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The number of people that the government claimed share files illegally could have been grossly over-exaggerated, it has been reported.

Research by the BBC, for its Radio 4 show More or Less, found that the claim from the government that seven million people are illegally sharing files over broadband connections was based on figures from the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property.

PC Pro reports the advisory board commissioned the research from academics at University College London, who got the figure from a paper from Forrester Research.

After following the paper chain, the BBC found there was no mention of seven million illegal file sharers in the original report.

"The seven million figure had actually been rounded up from an actual figure of 6.7 million. That 6.7 million was gleaned from a 2008 survey of 1,176 net-connected households, 11.6 per cent of which admitted to having used file-sharing software - in other words, only 136 people," says the news provider.

Broadband providers could be able to breathe a sigh of relief as the original figure quoted meant the pressure would be on them to do more immediately to end illegal file sharing.

Eamonn Forde from the Guardian recently claimed that cutting off file sharers could hurt broadband innovation by stopping music companies developing new applications or innovations.

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