered lossless compression. These include FLAC and ALAC. In both the letter “L” is for Lossless. ALAC does not reconstruct exactly the same file, but close enough.
The starting point is always the published data file, which for digital audio has always been assumed to be 16/44 PCM. So any file that is original 16/44 PCM (e.g. WAV) or can be reconstructed to the original (e.g. FLAC) is considered lossless.
So when 20 years ago Apple sold mp3 size files through the iTunes Store, they were lossy, because they could not be reconstructed to the published data file.
I agree with @elk that if a file was issued as sold mp3, it might be considered lossless, but mp3 is by definition a lossy codec. I’ll leave that conundrum to the philosophers. I’ve never seem an original release in mp3.
If anyone released music ONLY in 24/96, a 16/44 version would be considered lossy. Again, I’ve never seen one.
Likewise, a file released only in DSD64, if converted to 24/192 PCM it would be lossy, but probably a larger file. Again, I’ve never seen a DSD-only release.
So as long as 16/44 PCM is the default size for music releases, it is the benchmark for what is lossless, and any version that can be reconstructed to 16/44 would be considered lossless.
Where @Rushton seems to be misleading us is because his “lossless” is about conversions when the music is being recorded and processed. In the literature the terms “lossy” and “lossless” only relate to the published music file. In the processing stage the music could be encoded in DSD, PCM or on strings of spaghetti, if it’s published as 16/44 PCM, that’s lossless.
There is a disagreement on High Definition:
(1) The US definition marketed by RIAA is 20/48 or higher with this logo
(2) The definition by the Japanese equivalent is 24/96 or higher with this logo.