Everybody knows that music and maths have a lot in common. I don’t know how many thought that creativity was one of those commonalities though.
Yet a nice, round, fictitious number is what’s being bandied around in Britain as the number of people who share files illegally.
And here files probably means music, especially since the original research was commissioned by the music industry.
Cadenza in D Major
Here’s how it works.
Start with a survey sample of 1,176 respondents in the UK. 11.6% of them (136 people) admitted to having used file-sharing software.
So far, so good.
- Bump that percentage to 16.3%, because you suspect that some people didn’t answer the question honestly.
- Now assume the sample represents 40 million people, even though the Government’s figures put the number at 33.9 million.
- Round up as required.
The number you arrive at purports to represent the number of people who share files illegally.
Hmm, working with the actual figures gives a result of around 3.9 million.
On the other hand, if you bump the percentage, bump the total population, and round up, the number of illegal filesharers is claimed as 7 million,
the British Government’s official figures on the level of illegal file sharing in the UK.
That’s almost twice as many as the number derived from the actual figures.
Refrain in C Sharp
The music industry of course are free to make up any numbers they like, about anything. It seems they frequently do.
The worry is that otherwise reputable groups, such as a Government, picks up these numbers, repeats them and perhaps uses them as the basis for policy or law.
Then there’s a chain reaction as other Governments follow suit.
I’d like to thank the BBC’s More or Less team who examined the figures on this piece of research and showed us what was really going on.
If the BPI-commissioned Jupiter research had used the Government’s online population figures, the total number of file sharers would be 5.6m. If the researchers hadn’t adjusted their figures upwards, the total number of file sharers would be only 3.9m – or just over half the figure being bandied about by the Government.