MPAA Admits Mistake on Downloading Study
Hollywood laid much of the blame for illegal movie downloading on college
students. Now, it says its math was wrong.
In a 2005 study it commissioned, the Motion Picture Association of America
claimed that 44 percent of the industry's domestic losses came from illegal
downloading of movies by college students, who often have access to high-bandwidth
networks on campus.
The MPAA has used the study to pressure colleges to take tougher steps to prevent
illegal file-sharing and to back legislation currently before the House of Representatives
that would force them to do so.
But now the MPAA, which represents the U.S. motion picture industry, has told
education groups a "human error" in that survey caused it to get the
number wrong. It now blames college students for about 15 percent of revenue
The MPAA says that's still significant, and justifies a major effort by colleges
and universities to crack down on illegal file-sharing. But Mark Luker, vice
president of campus IT group Educause, says it doesn't account for the fact
that more than 80 percent of college students live off campus and aren't necessarily
using college networks. He says 3 percent is a more reasonable estimate for
the percentage of revenue that might be at stake on campus networks.
"The 44 percent figure was used to show that if college campuses could
somehow solve this problem on this campus, then it would make a tremendous difference
in the business of the motion picture industry," Luker said. The new figures
prove "any solution on campus will have only a small impact on the industry
The original report, by research firm LEK, claims the U.S. motion picture industry
lost $6.1 billion to piracy worldwide, with most of the losses overseas. It
identified the typical movie pirate as a male aged 16-24. MPAA said in a statement
that no errors had been found in the study besides the percentage of revenue
losses that could be attributed to college students, but that it would hire
a third party to validate the numbers.
"We take this error very seriously and have taken strong and immediate
action to both investigate the root cause of this problem as well as substantiate
the accuracy of the latest report," the group said in a statement.
Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents
higher education in Washington, said the mistakes showed the entertainment industry
has unfairly targeted college campuses.
"Illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing is a society-wide problem. Some of
it occurs at college s and universities but it is a small portion of the total,"
he said, adding colleges will continue to take the problem seriously, but more
regulation isn't necessary.