Bad Science's Ben Goldacre Rips Apart Bogus Study On File Sharing

from the there-goes-another-one dept

Over the years, we've found that every single industry "figure" or "study" on the harm done by unauthorized file sharing wasn't supported by anything factual once you started to dig into the details. So, when we saw yet another report claiming huge "costs" associated with file sharing in the UK we dismissed it pretty quickly noting it made many of the same mistakes as previous studies had. Apparently, it's even worse than that. Ben Goldacre, known for his excellent Bad Science blog has now taken the time to pick through the details of that awfully bad UK report, and found it laughable.

The big numbers being quoted, such as the £10 billion in losses? Not from any actual study. It's from an IP lawyer's press release, with nothing backing it up, other than "Rights owners have estimated" and that number includes both counterfeiting and "piracy" which are related, but different.

The other big figure quoted in the media? £120 billion worth of downloaded materials per year? Yeah, turns out that's based on (a) using a ridiculously high price of £25 per downloaded item and (b) totally and completely made up. You see, the number was already questionable, but the actual number in the report was not £120 billion, but £12 billion. Yet, the group blasting the report out to the press put the wrong numbers (just an order of magnitude off) in the press release, and only quietly changed it after one reporter caught the error. Goldacre asked the group what it was doing to alert the many, many reporters who went with the bogus number, and the group suddenly told him the interview was off the record.

Filed Under: bad science, ben goldacre, file sharing, harm, studies


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  1. identicon
    Timo, 8 Jun 2009 @ 10:40pm

    Bigger problems

    If piracy causes any damage to the society, it is not directly because individuals copy content. Whenever someone makes an illegal copy, the total welfare stays the same (if he would've bought the item otherwise) or increases (if not).

    The real cost has to do with incentives to produce. If, because of piracy, some useful content does not get produced, then a loss might happen. But they don't even try to start calculating this. So there's a bigger flaw in these industry reports than just overestimating some numbers. The whole logic of claiming losses to _society_ directly from illegal copying is wrong, whatever ratio of would-have-bought-otherwise is assumed.

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