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"pounds of material" (-1, Redundant)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239483)

In Britain, they use "pounds" as a measure of money. That's why "X pounds of material" makes sense in this case.

They aren't talking about the weight of the material, they are talking about its price.

Re:"pounds of material" (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239493)

... Really? Who in this day and age on slashdot did not know that? WOOOOSH

Re:"pounds of material" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239559)

There was the word "worth" between "pounds" and "of". Next time you want to quote something use copy-paste to get it correct.

Re:"pounds of material" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239697)

That was actually altered after the story was posted. The original summary said "120 billion pounds of material"

Re:"pounds of material" (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239641)

You mean their Internet tubes aren't that big after all?

Re:"pounds of material" (2, Funny)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239745)

What you don't realise, though, is that a pound coin actually weighs a pound.

Re:"pounds of material" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240165)

I hope you are trying to be funny cause that statement is about as true as anything the recording industry has to say.

If pound coins actually weighed a pound, everyone would have to go to the gym just to be able to carry enough money to buy a few beers

Re:"pounds of material" (4, Insightful)

Lachlan Hunt (1021263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240201)

Sure, with today's coinage, a 1 pound coin doesn't weight that much. But, originally, it was based on the value of a pound (mass) of silver.

Re:"pounds of material" (1)

wgoodman (1109297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240327)

not to mention all the elbow bending after they buy said beers..

For god's sake (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239491)

It's the scumbags like RIAA gives lies a bad name. Lies keep marriage in tact, family together, friendship, gov't, you name it. Along comes RIAA and ruins lie's good name. Shame.

Re:For god's sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239547)

It's funny cos its true.

Re:For god's sake (1)

Ezrymyrh (1554969) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240017)

And the beat goes on. So be Sonny & Cher with your friends. This news makes me feel Wanted dead or Alive, I say its time to Turn The Page on this bull And Whip It, Whip It in to shape.

mod parent down (0, Flamebait)

cheftw (996831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240325)

lern 2 inglish - I could barely understand that.

If I can block Idle I should surely be able to block badly written posts.

But then we don't even have unicode here..

Oh, really? (5, Insightful)

G-forze (1169271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239501)

Big surprise. Everything that has come from this industry has been at best broad guesstimates, at worst intentionally spread lies. Trying to explain the demise of an obsolete business model without taking the obvious into account is hard!

Re:Oh, really? (5, Informative)

siloko (1133863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239635)

Classic coup de grâce in the article: "Like I said: as far as I'm concerned, everything from this industry is false, until proven otherwise." Why are industry statistics still endlessly repeated in the media? It makes you wonder what market the newspapers using these fabricated stats are aiming for, because the majority of filesharers would laugh into their porridge at the thought of buying every film, track and OS they downloaded!

Re:Oh, really? (2, Insightful)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239679)

There are bound to be other examples of industry statistics being made up, then propagated through the media, and finally put out in a government policy report.

Remember the housing shortage?

Re:Oh, really? (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240247)

Oh, indeed. But this particular industry has been putting out nothing but misleading statistics for decades, now, and the policy reports they end up in have produced some of the worst laws ever written, ultimately preventing large numbers of people from doing perfectly legitimate things with products they have bought and paid for.

Now there's a risk that the media industry's lies are going to result in yet another round of laws that further restrict the freedom of law-abiding people, while still doing nothing to halt piracy. It's only right and proper that anyone who values freedom and democracy should be up in arms about this, and should do everything possible to make sure their elected representatives learn the truth and stop taking the media industry's lies at face value.

Re:Oh, really? (4, Insightful)

Philip_the_physicist (1536015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240259)

The Sun is a Murdoch rag. The question is then not why they publish this nonsense, but how he benefits from doing so.

Re:Oh, really? (4, Interesting)

Znork (31774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239961)

Of course, by making up unlikely numbers they divert attention from the even more insidious propaganda buried in the claim.

It's not money _lost_, it's money _saved_.

Downloading _saves_ the economy £120 Billion.

The money that doesn't get spent on media doesn't magically disappear. It's spent on other things instead. Jobs aren't lost, in fact, I'd wager the money saved creates more jobs in the local economy than money to the media industry which to a large extent doesn't go towards labour intensive activity, and in many cases simply goes out of the country.

Re:Oh, really? (5, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240159)

It always reminds me of a friend who tells he saved 1EUR by running after the bus instead of taking it. I always say he is an idiot and he should run after a taxi. That way he would save much more.

Re:Oh, really? (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240331)

Does he get the bus everyday? If you take a bus almost every day, and then one day you decide to walk instead - it would make sense to talk about the money you saved during those times you decided against taking it.

Broken Window Fallacy (5, Informative)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240291)

Exactly - this is basically the parable of the broken window [] . Also see: [] .

Of course, I'm not surprised that the RIAA twist the truth, but to hear Government advisers [] falling for the fallacy? Either they are ignorant of basic economics, or they are intentionally being deceitful on economic matters. Either way, it's no wonder the economy is going down the tubes.

Full story (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239507)

Full article is posted on Ben's blog at (sorry Ben for the slashdotting) - the guardian tends to remove bits of his writing in print/on their website (for space reasons I assume).

Re:Full story (4, Interesting)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239731)

There's several videos floating around with him too that are definitely worth watching [] . He is a very sharp mind and it pleases me greatly to see his urgently needed skeptical analysis getting the press coverage it so thoroughly deserves.

Re:Full story (0)

gazbo (517111) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239925)

Indeed. Which is why I was so disappointed when reading that piece to see that his usual anality seemed to go on holiday when it came to posting links that supported his belief:

I also doubt that every download is lost revenue since, for example, people who download more also buy more music.

If the music industry (or a quack) had posted a correlation to suggest a particular causative relationship, he'd have torn them a new one. It seems this one gets a free pass because he likes the implication.

Re:Full story (3, Informative)

vectorious (1307695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240079)

He does not state that there is a causal relationship, he links to a study showing that there is a correlation and says that in light of this he doubts that it can be shown that every download is lost revenue. The onus of proof is surely on the person who is making the statement, not the one doubting its veracity, and showing data at best inconsistent with the hypothesis that each download is lost revenue.

Doh! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239519)

"Ben Goldacre writes about invalid and misleading 'science' in the Guardian ... behind a recent press story that reported illegal downloading to involve 120 billion pounds worth of material."

Everyone knows bits don't weigh anything!
Those Brits better get with it, the correct unit of measure is LoC - Libraries of Congress!

Re:Doh! (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239583)

Everyone knows bits don't weigh anything!

How perfectly ridiculous! Every bit in a binary number has a weight. Furthermore, every bit you add doubles the weight, so while a single zero or one may only weigh a little bit, every one you add to that will weigh a bit more. It's very easy to see how these sorts of things could add up.

Re:Doh! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239603)

Are you trying to say that even a bit weighs a little bit?

Re:Doh! (4, Interesting)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239801)

Assuming only 1k electrons in a bit, then a bit would be 9.10938215(45)x10^-28 kg.
If we then assume that every p2p user downloads at 100kbps, then in 1 second a single user would have acquired 9.10938215(45)x10^-23 kg Assuming there are only 1 billion users in one second 9.10938215(45)x10^-15 kg worth of data would be transfered After approximately 317 years only 9.10938215(45)x10^-5 kg worth of data would have been transfered

I do not see how even one pound of data has been lost.

Re:Doh! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240049)

That is only correct if you gain the electrons, which you don't. It is a circuit. For every electron that flows to you, one of yours flows out. Because if it didn't, charge would build up and eventually result in a very large lightning strike between the sender and receiver. Which, as much as the **AA's would like this to happen, it doesn't.

Furthermore, signaling is by AC signals so the vast majority of the electrons don't even make it to you. Further-furthermore, if wifi is being used anywhere in the process, there is no transfer of electrons at all. Theirs merely wiggle, which causes yours to wiggle.

Which means you got it all wrong.

However, there *is* a transfer of energy. Which, by E=mc^2, implies there is a transfer of mass.

Suppose you download your file using wifi. The typical wifi transmitter output has 32mW of power. The received power is much, much less than this, by factors of tens of thousands or more. So it can be ignored - the mass loss just by transmitting ack's swamps any mass gain of receiving the packets.

Suppose further that you're operating at 54mbit/s. Each bit then carries 32mW / (54*10^6 s) ~= 6*10^-10 joules ~= 3.7 GeV of energy. This is very nearly 4 times the mass of a proton!

So forget electrons, we're effectively losing multiple *protons* worth of mass with every bit of information we exchange. And since everyone transmits a stronger signal than they receive, *everyone* loses mass. There are no winners here. At least with stealing, someone's loss is your gain. But with P2P, everyone loses, throwing mass away in all directions and making a mess of the universe. And that is why there is such a backlash against this technology by some companies.

Re:Doh! (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239797)

Wait, do Brits use Libraries of Parliament?

Re:Doh! (1)

aamcf (651492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239957)

We could use the British Library [] , but I personally prefer to use the Cambridge University Library [] . Doing a degree at Cambridge was worth it just to be allowed in there :-)

Noobs (1)

slummy (887268) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239521)

An advisory board formed in just 2008 [] is still wet behind the ears. The UK is relying on a revolving door advisory panel. It's a shite state of affairs.

Lost? (4, Insightful)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239531)

I just read TFA in the paper (yeah, i'll hand my geek card in on the way out...) and it struck me that the most important thing that he doesn't mention is that there's no evidence that anyone downloading a pirate copy of anything would actually buy it if they couldn't download it for free. Therefore nothing is actually lost.

My guess is that 99% of the stuff "illegally" downloaded would never actually be bought if it wasn't there to download.

Re:Lost? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239567)

I just read TFA in the paper (yeah, i'll hand my geek card in on the way out...) and it struck me that the most important thing that he doesn't mention is that there's no evidence that anyone downloading a pirate copy of anything would actually buy it if they couldn't download it for free. Therefore nothing is actually lost.

I don't know. I have hundreds of CDs and enjoy having a CD collection, but these days I prefer to just download whatever I want to listen to and use the money I've saved on other things. Many of my peers on my filesharing network of choice report the same. Certainly we'd be buying a lot more CDs, thousands of dollars a year each, if only we couldn't just download for free.

Re:Lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239747)

thousands of dollars a year each

(Emphasis mine) You're telling us you used to buy more than 100 CDs/year? And that your friends did that, too?

Really? REALLY? Bullshit.

You may have bought that many CDs/year when you started collecting and had to backfill your collection, but there aren't that many CDs worth getting each year, even if you're into multiple genres. If you're collecting for a decade, then you're claiming to own more CDs than there are good CDs in existence...

Re:Lost? (1)

aamcf (651492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239971)

There are reasons for owning copies of music that aren't "good". I have bought a couple of CDs for academic interest. I'm sure someone with a serious interest in say, 18th century French music could buy a lot of CDs that nobody would think were "good".

Re:Lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239581)

My guess is that 99% of the stuff "illegally" downloaded would never actually be bought if it wasn't there to download.

Small pool among friends shows most of movie downloads are never played as well.
- 50% is never burned to DVD
- no time to watch DVDs
- when we have time, DVDs do not play anymore (4 years later)

Maybe time for a pool on Slashdot?

Re:Lost? (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239761)

Not to mention those of us that have actually found new shows and bought them thanks to P2P. For example, in the late 90s I hear all this buzz about this new show that is a remake of a bad movie I had seen called Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Supposedly unlike the movie this was actually really good, with good acting and storytelling. But where I lived there was no WB to be had.

So I downloaded a couple of episodes to see if it was any good. I actually enjoyed them and I ended up buying the entire Joss Whedon collection, including the Angel series and Firefly. At $50 a season, for the seven seasons of Buffy, Five of Angel, and one of Firefly you are looking at $650, not including a few collectibles and various promo stuff from the shows that my late sister bought me. All told probably close to $1000 was spent on a show that I never would have bought if it wasn't for P2P, because after seeing the movie I honestly didn't see how they could make it not suck.

I'm sure there are plenty like me, that are happy to buy something we enjoy if we are given fair value, and who for one reason or another don't have access to many of these shows or other entertainment. If I would have saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer boxed sets in a B&M store I never would have given it a second thought if I hadn't gotten to see a couple of episodes on P2P. After all, who would have thought any series based on a Kristie Swanson movie could actually be entertaining?

Re:Lost? (2, Interesting)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239785)

I downloaded the first season of Smallville about four or five seasons in, not having watched TV since about the end of middle school, watched it straight through on one of my days off, and went to FYE the next day, hit a Buy one get one DVD box sets sale and bought all the seasons that were out on DVD at the time. And while I was there, I picked up Hogan's Heroes, Knight Rider, A-Team, and a stack of others that I can't even remember now, as it was a few years ago. And spent $25 on their savings card, got 20% off my total.

All told, that day I got about $500 in DVDs for $230 or so thanks to BOGO and the card.

Just because I downloaded a season of Smallville.

Re:Lost? (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239793)

$230 after tax*

Re:Lost? (5, Informative)

FailedTheTuringTest (937776) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239613)

The comments to TFA (I guess I'm not a real ./er either) include links to a properly rigorous academic study (and some news articles) that shows that downloaders spend more money, not less: for every CD downloaded, they buy 0.4 additional CDs. The study's authors also "find evidence that purchases of other forms of entertainment such as cinema and concert tickets, and video games tend to increase with music purchases." [] [] []

Re:Lost? (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239829)

That study successfully showed that people who download a lot also buy a lot (presumably because of their high interest in music). But, it doesn't really answer the question we all want to know- "In the absence of filesharing, would these people have bought more or less music than they did?"

Someone needs to do a randomized test where they take N music consumers and split them into two groups: one that gets a $20 allowance (no strings attached), and another that gets a $20 allowance contingent on an enforceable pledge not to download music. Perhaps they could even expand the pledge a bit to disguise the intention of the study... At the end of a period of time, count up the value of purchases made, and tell us whether there was a statistically different measurement.

Until I see something like this, I personally don't feel that comfortable saying that more downloading LEADS TO (not- is correlated with) more purchases.

p.s. I tried really hard not to type CORRELATION != CAUSATION until now...


Re:Lost? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240107)

Someone needs to do a randomized test where they take N music consumers and split them into two groups: one that gets a $20 allowance (no strings attached), and another that gets a $20 allowance contingent on an enforceable pledge not to download music. Perhaps they could even expand the pledge a bit to disguise the intention of the study... At the end of a period of time, count up the value of purchases made, and tell us whether there was a statistically different measurement.

I'd be more intersted in this study if Apple hadn't sold >100 million songs on iTunes.

Then again, I work with something like 20 people who all make good money and all know how to go find stuff (music, movies, games, etc) and 'consume' it rather easily. Of those 20, only one I know does it because he's actively trying not to spend money.

I'm already convinced by my anecdotal experience and the utter and complete lack of proof of the alledged damages being done. It's hard to take the RIAA seriously when they claim 2 billion songs are traded a month then report record earnings two months later. Show me the damages, then let's get into the 'where does the money go?' studies.

Its a moot point, its here for good. (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240119)

"In the absence of file sharing, would these people have bought more or less music than they did?"

The can be no absence of file sharing, we don't live in a vacuum and you can't un-ring a bell. And it doesn't matter anyway. What does matter is a bunch of greedy corporate pigs will get your money any way that they can and will pursue every legal avenue at their disposal to do it. But don't delude yourself into weighing ethics when it comes to this type of warfare and highway robbery. They reap the BENEFITS of file sharing and bandwidth bloat, and they'll double and triple dip, rip off the artist, and sue a soccer mom too. Screw em. Nobody needs or wants what they offer...shareholders are lousy citizens. Artists don't need old terms in a new distribution network that requires far less investment for product distribution and marketing than 20 years ago....MTV, Tower Records, Bass Tickets cost $$ but Youtube, Myspace, etc. is FREE. The artist will be just FINE.

Re:Lost? (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239651)

Yes, but since there's no way of knowing how much was actually illegal material in the first place, we have no way of knowing how to weight that remaining 1%. Since there are non-zero legal downloads (no matter how few), the real figure must be strictly less than this by an unquantifiable amount.

Re:Lost? (1)

msormune (808119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239783)

Yes, that's correct. Which means in "corporate speak" there would be a %1 increase in sales if there aren't downloads available. Which is why the companies want downloading to stop. Even the %1 is a pretty hefty sum of money.

Re:Lost? (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239923)

I know I for one am like that. I'll download an album from a band because a friend said they were good, but I wouldn't buy it. I'll download a ton of T.V. shows, but I'd just watch them on cable when they were on, or heaven forbid use a VCR to record the shows so I can watch them when I want. How about the porn industry too? How many people download a 4GB movie only to find out they don't like it and download something else? They probably would be much much less likely to buy because they would have to either have the order on their credit card if they got it delivered to their house or face the stigma of going to the adult shop.

Also, another thought: if everyone was spending 25 pounds, or 125 depending on the version of the story a week on content there would be a lot of legal content floating around too. Wouldn't people quickly start borrowing stuff from someone that already has it rather than buy it themselves? When my friends have the complete set of Star Trek TNG I can borrow it from them not buy a copy myself. So the number of downloaders includes: people that would buy, people that would borrow, people that are trying because a friend recommended but wouldn't buy it to try it etc.

Re:Lost? (1)

WillKemp (1338605) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240019)

Exactly. The only sensible solution is to make it all really cheap and DRM-free. That way people can share it - which encourages people to buy stuff as soon as it's available so they can be first to share the latest cool stuff with their mates.

Re:Lost? (2, Insightful)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239977)

They also conveniently don't take into account the sales they receive when someone actually likes what they've downloaded enough to go buy the CD/DVD/Whatever. It's all a black pity hole of lost sales...

Re:Lost? Already been sold, again and again. (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240009)

Actually, much of what I download I bough many years ago on vinyl, then again on tape (sometimes twice on tape for a favorite) and even again on CDROM. I mean how many times am I supposed to pay for Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Ziggy, etc.? The fact is I still have the CD's but its easier to download the good rips that others do correctly, instead of my poorly tagged and labeled rendition. I know my favorite artists get my $$ so we need to eliminate the middle men. RIAA and the payola music network can go pimp someone else. Its time to take these clowns down, and its up to the artist to do it. Artist well know that they never see a dime of all of that money they've extorted from soccer moms, and if anything it costs them sales overall. Eat the rich.

Absolutely Nothing Is Lost (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240351)

Indeed - the TV I've downloaded is material I've already paid for, in that it's produced by the BBC which I pay for via compulsory licence/tax, or it's shown on the channels that I pay for on cable, and I simply decided to download rather than watch on the TV. As an even more explicit example, I discovered yesterday that one of my Rome DVDs that I bought was damaged. I suppose I could take it back, try to argue because I don't have the receipt anymore, then even if they accept it, I have to give the whole package back, wait ages for the replacement, and then hope the new one works. Or I'll just download it, and have it to watch straight away.

But furthermore, even if every download was a lost sale, whilst it would be a "loss" to them, it still wouldn't be a loss to the economy. No money is lost, the money still exists, and can be spent on other things.

I think someone does not understand economics. (4, Insightful)

Edward Nardella (1503565) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239557)

People don't spend less money because they get something that they would have payed for for free, they just spend it on something else.

Re:I think someone does not understand economics. (2, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239655)

Take Microsoft, for example.

Re:I think someone does not understand economics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28240027)

Damn, are you sure? And I thought I had the perfect plan to topple the music industry: buy 1M cheap 1TB hard drives and fill all of them with illegal copies of songs, and then send those to random people. That's about 200 billion songs (at 5MB per piece) and at 99c per song would cause the recording industry losses of about 198 billions!

Mwahahahaa! Tremble at my wrath RIAA, your days are numbered!

Compare with $100 bill, just paper (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239563)

$100 bill is just paper. It costs maybe a few cents to make. I suppose you would steal those too (counterfit) if you thought you wouldn't get caught. Damn, just don't fucking steal. Is that too hard for you to understand? I'd kick your ass if I was in front of you, asswipe! and then shove all the DVDs I could find down your throat, after first cutting them in half, because knowing you, you'd try and shit them so you could copy them.

Nearly 10% of GDP! (4, Funny)

msgmonkey (599753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239571)

And there I was thinking it was the credit crunch that has caused our economic problems, it's obvious now that the real problem are the millions of teenage girls downloading britney spears albums (or who ever is in at the moment).

More on Goldacre's blog (1)

oldelpaso (851825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239619)

The version of TFA on Goldacre's blog [] is slightly longer (the Guardian version must have been subedited for dead tree format), and contains links to the sources of the material he's talking about.

I, too, am impressed by these figures. (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239631)

So they added up all the bittorent users, multiplied the figure by 25, and assumed that was the total cost to the economy.

I'm sure the Blender team would LOVE to receive 25 pounds ($40) for every download of each and every one of their movies. Ms. Boyle would doubtless be substantially richer if she were given the same for every person who had ever downloaded (or watched on YouTube) a clip of her singing. More members of Ubuntu might be able to play space tourist if each and every file (whether it be a CD, DVD or just a patch) resulted in a $40 donation. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails would be over the moon if each individual song they've released for free got them that in checks received via fan mail.

I'm not saying that all the legit material added together make a substantial chunk of the corrected figure, but rather that the researchers never bothered to consider the fact that the material is not of equal value and that some items have a value of zero. They assumed everything was illegal and everything had identical worth.

That goes beyond Bad Science. How many of you, in elementary/primary school, got taught algebra by being given shopping lists? Pretty much everyone? Good. It would be a pointless exercise if apples and oranges had the same price ($40 each), so we can assume your class used different prices for different object, right? Right. So. Hands up who can tell me what you could do then that these researchers didn't do now?

Re:I, too, am impressed by these figures. (1)

n4djs (1097963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240099)

This is similar to the fantasty that the value of a publicly traded company is number of shares issued x last cost per share. That assumption fails to take into account that it is unlikely that
a) you would get the same price (as a minimum) for all shares,
b) that there is sufficient liquid cash in the monetary system to fund the purchases for all companies,
c) that there would be sufficient willing buyers for said stocks.
These loss estimates are just a case of someone putting a monsterously big number up to get a prosecutor to pay attention. If the RIAA were to go into court and be candid about the true value of some of this media, they would get zero attention. I have always thought that is a waste of government money to pursuit the majority of copyright claims, as the cost of the prosecution of the offenders is greater than the benefit derived by the government via taxation and civil fines, and in many cases, to the original author.
At some point, there needs to be a better balance between the nature of any published work (that, at some level, anything you say or do is spread to the winds and uncontrollable once you release it from your control) vs. the government enforcing artificial monopolies at times where it doesn't make sense financially. I say it is time to shorten the periods of copyright protection before the legal system strangles on litigation....
There is also the question of copyright protections for publicly published works that are no longer available commerically (not through the desire of the author, but due to the inherent economic friction of carrying costs for titles that produced in quantities exceeding apparent marginal demand. How much obligation does the government have to protect publishers that guess wrong in the short term? in the long term? individual authors? Who should bear these enforcement costs, and when should these costs fall back to the copyright holder?

Re:I, too, am impressed by these figures. (3, Informative)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240317)

Actually, they added up all the bittorrent users on one file in the afternoon, waved some magic fairly dust to extrapolate that to everyone for a year, multiplied the figure by £25 as the 'average' price per file, and then multipled *that* figure by 10 (from £12 billion to £120 billion) in the press release by accident, then quietly changed it when challenged by a BBC reporter. Not that they issued a retraction.

It's such a useless figure for anything it's laughable. Well, apart from whipping up a moral panic in the government so they pass yet more draconian legislation forcing ISPs to act as some sort of panopticon against their own userbase at their own cost. I'm sure it's pretty good at that.

"120 billion pounds of material" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239673)

Exactly how many electrons is that?

Re:"120 billion pounds of material" (1)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239741)

About 6e40 Electrons. Far too many to be talking about "exact", an I certainly don't want to be the one trying to weigh them.

>>> Me=9.10938215e-31
>>> 120e9*0.45/Me

Hmm, since the mass of the Earth is 5.98e27g, Oxygen (most abundant element in the Earth's crust) is 16g/mol and a mole is 6.02e23, that's about 3e-8 of all the electrons in the Earth.

Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (5, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239683)

More than seven million Britons use illegal downloading sites that keep billions of pounds circulating inside the British economy rather than being sent overseas to US media companies or obscure tax havens, despite almost everything on offer being appalling rubbish no sane person would pay a penny for, according to unnamed researchers copying a passing number found in a 2004 press release [] from music industry lawyers trying to drum up business.

Intellectual Property Minister David Lammy said the report brought home the impact illegal downloads had on the UK economy as a whole. "If we take as read the music industry's assumption that every download is a lost sale, then billions of pounds are freed up for ordinary people to spend of things of actual economic substance to keep local businesses healthy, rather than chasing phantom pseudo-value from things that have an inherent cost of production of zero. This makes the whole economy more efficient and lets money go where it is actually useful, rather than to Bono's numbered account in the Virgin Islands."

The government says it will be hard to change attitudes to free downloading, particularly from the entrenched old media parasites. "Studies consistently show that downloaders buy more music. We have to stop this and get them downloading dodgy rips from BitTorrent, rather than official high-quality versions from iTunes."

The report also noted that new, faster broadband services could increase file-sharing, which was already more than half of net traffic in the UK. The ISPs modestly declined credit for their part in helping Britain's financial future, noting that it was their customers, the great British public, who had voted with their browsers to do the hard work of keeping the country afloat.

Re:Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (1)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239781)

Nicely done, except that music doesn't - and movies most certainly don't - have "an inherent cost of production of zero". Sharing cannot be wrong, and kicking the old media gatekeepers out of the arena cannot happen hard enough or fast enough, but there needs to be some way to share the cost as well as the benefit of the things we love to download for free.

Re:Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239815)

Cost of reproduction, or marginal cost. Economics terms are not quite English.

Re:Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (1)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239955)

But getting people to pay for CDs was a way of recouping studio costs, and the cost of sustaining the artist while they were creating the music - plus a little towards the relatively low (economic) cost of mass-producing CDs. Now that there is no reason for people to buy CDs, some other means has to be found to keep artists alive while they create, or just accept that the era of the professional musician is over.

Re:Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239813)

Wow! Rationalize much?

Re:Downloading keeping "billions" inside the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239929)

the rips off itunes are the dogey ones, what no flac apple?

Hypocrite alert! (-1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239703)

Although I agree with his point, Ben Goldacre also makes up some facts, like this one "...for example, people who download more also buy more music." I would have to disagree, after all if I can get the music for free, why would anyone ever pay?

Re:Hypocrite alert! (3, Insightful)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239719)

- To get a decent bearer for the media
- Decent artwork, info
- To get more after getting interested
- To support the artist as well-made choice after checking out the art
Yes, I am not of the ipod-generation.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239735)

Really, I though the Pirate Bay already offered those. Except the artist support, obviously.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240235)

Really, I though the Pirate Bay already offered those. Except the artist support, obviously.

I would so much rather support the artist by direct remuneration, i.e. donating to them through PayPal or something, than spend money on CD's that I don't use, that cost resources to produce, that just end up piling in the corners, and that are useless in a few decades. I can get the audio through a torrent service anyway, all without the shipping of cargo loads of plastic discs from overseas. Regrettably few artists provide for this, so I try to support my favourite bands by buying their t-shirts and other stuff that is actually useful to me, as well as going to gigs.

"Use iTunes!", I hear someone shouting. Well, I won't. And this article serves as one more reason why no-one should, and why we shouldn't do anything that profits the dying recording industry.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (3, Interesting)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239737)

I would have to disagree, after all if I can get the music for free, why would anyone ever pay

I can get poo for free as a manure for my Garden.
Why do i go and buy manure, red soil, natural fertilizer and all that crap from Home Depot?

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239803)

That's not the same thing at all. Your analogy is flawed. You can download an infinite amount of music online, whereas you amount of "fecal matter" is limited by the amount of organisms you own.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (3, Informative)

Splab (574204) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239887)

Depending on where you are in the world shit can be quite easily acquired. For instance here in Denmark it is quite expensive to keep it around since there all sorts of rules and regulations, so the farmers in Jutland are more than happy to give shit away for free - so his analogy is one of the more insightful I've read around here in a long time.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (0, Flamebait)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240233)

organisms you own.

If you think you "own" your wife in any way it shows:
a) You are living in 1940s and 1950s
b) You are a male chavunist.
I wanna buy the latest Akon hits from iTunes. Sadly Apple doesn't allow me because of "geographical" restrictions. So, i buy it from
That doesn't mean i don't pay. And FYI i used to download backstreet boys and britney from Napster. I bought every one of their CDs when it became available.
Same is the case now.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (0, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239753)

do you even know what a hypocrite is???

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239811)

Yes. A hypocrite is someone who says lies are bad, then makes something up (lies).

Re:Hypocrite alert! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239795)

The Guardian tends to edit his pieces a bit when they put them up. If you look at his blog post on containing the original version you'll see that sentence links to another Guardian piece about a study showing that people who download more also buy more music - he's quoting from that rather than making it up... has the original and you'll see it links to

Poor form of the Guardian to remove that link.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (4, Informative)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239809)

Ben Goldacre also makes up some facts, like this one "...for example, people who download more also buy more music."

No, you're wrong. []

People who illegally share music files online are also big spenders on legal music downloads, research suggests. Digital music research firm The Leading Question found that they spent four and a half times more on paid-for music downloads than average fans.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239821)

The article is full of vague numbers and statistics. It's just manipulation of numbers to prove a point

"The study found that regular downloaders of unlicensed music spent an average of £5.52 a month on legal digital music. This compares to just £1.27 spent by other music fans. What other music fans? The one's with dial-up connections? Who then? You can't compare apples to oranges.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (3, Informative)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239903)

What other music fans?

Its those who are not "regular downloaders of unlicensed music", obviously.

When the answer to your question is given in the sentence you quoted, I know you're either a troll, or incapable of understanding English.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239823)

Why indeed, except that some of us do: (linked form the original version on Ben Goldacre's blog)

I actually feel guilty for buying physical product, though, when most of the cost won't even go to the artist, and all it will do is sit on a shelf. (Here's an ancient blog post of mine [] about this.) I'd rather make a direct donation to the artist, but many artist sites still don't have provision for this.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

aamcf (651492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239987)

I've seen a few songs on YouTube, and I've gone on to buy them (often the whole album). If I like something enough to listen to it, I think it is only fair that I pay for it.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

vectorious (1307695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240063)

If you look at his website version of the article, he actually provides a link which reports a study showing this very fact - so I can hardly accuse him of hypocracy, for this at least.

Re:Hypocrite alert! (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240271)

Music is my number one hobby and I download a hell of a lot of it on BitTorrent - but only because I consider £10 to be a perfectly reasonable price for a great album but a total rip-off for a bad one. In reality, because I listen mostly to classic rock and blues music and buy new or secondhand on line, I probably pay an average of £5-£6 for a CD.

However, with that said, I own somewhere in the region of 1500 music CDs and with that size of collection, if something I download is crap then I delete it once I've listened to it because there's no point hoarding something I won't ever listen to again.

The point of my argument is that because I listen before I buy and then buy what I've liked, then I never buy a CD I consider to be bad value for money. (For example, if I've paid £4 for a CD with only 4 good tracks on it, then I still think that's good value.) Therefore, I keep buying them and, in actual fact, I won't ever pay for a digital download because as an album (rather than track by track) fan, I believe "pick n mix" music will ultimately kill the type of music I like anyway. (Incidentally, this is the reason why a world class band like AC/DC doesn't release compilation albums and doesn't make their albums available for digital download.)

Can we stop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239763)

Can we stop using the whole "lies, damn lies, and blah" quote every time there's an article about lying?

It was cute the first time or two, and yes, I know the origin, but it's not even a remotely funny or relatable quote.

Re:Can we stop? (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240031)

You must be new here.

slashdot will take care of it ;) (1)

karl3 (1521571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239873)

the page has comments after all.

Re:slashdot will take care of it ;) (1)

karl3 (1521571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239897)

oops, i knew i should have red the article before posting! thought this was pro-ria propaganda.

a couple orders of magnitude is nothing . . . (3, Insightful)

Alan R Light (1277886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239935)

So, the first number was off by a factor of ten, not counting the silly estimate of 25 Pounds when even 2.5 Pounds was doubtless too much - meaning that the original number was off by at least a factor of one hundred.

Still nothing compared to what government and government-related groups can come up with to scare people. Anyone remember how we were all told in the '80s that 1.5 million children were kidnapped each year in the United States, when the real relevant figure (kidnappings by strangers) was closer to 150? That was off by a factor of 10,000.

And how about those Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq? We're going to find them any day now.

Yes, what this proves to us once again is that as bad and unethical as industry can be, they still can't compete with government and the do-gooders.

Re:a couple orders of magnitude is nothing . . . (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240391)

True observation, but the *AA companies are a part of the propaganda arm of the big scary government, just as the big weapons manufacturers are a part of the war machine of the same government. They are not "better" or "worse", they are the same thing ;)

Competition (2, Interesting)

namgge (777284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28239965)

Goldacre could have strengthened his analysis even further by considering the decline in entertainment industry revenue due to competition: not from downloads, but from social change. My parent's generation had no money and few options so they spent a lot of their spare time playing cards and reading books from the public library. In my day, a whole culture had developed around vinyl records, and they were the catalyst for most of a young person's social life. These days, young people spend roughly the same proportion of their disposable income (i.e. most of it) on mobile phone contracts as I used to spend on records/tapes. I can think of no reason to imagine that, if 'free' downloads suddenly stopped existing, people would give up their mobile phones and spend the money on CD/DVDs instead.


The statistic they never give (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28239989)

Suppose therre is some truth in the story the RIAA (don't know if there is). I want to know what genres suffer the most from this "they download instead of buying" sindrome.

If the loss is made on empty pop music songs, then I'd say they weren't worth one eurocent anyway. 15 years ago teenagers bought hypes, not music. Now the hypes are found online. Too bad the music industry doesn't want to follow them online.

If the loss were in more artistic genres (a band named Metallica comes up in my mind), that could actually be seen as a loss. But I guess the music industry will never give us the real figures on this statistic.

Lost income from a film download? (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240273)

According to the article, the "lost income" from a downloaded movie is about £.40 (the rental price of the movie), which seems a bit high - a postal video-rental account at tesco or lovefilm costs about £1.50 per DVD rented (plus they're spending £0.50 of bandwidth to download it, which is money going into the British economy and supporting the government's broadband strategy).

However, these figures (assisted by the assumption that every file downloaded from a "file-sharing site" is a commercial movie that they'd otherwise have rented) imply that downloaders are watching 3,600 movies per year. Ehh? Given the length of each film (and these people have to be at school or work or sleeping most of the time) I wonder if those figures are even physically possible.

Re:Lost income from a film download? (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240281)

"According to the article, the "lost income" from a downloaded movie is about £.40" - should have said £2.40

It hurts to see your trade being abused. (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28240429)

Slightly offtopic, I admit it, but please read it regardless.

"Lies, damn lies and statistics". "Don't trust statistics you didn't forge yourself". "70% of statistics are made up, 80% of all people know that".

And so on.

There's a reason for those jokes, and it's shoddy statistics. Often, it's not even malice, it's simple inaptness. Ok, far too often it's also malice. Numbers are just too impressive, and they have authority. People believe them. They are regarded as "hard facts". They are not "a lot", they're not "a few", they are a million, a billion, and so on.

Funny about it is, though, that people believe those statistics. Not much differently than they believe the fuzzy "a few" and "a lot" statements. Because they're unable to test them. Even if it is as easy to throw the "numbers" out the window as in this example. 25 pounds "damage" per infringment. Nuts? 25 pounds ain't even what a current blockbuster costs when you buy it on DVD (legally, ok? Not talking about those flying Chinese traders where you know you're buying a bootleg copy). But did anyone care to check?

Probably no. It was numbers. It was hard facts. Hey, they wouldn't dare to release information like this if they didn't fact check, do they?

Heh. It was printed in the SUN. Dunno about you, but I've made up my mind about the fact checking abilities of their reporters...

Anyway. It does hurt to see my original trade being abused that way. I'm a statistician, at least according to my degree. I was, and still am, fascinated with the ability to aggregate a whole lot of samples into a simple, understandable statement. Statistics can serve a valuable purpose if, and only if, they are used sensibly and earnestly. And NOT "creatively".

So here's a little guide how to use statistics and how to gauge their credibility:

If you don't get to see the sample or don't get any information about how the sample was gathered, throw it to the dump. I can easily "prove" that every single listener to music buys it and that no copying is going on if I pick my sample "right". It's easy to "prove" every computer gamer is a potential addict if I only look at people playing 10+ hours a day. If you don't get told what's the source of the data and what data they worked with, chances are good that the whole deal is rigged.

If it's a "voluntary", "opt-in" sample, throw it out. All those statistics based on online questionaires where people can sign up and go to to fill out forms if they're "interested enough" are worthless. You'll get samples filled out by people who have a strong opinion about the subject already. When there is an online questionaire regarding "too much internet use", what kind of answers do you expect to get? Worse, what kind of people do you think will participate at all? It's a rigged sample from the start.

If you don't get to see the sample size, throw it out. The sample size gives you a fairly good idea how much of an error you may expect. 1/N^2 is a good rule of thumb (with N being the sample size) for the statistical error. That doesn't mean that a small sample automatically leads to a huge error margin, 200 samples may be already good enough if they are picked well, and if they're not "hand picked" (see above).

If you don't get to see a mean, a median and a standard deviation, throw it out. It's easy to prove that everyone's doing quite fine on average, even in this economy, because on average everyone has enough money to live well. The mean says so (the "average"). Without standard deviation, you won't get to see that the average is nothing but an artificial number that has no reflection in reality. It's not that everyone has the average, there's some who have a TON more and many that have a LOT less. The median would easily tell you so (that's the "middle number" of the sample). Comparing mean ("average") and median ("middle") tells you a lot about whether your sample was homogenous or whether you have a few VERY different bits in the sample (which should have been cut from the statistics altogether).

Don't be impressed by numbers. Question them. Ask for the cornerstones of the statistics, ask for sample size, mean, median, deviation. If you don't get them, bluntly claim the statistics is made up or at least tampered with to "prove" whatever it should prove, it wasn't meant to reflect reality and provide information. It was meant to provide an argument.

And that's not what statistics is meant to be.

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