Lying with Statistics

by on May 30, 2006 · 10 comments

Glen Whitman points out a great example of misleading statistics on music piracy:

It’s from an article titled, “The Digital Music Blues.” The graph is supposed to demonstrate that, in spite of the growth in legal music downloads, illegal downloads are still cutting into the record industry’s bottom line.

Notice how only a tiny 1% of iPod capacity is filled with legally purchased iTunes songs! I guess the remaining 99% percent must all be illegal downloads, right? That’s certainly the implication of the accompanying article: “What’s filling all that excess capacity? Well, despite the efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America, nearly a billion songs are traded on P2P networks every month.”

I checked my own iPod, and sure enough, the songs I bought on iTunes account for only about 1.5% of the 20GB memory. What’s filling the rest? Turns out 62% of it is filled by, um, nothing. I just haven’t filled it yet. The other 36% or so is almost entirely filled with music I ripped from my own legally purchased CDs or those of my relatives.

(Did I mention that most of the data for the WIRED article came from music industry sources?)

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