06/05/2014 14:23 BST | Updated 06/05/2014 14:59 BST

Piracy Study Says Each Person On Earth Owes $67 Million In Fines

The average person has illegally downloaded approximately 2,900 music files and 90 movies, a new study suggests.

Which has worrying financial implications for the GDP of the Earth, based on our just-for-fun analysis, below.

The study, the first to examine the differences between movie and music pirates, found that those who steal movies are more likely to be wealthier and less worried about being caught than their music counterparts.

But, according to Dr Joe Cox and Professor Alan Collins, economists at the University of Portsmouth, they are also more likely to cut down their piracy if they feel they are harming the industry.

The researchers, whose study is published in the Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics, also found that movie pirates are more likely to live in large cities and be 'early adopters' of new technology.

The researchers analysed results from a survey of more than 6,000 people aged seven to 84 in Finland to examine the attitudes of those who illegally download movies and music from the internet.

Dr Cox said: "It is interesting to see that people who illegally download large quantities of movie files continue to pay for legal movie consumption to a far greater extent than music downloaders."

However the level of downloading per person, combined with the damages set per incidence of piracy in various court decisions, leads to some amusing conclusions if you take the process of reducto ad absurdum to heart.

So let's do just that.

Say the average person in the world aged between 7 and 84 years old has downloaded 2,900 songs:

7 billion x 2900 = 20,300,000,000,000 songs

There is no set amount of damages for a downloaded song - not even within a given country, let alone globally. But as a rough guide let's take the per-song damages, which is fine for our non-scientific (perhaps even non-logical) purposes, from this recent case, set at $22,500 per song by a jury in the US:

20,300,000,000,000 x $22,500 = $456,750,000,000,000,000,000

So let's compare that to the nominal value of the world's GDP, which is about $71.83 trillion. Or:

$456,750,000,000,000,000,000 / $71,000,000,000,000

= 6,433,000

Which is to say the total damages owed to the recording industry for all the songs ever downloaded, by this ridiculously crude method of calculation, would be almost 6.5 million times greater than the value of the annual global economy.

Then there's movies.

Let's suppose the same level of damages. That adds another:

7 billion x 90 = 630,000,000,000

630 billion x $22,500 = $14,175,000,000,000,000,000

Which is a grand total of:


Or 6.63 million times the annual GDP of the Earth.

Or, to put it yet another mathematically and methodologically unsound way, each person on the Earth owes roughly $67,275,000 to the recording and movie production industries.