High-tech hysteria is upon us, enabled by ignorance. From news reports this past weekend:
“Nearly a quarter of Internet users worldwide have illegally downloaded a movie,” according to a report trumpeted by the Motion Picture Association of America.
And information-technology analysis firm Gartner Inc. suggests that iPod music players be banned from the workplace because it is a storage device that can carry out secrets or bring in viruses and other destructive software.
Now, Jupiter’s NUA estimated two years ago that there were 606 million Internet users worldwide, a number that can only have grown, suggesting that more than 152 million people have illegally downloaded a movie. Who are these 152 million? Well, the research firm that provided the study, OTX, says the biggest problem (“much bigger than in the other [seven] countries” surveyed, according to the Hollywood Reporter) is in South Korea, where 58 percent of Internet users have robbed Hollywood, Bollywood and what have you of hard-earned popcorn money.
These numbers seem, to put it delicately, weird. My workplace has a pretty fast connection, but even downloading and watching a movie preview, all two minutes or so, is a little clunky. Using the slightly slower DSL at home can make downloading the same trailers downright problematic, and that’s about as good as connections get for most of the world’s Internet users. What, do 58 percent of South Korea’s Internet users have T3 connections as well as the will to use them to watch movies for which they haven’t paid? And they’d rather spend the time on what are likely to be tinny, jerky images, rather than spend a few dollars to rent or buy a DVD?
Even if the numbers are trustworthy, the MPAA conclusions -- that illegal downloads are eating into movie profits -- are suspect. Here’s what other analysts say:
[Yankee Group] research reported a similar number (16 percent) of downloaders, but had indicated that 43 percent of downloaders attended movies as frequently as they had prior to downloading and 41 percent reported increased movie attendance.
The other high-tech alert is even more obviously ridiculous. The Associated Press notes that the Gartner report “did not compare the risk from portable storage with those from floppy disks, compact disc burners, e-mail and printers” -- meaning Gartner is targeting the iPod for banishment rather than, say, any of the hundreds of flash drives out there, including the $17.21 device that can hold 32 megabytes of data.
Hell, why not ban compact discs from the workplace? That innocent-looking copy of The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” could be sneaking in the next killer worm, or carrying out valuable, proprietary information.
None of this is going anywhere good, I suspect.
Just like the money spent on these studies.