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Download dirge

Tiresome repetition of the bleeding obvious award today goes to the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP) who are wasting hundreds of column inches in the newspapers with their claims about digital piracy in a new study.

The 85-page coffee-table leveller, with the snappy title Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online Age, estimates that seven million people in the UK are involved in illegal downloading of music, movies, software and games, although they fail to provide much in the way of explanation about how they arrive at their conclusions regarding numbers.

Certainly when it comes to working out what the annual worth of downloaded material, they introduce the same specious statistical methods used by opponents of Jerry Spinger: The Opera that I commented on some years ago.* (I would link but those kind people at Google have responded to my attempt to reclaim my old Blogger blog by taking it down completely) 

The authors say that UCL researchers found 1.3 million users sharing content on a single P2P network at noon on a specific day.

They then use some very unsubtle mathematics to arrive at a remarkable conclusion”

If each “peer” from this network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads (music, film, television, e-books, software and games were all available) would be 4.73 billion items per year. This amounts to around £12 billion in content being consumed annually – for free.

Ooooooo look at that BIG number – something that’s sure to be seized upon by ignorant journalists and even more ignorant politicians everywhere, giving the politicos a nice little bandwagon to jump on to try and divert attention away from the expenses scandal which continues to claim careers at Westminster.

The fact that they have arrived at this number by a statistical sleight of hand, and that the real figure is probably only a fraction of that, has nothing to do with it – as the hacks say: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

Now in the interests of fairness, the UCL team did also look at other research and spoke to people in the entertainment industry and regulators, though they don’t look as if they’ve spoken to anyone who lives in the real world.

The problem is that the ignorant politicians will simply tell the ISPs to crackdown on file-sharing, even though the ISPs are, quite understandably, reluctant to become the policemen of the web.

The other issue that these dimwits choose to ignore is the cause of piracy – the backward and intransigent way in which the content creators fail to engage with their audience, preferring to treat everyone like criminals rather than providing them with good service.

That’s on top of the way in which content producers in the UK have been over-charging for their products for many years.

The newspaper industry is already reaping the whirwind of its digital denial, while the music industry only survived thanks to the intervention of Apple’s i-Tunes.

Television companies, Hollywood movie producers and book publishers are all desperately trying to avoid the on-coming train crash with the interwebs – one which they will surely lose unless they ignore specious reports from vested interest groups like SABIP and get their collective heads out of the sand.

[* The original post pointed out that opponents of Jerry Springer: The Opera being shown on the BBC claimed there were thousands of expletives used in the production, but that in reality there were much fewer; the protestors had arrived at their claim by taking the actual number of expletives used, and multiplied them by the number of people on-stage using that expletive, again producing a BIG number that the useless saps at The Daily Mail jumped on with avengeance as part of it’s ridiculous vendetta against the BBC]

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