How 136 People Became 7 Million Illegal File-Sharers

The British government’s official figures on the level of illegal file sharing in the UK come from questionable research commissioned by the music industry. The Radio 4 show named More or Less examined the government’s claim that 7m people in Britain are engaged in illegal file sharing. The 7m figure actually came from a report written about music industry losses for Forrester subsidiary Jupiter Research. The report was privately commissioned by none other than the UK’s music trade body, the BPI. The 7m figure had been rounded up from an actual figure of 6.7m, gleaned from a 2008 survey of 1,176 net-connected households, 11.6% of which admitted to having used file-sharing software — in other words, only 136 people. That 11.6% was adjusted upwards to 16.3% to reflect the assumption that fewer people admit to file sharing than actually do it. The 6.7m figure was then calculated based on an estimated number of internet users that disagreed with the government’s own estimate. The wholly unsubstantiated 7m figure was then released as an official statistic — via Slashdot

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