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How 136 People Became 7 Million Illegal File-Sharers

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the lots-of-fertility-drugs dept.

Music 313

Barence writes "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."

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Story meaning? (5, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318655)

I actually had several feelings about this summery, because:

1) Usually pro-filesharers try to make it sound like filesharing is usual activity and try go for most or 70-90% user share
2) The summary tries to paint this study bad because it "downsides" the amount of filesharers
3) The rant about examining only 1,176 people for the study - in which case the same kind of tv viewer statistics and other studies are made in what case.

So could someone please explain *why* is it a questionable research. It is like every other study where you study small amount of people and make estimates based on it to reflect whole population. Usually this amount of people also gives somewhat correct results on the whole population. Theres some error margin, but its close enough.

So what is the point of this story? That statistics researches use only minor subset or people to do their research instead of asking from everyone? They always have.

Re:Story meaning? (5, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318747)

Because statistics are hard and outrage is easy.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Interesting)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318817)

I think this could be summarized under lies. damn lies, and statistics.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318829)

So could someone please explain *why* is it a questionable research.

1. the same size is small.. probably too small to make the claims they did. 2. they altered the numbers on an estimate of how many people fileshare on the assumption that the number was under-reported. 3. conflict of interest... it's like the tobacco industry sponsoring studies claiming that smoking doesn't have anything to do with lung cancer... there is significant reason to believe that the study carries significant bias in favor of their conclusion and must at the least be repeated by other sources.

So what is the point of this story? That statistics researches use only minor subset or people to do their research instead of asking from everyone? They always have.

N. real statistics researchers know that this study has numerable crippling flaws and should not be held as gospel by anyone. Even a first year stats student can see it. The reason this story is important is that it may influence governmental policy and it's flawed... That's dangerous.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318923)

It doesn't really make sense to claim "sample size is small" for an 1,100-person sample. If the sampling was done in a random, unbiased manner, that size sample gives a margin of error of +/- 3%. If there are flaws in the sampling method, that's another thing, but the sample size alone doesn't seem problematic, unless you need accuracy better than +/- 3%.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319053)

Oh I forgot to note this... anyway it addition to other potential flaws TFA says

11.6% of which admitted to having used file-sharing software

emphasis mine. They admitted to using file sharing software not pirating goods via said software... The study is effectively making the assumption that filesharing = copyright infringement. Also from TFA:

The 6.7m figure was then calculated based on the estimated number of people with internet access in the UK. However, Jupiter research was working on the assumption that there were 40m people online in the UK in 2008, whereas the Government's own Office of National Statistics claimed there were only 33.9m people online during that year.

Even if the study did get the sample size correct the conclusion would still be nearly 30% wrong owing to their false assumption of the number of people with net access. neglecting the distinction between filesharing and copyright infringement TFA estimates that the actual number is between ~30 and ~50% lower than the study claims.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319619)

The study is effectively making the assumption that filesharing = copyright infringement.

I have a very hard time believing that the vast majority of people that use any filesharing application do so exclusivley for legit and non-copyright infringing purposes.
Given the vast quantity of content, I seriously doubt that very many people go through any sort of hassle to determine what is legit and what is not, which results in virtually everyone obtaining material that is copyrighted, regardless whether they know (or care). Given that, I think its a fair guess on their part that yes, most people that claim they are using file-sharing software do so to obtain material illegally.

I just don't understand the stance that most people on this board seem to take regarding this issue. How can everyone be so supportive of what very obviously amounts to theft? It appears to me that somehow people think it is their "right" to obtain copyrighted material for free. I just don't buy for a second that people who claim to only use file-sharing apps for legitimate purposes only actually do so.

If you do indeed use all file-sharing applications for 100% legit purposes, please educate me what you use these services for that makes them so very essential to cause these very emotional posts here.

Re:Story meaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319669)

Guesses of such elephantine idiocy have no business being touted as a real statistic.

Re:Story meaning? (2)

jrumney (197329) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319115)

What does an "error of 3%" mean? Does it perhaps mean there is only a 50% chance (assuming normal distribution) that the proportion of filesharers in the total population is somewhere between 8.6% and 14.6%?

Re:Story meaning? (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319143)

Basically, except that the confidence level for the interval is 95%, not 50%. Should've quoted that, but 95% is the usual assumed one.

Re:Story meaning? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319303)

A margin of error of +/- 3% is the Maximum margin of error for a random sample of 1100 drawn from a large enough population at the 95% significance level (actually its really +/-2.95%), i.e this is the margin of error when the observed % is 50% , The margin of error is less when the observed % approaches 0 or 100%.

In the case of an observed % of 11.6 the margin of error is +/-1.9% so it is 95% likely that the population figure is between 9.8% and 13.5%

Re:Story meaning? (2, Funny)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319353)

In this case, 3% is >1.17 million people.

Re:Story meaning? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319065)

1. the same size is small.. probably too small to make the claims they did.

First statistics lesson I ever had, first thing the professor did was make an estimate based on 10 people about the whole population. He was correct, by the way. He went on to rant that anything that uses large amounts of people (by which he meant more than at most a few dozen) was not proper statistics. If you simply count everybody, it should be called "counting", you see, not statistics.

2. they altered the numbers on an estimate of how many people fileshare on the assumption that the number was under-reported.

And since they are right that the number turned out to be bigger in other studies, slightly. It seems a reasonable adaptation. It's easy to say it's unreasonable, of course. But they are absolutely correct that the number is most likely smaller. So how much should they adjust it ? Like I said, it seems a reasonable adjustment. Not absurdly high, not absurdly low.

3. conflict of interest... it's like the tobacco industry sponsoring studies claiming that smoking doesn't have anything to do with lung cancer... there is significant reason to believe that the study carries significant bias in favor of their conclusion and must at the least be repeated by other sources.

There don't exist studies that have no bias. Either research is funded by companies, or it's funded by government. Both have serious axes to grind, mostly pertaining to political ideology. If business intrest groups would not fund research we'd never have even the semblance of unbiased research that we have.

By the way, who should pay for studies ? Obviously the government has a vested interest in more legislation. The ifpi (us dept) has a vested interest in creating legal instruments to counteract filesharing. And the filesharers have a vested intrest in more "privacy", and legal instruments against ISPs (for the same reason a thief wants privacy, obviously, let's please not start the "what about those who only share openbsd", we all know that's not the filesharers being talked about).

How about we do the sane thing, and let all of them fund studies. Then read them all, and see what we believe to be true.

Just because people are biased, by the way, does not mean the truth can be biased. We are simply limited to imperfect instruments for reading the truth. Truth is absolute, and the number of filesharers is just a single number, not 2, not 5. And yes, we'll probably need a better definition and classification than "filesharers". The effects of filesharing are negative for artists (certainly for pop artists), and especially for the "music industry". There can be little doubt about that. How much damage is done, is anyone's guess. But by criticizing their observations, AND listening to them criticize our observations, we can hope to get closer to the real truth.

Re:Story meaning? (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319111)

And since they are right that the number turned out to be bigger in other studies, slightly. It seems a reasonable adaptation. It's easy to say it's unreasonable, of course. But they are absolutely correct that the number is most likely smaller. So how much should they adjust it ? Like I said, it seems a reasonable adjustment. Not absurdly high, not absurdly low.

Here's where I find a major problem. You do not fudge your data. Period. These other studies may show higher numbers, but do we have proof they weren't fudged as well?

There's too many stories about companies performing pharmecutical trials and then throwing the data away because it didn't present a positive light.

If you're going to adjust numbers, you better have a damn sound reasoning for it rather than "we have a hunch people lied, so..."

Re:Story meaning? (1)

Mozk (844858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319237)

First statistics lesson I ever had, first thing the professor did was make an estimate based on 10 people about the whole population. He was correct, by the way. He went on to rant that anything that uses large amounts of people (by which he meant more than at most a few dozen) was not proper statistics. If you simply count everybody, it should be called "counting", you see, not statistics.

How is using 1.67^-7 percent of the population (10 out of 60 000 000) better than using 1.96^-5 percent (1176 out of 60 000 000)? Not to set up a strawman here, but are you saying that this estimation would be more accurate if they had used only 10 people?

It'd be absurd to make estimations about a population as large as this using 10 people. 1176 is still small enough to not be "counting", yet would provide much more accurate estimates.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319637)

1176 people compared to 10 comes a lot closer to real truth. Close enough to have just a few % error margin, so in statistics it works good.

Re:Story meaning? (2, Insightful)

vikstar (615372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319193)

Every politician should undergo a statistics examination as a prerequisite.

Re:Story meaning? (1, Interesting)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319207)

1. the same size is small.. probably too small to make the claims they did.

Agreed. I would say that for a better and more precise statistic one would have to take samples of say 15.000 people (or more) and to take several samples from varied parts of the UK. 1,176 people from a population of of about 61 million spread across varied geographical, economical, political, social, cultural and religious demographics seems far far far too small to make any sort of estimation one way or another.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

nethenson (1093205) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318841)

Because it is a study that is based on asking a few people the question "I am doing an study for the BPI, are you downloading files illegaly?" and then deciding that some of the answers (an arbitrary number of them) are lies.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319033)

"I am doing an study for the BPI, are you downloading files illegaly?"

11.6% of which admitted to having used file-sharing software

^
Where is the downloading illegally bit? I torrent linux distros fairly often. I know people that have limewire, and use it to get music from many decades back. Depending on where you are, this could be 100% legal.

Also, the outrage is more over the upwards estimation technique. 4m is significantly less than 7m.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319557)

Yes, I'm sure there's a large enough fraction of people who sit around torrenting Linux distros to significantly affect the result.

Re:Story meaning? (2, Informative)

Loomismeister (1589505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318863)

The point isn't that they surveyed a small group of people and therefore the statistics aren't significant. If you RTFA you would see that they based the 7m number on the false statistic that 40m some people were using the internet that year when there was really only like 33.9m. They also bumped up the percentage of filesharing people based on the assumption that some people lied about whether they had programs like that or not. Really the lesson here is to read the featured articles because the slashdot summaries as a general rule are misleading.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319333)

So basically it's not 7 million, but more like 4?

Lies it may well be, but does it really make any difference with regard to conclusions drawn from that number (which obviously vary widely depending on which side you're on)? The order of magnitude is still the same.

Re:Story meaning? (2, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319639)

Yes, it makes a difference. When the lobbyists stand in front of lawmakers, those lawmakers want to know the real size of the problem. If the industry's lobbyists have to say, "We think we are losing almost a million pounds each and every year to piracy", lawmakers are going to be mildly concerned. However, if they lie, and claim that they are losing BILLIONS of pounds, those lawmakers realize that the tax collectors are losing a huge sum of money.

When you want action, you always exaggerate your losses and/or the governments benefit.

I think that claims in the us are 42 billion dollars lost annually. I followed THOSE studies back once, to find where the figures came from. That number is totally unsubstantiated as well, almost entirely based on guesses, estimates, and even false assumptions. One study after another cites the previous study, and almost no one knows where that 42 billion dollar figure came from, but it's impressive, so everyone continues to quote it.

Re:Story meaning? (3, Insightful)

vivaelamor (1418031) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319747)

To me, the number is meaningless in itself. The fact that government agencies have been using the number is the issue. Either they knew that the number was wrong or they didn't bother checking it. Both possibilities can point to incompetence or malice and reflect very badly on the people responsible.

You might be happy with government by making shit up and gut feelings but for the rest of us this is a good example of why government has no respect.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319573)

So your problem with it is that they claimed 7 million when it was actually more like 4 or 5 million?

Re:Story meaning? (5, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318893)

Argh, where to begin?

The summary tries to paint this study bad because it "downsides" the amount of filesharers

I presume by "downsides" you mean "reduces"? Well the summary says "That 11.6% was adjusted upwards to 16.3% 'to reflect the assumption that fewer people admit to file sharing than actually do it.'" So they actually UPPED the number of filesharers. This is objection #1 to "good research":
1. You do a survey to objectively measure the support of your hypothesis
2. The survey of a tiny sample indicates that filesharers are a pretty low percentage
3. You "adjust" this number -- otherwise known as "fudging the data" -- to better reflect your own hypothesis.

The same tactics in any scientific endeavor would get your papers retracted, your funding canceled, some sort of disciplinary action initiated, etc.

The second objection, and this applies to other studies too that try to make grand claims from small samples, is that it's A SMALL SAMPLE. For your survey to be representative, your sample has to be representative. It's also difficult to choose people independently at random, and without that assumption, all your basic statistics fall apart. Perhaps they went through a list of BT subscribers and pulled names at random -- but what if downloaders are overrepresented amongst BT subscribers? What if they only polled home internet users, but then used the "total number of internet users" -- which includes corporate subscribers -- to come up with their 11mil number? There are other possible, non-numerical issues too. What if the respondents confused downloading from bittorent with downloading from iTunes?

If you want many other examples of "bad science", read Ben Goldacre's blog [badscience.net]

Re:Story meaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319291)

There are other possible, non-numerical issues too. What if the respondents confused downloading from bittorent with downloading from iTunes?

What if people conflated downloading via bittorrent with illegal file sharing?

After all, the media industry has worked hard to convince people that downloading ANY content is illegal.

Re:Story meaning? (5, Informative)

Atario (673917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319397)

it's A SMALL SAMPLE

No, it's not.

http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html [raosoft.com]

About 60 million people in the UK, sample size of 1,176, confidence interval of 96% gives a margin of error of 2.99%. So, it's 96% likely that they got within 2.99% of the right answer (to the question of how many people admit to it).

I hate seeing this "that's too small a sample size" objection to every single study, from people who clearly don't know enough about how sample sizes work.

Re:Story meaning? (2, Insightful)

vivaelamor (1418031) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319693)

Nice calculator, I think the GP's main point though was that there is no evidence of a properly selected sample. You would be right in saying that the sample size has very little to do with anything compared to whether the sample is biased or not.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319741)

Thank you.
What was real strange was someone else objecting that this sample size was too *large*, and that TEN should be enough for any kind of statistical analysis.

Re:Story meaning? (-1, Troll)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318947)

You want a meaning?
The figure is LOW, if anything, but slashfags need their weekly circle jerk about how the government is evil, copyright is unjust, piracy isn't stealing, and information wants to be free.

It's Friday and we needed to get the nerds off before the long weekend. It was the best we could come up with.

We'll make up for it on Tuesday, though, with some drudged up FUD about some company doing something that nerds can rage over.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319011)

In addition, sharing files is not in and of itself illegal.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319083)

Usually pro-filesharers try to make it sound like filesharing is usual activity and try go for most or 70-90% user share

Indeed - but equally the Government has also been trying to over-inflate the extent, from an window-breaking-fallacy angle "It's costing the economy billions of pounds!"

So could someone please explain *why* is it a questionable research.

Because of the way that 11.6% was replaced with 16.3%, and an incorrect value of the number of Internet users was used, as clearly stated in TFS. If you RTFA:

"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."

Yes, you are right that saying "only 136" is silly, as 1,176 is more than enough for a valid sample as long as it is random, but there are other concerns that are clearly spelled out in TFA and TFA.

Theres some error margin, but its close enough.

Is an error of 79% "close enough" for you?

Re:Story meaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319093)

The point of the story is that a biased group conducted a survey with the intent of influencing government policy, and they appear to have made up numbers at at least two points in their 'study'. First of all when they declared what percent of people were lying, and then at the end when they added 300,000 people to make it sound like a better number. I also don't see a margin of error, but I'm willing to say that's the fault of the summery for the purposes of this post, since I'm not going to RTFA.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319107)

From TFA;

"The 6.7m figure was then calculated based on the estimated number of people with internet access in the UK. However, Jupiter research was working on the assumption that there were 40m people online in the UK in 2008, whereas the Government's own Office of National Statistics claimed there were only 33.9m people online during that year."

I think this demonstrates the point better then the rest of the article. They made significant numbers up in their head to inflate their claim. This is not questionable research. It is a bunch of opinions made by the researchers and stated as fact.

I remember hearing a while ago that there are huge penalties for fudging bids on government contracts(US). Maybe they should do the same for reports that are presented to the government.

Bad Demographics (1)

ZuchinniOne (1617763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319233)

I have a friend in England who was telling me that they actually focused on trying to make younger people the demographic for this study ... and obviously younger people are more likely to fileshare.

I wish this was more than an unsubstantiated rumor, but I couldn't find anything online about it.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319315)

From what the article says, they equate file sharing software users to 'illegal file-sharers'; so someone using BitTorrent to download Linux ISOs would put them in 'file sharer' territory, and therefore count towards the illegal file sharer statistics?

The statistical inferences about the internet using population are only valid if the 1,176 net-connected households are a representative sample of the population they are attempting to draw statistical inferences about.

Meaning the characteristics of the people they randomly chose to be in their group are similar to those of the community they will make inferences about (the internet community).

E.g. if X% of the internet population are catholic people between ages 16-18, and Y% of people in the internet population are ages 22-28 and atheist, X% and Y% of the people in their sample should have those respective characteristics, for the sample to be representative.

If there are differences in the composition of their sample, or if the composition of internet users is not fully understood, then the inferences are fundamentally flawwed.

It's almost impossible to choose a usable sample of internet users as random; asking internet users to pick theirselves results in a biased (self-selecting) sample. There's not a book of all internet users they can use; they can't force all internet users to partake in their study, internet users with certain characteristics may be more likely than others to even refuse to participate.

Here are some of the issues:

That 11.6% of respondents who admitted to file sharing was adjusted upwards to 16.3% "to reflect the assumption that fewer people admit to file sharing than actually do it." ... The report's author told the BBC that the adjustment "wasn't just pulled out of thin air" but based on unspecified evidence

Without specifying the evidence, there is no way to substantiate the validity of this adjustment, and the resulting conclusion is highly questionable.

Jupiter research was working on the assumption that there were 40m people online in the UK in 2008, whereas the Government's own Office of National Statistics claimed there were only 33.9m people online during that year.

In other words, the population something being inferred about was smaller than the report assumed.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319337)

this study bad because it "downsides" the amount of filesharers

That's "downsizes"

Re:Story meaning? (1, Informative)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319527)

1 The 7m figure had actually been rounded up from an actual figure of 6.7m
2 It gets worse. That 11.6% of respondents who admitted to file sharing was adjusted upwards to 16.3% "to reflect the assumption"
3 The 6.7m figure was then calculated based on the estimated number of people with internet access in the UK.

TFA is pretty clearly challenging those figures based on assumptions made, faulty estimates, and rounding up. The original "research" was clearly engineered to give a high number.

Is there anything else I can help you with?

Re:Story meaning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319531)

I actually had several feelings about this summery , ...

I had several feelings about it as well. Not many hot days. The cool days far outnumbered the warm, sunny ones and there was more rain than I care to think about. However, today was a nice summery day here. I actually sat by the pool, drinking beer and tossing rocks at the dog.

Re:Story meaning? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319537)

>>>e rant about examining only 1,176 people for the study - in which case the same kind of tv viewer statistics

Yes but those TV stats are produced by carefully selecting the homes to reflect each city's ethnic makeup (at least that's true with Nielsen in the States). In contrast the 1176 people were an uncontrolled survey of people who *volunteered* to take the poll, and therefore represents... essentially nothing. It's unscientific.

If it's bogus, it's probably too low. (-1, Flamebait)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318667)

That's why they call it an estimate. Make your own. Work backwards from the undisputed declining sales figures of the recording industry.

Re:If it's bogus, it's probably too low. (2, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318731)

That's what I was thinking. The summary makes it seem that estimating the number that high is outrageous. I certainly wouldn't wager any money that it's significantly higher than actual piracy.

Re:If it's bogus, it's probably too low. (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319375)

It could be that file sharers are slightly more likely to have excluded themselves from or refused to participate in the study.

Re:If it's bogus, it's probably too low. (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319459)

I certainly wouldn't wager any money that it's significantly higher than actual piracy.

Why not?

Given the difficulty determining an reliable answer, you could probably wager any money at all and not have to pay up.

Have fun trying to collect on your bet.

moderators... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319201)

So, uh, I get a flamebait, and the "me too" which follows my post gets "insightful". I'm so glad that my Karma is so high that it manages to withstand the morons who are allowed to moderate these days.

Re:If it's bogus, it's probably too low. (4, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319241)

> Work backwards from the undisputed declining sales figures of the recording industry.

The main reason for declining sales is the fact that CD sales during the 90s were artificially boosted by people replacing records and tapes with CDs... then replacing them again when remastered CDs were released a few years later. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for the recording industry that won't be repeated during our lifetimes.

People re-bought CDs they already owned in analog (or optimized-for-analog CDs) because they represented an epic improvement in quality by just about any meaningful standard over the analog media they replaced. Everything that's come out since CDs has only been cheaper, shittier-sounding, or intolerably-crippled by DRM.

Here's an idea for the music industry: ditch the DRM'ed formats, and roll out a music format on DVD media with 96KHz 32-bit stereo PCM. Make the discs gold-colored, call it something like "X-fi", and sell them for $24.95. You'll win on all counts -- genX'ers will go back into highschool mode and buy them to show off how rich they are and/or pretend they sound sufficiently better than 16-bit CDs to justify spending ~twice as much on them, and the fact that every disc will be ~4-8 gigabytes will serve as self-limiting DRM for the next decade or so. Just make sure they still have the MOST compelling consumer benefit intact (and reason why people who buy CDs still DO buy CDs): it's a flawless first-generation master to use for making all your "working" copies for everywhere else.

How 1 article became 2 (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318735)

there is a question that needs answering

Fantastic programme ... (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318741)

I am a ''loyal'' listener[**], they take current numbers in the news and put them under the microscope. I wish they were part of the main newsrooms - it could result in some really interesting questions being put to some of the politicians who spout numbers without any justification.

[**] You need to be a loyal listener to understand the choice of phrase.

What's the confidence interval? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29318751)

Whenever you estimate a statistic like that, you should also indicate the level of uncertainty surrounding the estimate. Why are they not reporting the upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval surrounding that estimate?

Re:What's the confidence interval? (3, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318951)

Whenever you estimate a statistic like that, you should also indicate the level of uncertainty surrounding the estimate. Why are they not reporting the upper and lower bounds of the confidence interval surrounding that estimate?

Perhaps because it's hard to come up with confidence intervals when you admit to fudging your own data by bumping the estimate up by almost five percentage points.

Re:What's the confidence interval? (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319645)

Well, the other thing of course is that, since the statistical estimate was ~11%+/-3%, that 5% increase results in possibly over a 50% increase in the estimated number of file sharers in their "worst case" scenario (8%). Basically these people padded the estimates at every possible step instead of carrying through the error factor. Shoddy error analysis that would probably get a bare pass (if not an outright fail) for a first year paper in any scientific discipline.

The only possible interpretation for all those analytical errors from a professional organization is deliberate bias in favour of the organization that commissioned the report. Much more rigorous statistical analysis for things like civilian deaths in Iraq and climate change reports have been dismissed by the same type of politicians who champion this report. The problem is that around 90% of the population may have enough math for their taxes, but have no interest in the mathematical baggage to recognize the bullshit in reports like the BPI's. Heck, you have to explain to many of them that 90% means 9 out of 10. That same segment of the population has no interest in achieving that understanding of statistics either, so they are ripe for believing those manipulative lies.

Re:What's the confidence interval? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318973)

Because all confidence intervals are equally bullshit.

When you're conclusion is "probably probably within a range of these two probabilities...", and your subject matter involves people, you've done a lot of work and achieved nothing.

The only effort of any use ever in statistics involving people is to increase the sample size. But, you know, that requires actual effort.

Re:What's the confidence interval? (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319187)

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics... -Mark Twain

Wait, you believed them? (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318757)

They think that a single copy of a song is worth over a hundred thousand dollars too. They claim to lose more in revenue each month than the GDP of most countries. All because of those dyyyeaaarrrn pirates. Enron looks positively boring in comparison to the accounting techniques the recording industry uses. None of this is news. About the only people that buy this crap are judges and legislators -- the rest of us are almost universally of the mindset that a bag of potato chips has more value than most of the recording industry's portfolio.

Re:Wait, you believed them? (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319129)

Indeed, let's look at the maths - supposing each person only shares 24 mp3s. By US standards at least, that's a cost of $1.92 million. So with 7 million file sharers, that's $13.44 trillion.

Now let's check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal) [wikipedia.org] - wow, these 7 million people are causing damage to the UK economy equal to almost 5 times the entire GDP of the UK...

Meaningless admission (5, Insightful)

Trevin (570491) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318779)

Using file-sharing software does not equate to sharing files illegally. I admit to using BitTorrent to download Fedora ISO's, and there's nothing illegal about that.

Re:Meaningless admission (4, Funny)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319681)

I asked the British government, but unfortunately they told me you don't actually exist. Sorry.

Re:Meaningless admission (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319711)

They'd probably backtrack to only sharing music online... but some big names at the moment (Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead) have legally released their own music as free torrents.

The music industry is STILL stuck in the "downloading"="file sharing"="always illegal" mindset and they show no sign of shifting from that idiotic viewpoint.

Re:Meaningless admission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319725)

I. too, use file-sharing software --heavily-- for lawful purposes.

the story title is kind of lame (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318781)

Some of the estimation steps might be sketchy, but the basic practice of estimating a population proportion from a sample of that population is not particularly questionable. That's how almost all studies of populations work, because taking censuses of all people in a country is rarely feasible. We have century-old statistical theory on how to put bounds on the sampling error, too, assuming the sample was indeed random.

You could have a whole slew of these stories if you really objected to that basic methodology, e.g. nearly every estimate of N million people suffering from a disease or disorder is based on a sample.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318889)

Indeed. In fact, the 1,000 person sample size is a well-established sweet spot for statistical sampling of a population. Of course, in addition to the munging they did to the final results (rounding up to account for self-reporting errors), there may be issues with how the sample was taken (ie, was it truly a random sample of net-connected households). But on the face of it, I agree, I see very little wrong with their methodology.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (4, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318961)

Is it ok to change "11.6%" to "16.3%" based on a "hunch"?

I'm not a statistician, this is an honest question

Re:the story title is kind of lame (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318979)

If there was some previous result that only 2/3 of filesharers admit it when asked, then an upwards revision by 1/3 in an estimate would be defensible. A "hunch" is not quite as good evidence. of course.

I was objecting mainly to the "how 136 people became 7 million" title, which to my ears reads mainly as a criticism of the sample size. But whatever the problems with this estimate, the sample size wasn't really among them.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (1)

Erinnys Tisiphone (1627695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319063)

Insightful - yes, that would be a valid reason to make that adjustment. "2/3 of filesharers admit it" would be a nearly impossible study, I would think. I agree though, reading the article, the sample size was not an issue to me. It was the arbitrary changing of figures for (what appear to be) unsubstantiated hypotheses that I don't think is valid statistics.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (5, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318997)

Is it ok to change "11.6%" to "16.3%" based on a "hunch"? I'm not a statistician, this is an honest question

IAAS, and the answer is no. That goes for the GP as well -- no one is contesting estimation theory, just that the fundamental assumptions are so grossly unmet in this "study" as to render it meaningless. And as someone else already commented, it's dangerous here because it's going to dictate public policy.

If you're going to "adjust" your objective findings, based on some bizarre assumption that a certain percentage of people will lie about file sharing, then why do a survey at all if not to create mathematical/sciency-sounding smoke and mirrors?

Re:the story title is kind of lame (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319415)

some bizarre assumption that a certain percentage of people will lie about file sharing

So it's your contention that no one would lie when asked if they file-share? Really?

Re:the story title is kind of lame (2, Informative)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319647)

Not but you need some basis if you are going to make such an adjustment. There are ways to determine the rate of sampling error for instance and then use that. In this case that might be to much effort or get you into legally murky waters so what an honest researcher would write something like this:

In my sample of XXXX, YY responded that they sometimes used p2p software in an illegal fashion. Based on this the number of extra legal file sharers in the total population would be ZZZZZZ. I would not expect a person who does not use p2p in an illegal way to respond to my survey in the affirmative while it is easier to image someone who does would respond in the negative; therefor the number may actually be greater than ZZZZZZ.

---
Do so would present the numbers as clearly as they can actually be known; states its assumptions and bias in a consice way.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (1)

ghrucla (1392521) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319059)

>Is it ok to change "11.6%" to "16.3%" based on a "hunch"? The short answer is no, but it's understandable. The 11.6% figure probably is a lowball figure precisely because people tend to underreport illicit or stigmatized behavior and so it was good of the researchers to report this. However they should have just said "this is a lowball figure" because putting a number on it implies more precision than you really have. It's possible they had more than a hunch but even if they were doing some kind of fancy adjustment the adjusted figure should not have been reified by appearing out of context. btw, the several people who have mentioned that inference from n=1000 is just fine are absolutely right. (I'm not a statistician per se, but I am a quant and I teach a graduate statistics course)

Re:the story title is kind of lame (2, Interesting)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319163)

I would hope it's no.

There's actually a clever way to try to account for this kind of thing - you ask them something like "Do you file-share, or is your birthday in January" (or perhaps something even more obscure that the questioner/Government wouldn't know). The point is that people are more willing to admit to it, because people can't know for sure if they really do file-share, or if they answered yes because of the second question.

But when it comes to the population as a whole, because you can estimate the proportion who fall into the second category, you can factor that out, and work out the true value.

But it doesn't look like they did anything like that here.

Re:the story title is kind of lame (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319495)

There may be some validity to it if you were trying to make an overestimate, to establish an upper bound on the number of people (and not a lower bound), and you had some valid basis for saying no more than 4.7% of people lied.

Then your study would find that "At most X people" would be in this category on average, within your confidence interval.

However, you couldn't say "No less than X people", or "X amount of people" are in this category within your confidence interval.

The really big hunch (1)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319525)

is assuming file sharing == illegal file sharing. As others have pointed out, that alone makes the rest of the conclusions meaningless. My stat class said sample size should aim to be around sqrt of population. Of course, smaller samples just lower the confidence intervals. The 1000 people (sqrt(10^6)) is at least in the ball park for a population of 30 million.

I would ju like to note (1)

owyn999 (856162) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318795)

That 70%* of all statistics are wholly or in part made up

*This number created by taking a sampling of 300 statistical comparisons and then noting that most statistics are based entirely on fiction so multiplying that number by 6

welcome to the world of statistical inference (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29318797)

Drawing inferences to the broader population from a sample of about a thousand is a totally accepted and scientific practice. There are innumerable ways you can screw it up (most having to do with the sampling procedure being biased) but in principle there's nothing wrong with saying that 12% of a sample of 1176 implies about 12% of a population. The upwards adjustment to 16% is plausible given that social desirability bias is a known problem with surveys but a bit more of a judgement call and the numbers adjusting for this should never be presented out of context of some pretty serious hedges.

Re:welcome to the world of statistical inference (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319035)

No, it's not scientific.

You are sampling a population about something because the causes, effects, or numbers of that something are unknown - you can't calculate your desired data, so you resort to measuring and extrapolation.

Until you can account for all relevant variables, your sample cannot be said to be sound.

If you could account for all (or most) relevant variables, you would be able to calculate, hypothesize, and then measure to confirm or disprove (and then improve and retest). THAT is science.

It's probably still accurate though. (1)

Hitman_Frost (798840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318805)

It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were seven million illegal file sharers in the UK. It's hardly an underground thing any more is it?

Re:It's probably still accurate though. (3, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319105)

When you know the total population of the UK is roughly 30 million households, that's a fair chunk of the population. (total population is roughly 60 million people)

Out of the total population, only 18.7 million have broadband [statistics.gov.uk] . Guess roughly 40% of the population is a pirate then. We should make it legal, government being there for the populace and all that.

Re:It's probably still accurate though. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319755)

You've made the same flawed assumptions that I often do. That the government is there to still serve the populace and what the populace quite obviously wants. Joe Public working in the lower ranks of big business is not served by capitalism.

This calls for a quote (2, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318833)

"If they facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
~Albert Einstein

Idiot (in-Numerate) Government Workers (1)

omb (759389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318843)

In the 70's Shirly Williams destroyed the British educational system based on political bias, almost everything she did was wrong and did not work. 30+ years later, most of the Civil Service does not understand statistics or any numerate discipline, these idiots now advise the pols!

This stuff does not have ANY substance and certainly dosn't deserve the description Research. It is ignorant crap.

Why are we surprised that nothing that New, or Old Labor does works?

Re:Idiot (in-Numerate) Government Workers (1)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319493)

To modern Government, statistics are a tool that is used to define reality, rather than understand it.

You're more likely to agree with something if you think 90% of the population are backing it. This is the purpose of opinion polls and focus groups; not to find out what people think, but to find out how they can be told what to think.

The decisions come first. Then, the statistics follow to show that the decisions were right. It is cunningly manipulative. Even those familiar with the old "damn lies and statistics" quote still tend to believe that "scientific" "statistical" data cannot be twisted to serve a political agenda.

If the Government wants you to believe something, that in itself is a good reason to disbelieve it.

mathematics (5, Funny)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318879)

maybe the authors of the study were taught math skills through unschooling?

file sharing software=pirate??? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29318881)

using file sharing software does not mean you pirate software or media.....

Re:file sharing software=pirate??? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319041)

No, but I'd be willing to bet my genitals that it's true 99.9% of the time.

How's that for a confidence interval?

So, optimistically, 2.12 million, then? (2, Interesting)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318917)

136 out of 1176 people in households with internet connections admitted to having used file-sharing software (source: the summary)
18.3 million households in the UK had internet access at time of polling in 2009 (source: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=8 [statistics.gov.uk] )

136/1176 * 18.3M ~= 2.12M

Not sure if "having used file-sharing software" means that they downloaded / distributed at least 1 item - say, a song - via said software and that they had no actual rights to do so (you know, as most people use file-sharing software to distribute Linux distros, or have simply 'used it' but didn't actually download or upload anything... *cough*)...

But let's presume it does.

Then let's take the low price in iTunes UK of GBP 0.79 per song, then the music industry 'lost' ('cos obviously people had no intention of buying that song that they didn't download / distribute because they were downloading a Linux distro instead *cough*) about GBP 1,671,897.96.

Well, that's peanuts, innit.

Re:So, optimistically, 2.12 million, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319045)

actually optimistically it could be as little as:

(.113 - .03)*18.3M = 1.52M

the 11.3% has error of about 3% for an 1100 person sample size.

Re:So, optimistically, 2.12 million, then? (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319389)

right, then how did they adjust dishonesty?

They just adjusted from 11.3% to 16.3%

Where did they get this 5% of people lie on surveys figure?

so then, if you take 16.3% and plug it in...

192/1176 * 18.3M ~=3M

that's still far less than 7 million people. The ath don't madd up! ;p

Re:So, optimistically, 2.12 million, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29319621)

*cough*

Come on now.

My father is an avid world cinema fan and he uses bittorrent to download films that are unavailiable through commercial channels in the UK. I know guys who use p2p for manga fansubs, obscure horror movies... plenty of stuff. I've only ever used bittorrent to download linux ISOs, I purchase most of my music on vinyl, [phonicarecords.com] with the occasional download from jamendo or artist web site. I know plenty of folk with sizable itunes libraries and yet I know of _one_ person who regularly acquires music through p2p filesharing. The individual in question plays chicken-feed (whatever payola daytime radio is forcing down his gullet) and while his taste in "music" is questionable*, his refusal to pay itunes prices for it is not!

Traditionally here in the UK, a good album on CD would retail at between 12.00 and 15.00; radio payola at 7.99 for a few weeks before hitting the bargin bin. The true price for radio friendly payola is the bargin bin price -- about 30p per track on itunes. I suggest that if the industry got real with it's pricing model, less people would use p2p filesharing. Based on my real world statistic however, they'd lose more from reducing the price than they currently do through filesharing.

HTH.

the true "what the fuck" (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29318943)

TTWTF here is that someone believes there are only 7 million file sharers in the UK. sure that figure is bullshit, but the number should be a hell of a lot higher not lower.

Re:the true "what the fuck" (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319051)

How much higher?

Keep in mind, before you answer, note the UK only has a population of 60 mil, so try to pick a number below that.

Re:the true "what the fuck" (2, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319705)

As a solipsist I'd say everyone does it.

It is called Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29318977)

It is called Probability. That's is how all polls work. As long as the sample is random it is very effective.

Why the BBC rocks (5, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319081)

This is yet another example as to why the BBC is the finest broadcasting and journalistic organisation on the planet (I've never worked for them, sold to them or have any other financial connection other than the license fee).

They actually investigated something created by an industry group and found it to be bollocks and then reported it. The BBC are arguably the most "socialist" organisation in the democratic world (funded by a tax on everyone for the benefit of everyone) and yet they still question and challenge everything.

The US seriously needs something that questions vested interests and rubbish statistics as much as the BBC. Jon Stewart and Bill Maher are just comedians and FoxNews is just comedy.

Given a choice between the first amendment and the BBC, I'll take the BBC; its demonstrated more freedom of speech in a week than the US media has in a decade.

Re:Why the BBC rocks (3, Insightful)

vivaelamor (1418031) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319401)

Oh come on, the BBC have reported this number many times since it was first used and you sing their praises because Radio 4 happens to do a show devoted to statistics? I wonder just how much time they will devote to debunking this statistic considering how many times they have quoted it.

Just because the BBC is better than the US networks doesn't mean we should be proud, personally I'm appalled at how low the bar is set.

Re:Why the BBC rocks (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319477)

funded by a tax on everyone for the benefit of everyone

Is this, strictly speaking, true? I thought you had to pay a yearly television license fee based on the number of TVs you own. No TV, no fee. (Which creates problems of its own, including the necessity of sending around TV detector vans to make sure no one's hiding an unlicensed TV. I'm thinking it would in fact be better if it were a simple universal fee and be done with it...)

Oh, and agreed about the Beeb rockin'.

Re:Why the BBC rocks (2, Informative)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319549)

You can also avoid paying the licence fee if your TV can't receive over-the-air pictures, e.g. if it is disconnected from the aerial.

There was once a "radio licence", you can still see a reference to it in one episode of Monty Python, but this was phased out when almost nobody owned a radio but not a TV.

In the future, I expect the TV licence will be extended to include Internet connections as well, since those can now be used to receive BBC programmes too. At that point, we will see if the BBC can continue to convince people that it is worth the money.

Winston Churchill (2, Interesting)

feufeu (1109929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319173)

O "Statistics are like a drunk with a lampost: used more for support than illumination."
O "The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself."
Tick one.

i think it's... (1)

WalesAlex (1476335) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319221)

time to get 1984 as obligatory reading before anyone gets a say in the subject

Wow... (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#29319743)

Can I hire these guys to make me money? Seriously, I've never seen number fudging like this.

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