MPAA Rescinds College Piracy Figures, Remains Unrepentant on Policy

Following a report from the Associate Press Tuesday, the Motion Picture Association of America Wednesday formally admitted that it made a blunder in its piracy statistics, which previously blamed college and university students for a whopping 44 percent of all movie industry losses attributable to piracy. It now says that figure is drastically lower than originally thought. But the association isn't backing down on its stance that the problem remains a "profound" one.

In a statement released by the MPAA, Seth Oster the group's executive vice president for corporate communications, said:
While in the process of recently updating that study with current data, we discovered there had been an isolated error in the LEK process two years ago that resulted in an inflated number for piracy by college students. The 2005 study had incorrectly concluded that 44 percent of the motion picture industry’s domestic losses were attributable to piracy by college students. The 2007 study will report that number to be approximately 15 percent--or nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in stolen content annually by college students in the [United States].

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 to substantiate the accuracy of the latest report. Additionally, the MPAA will retain a third party to validate LEK’s updated numbers. We are confident that when the report is complete it will provide an accurate and reliable assessment of worldwide piracy.
The MPAA's previously released figures had played a role in legislation that would force or financially pressure (depending on the particular piece of legislation) colleges and universities to deploy technologies to combat piracy on campus. The current 15 percent figure, however, does not necessarily represent students downloading media illegally through campus networks. The downloads could take place anywhere. There is currently one piece of legislation pending in the United States House of Representatives in the form of the "College Opportunity and Affordability Act," which requires higher education institutions to develop plans to combat illegal file sharing.

Meanwhile, the MPAA, for its part, remains adamant on its aggressive stance against piracy. The MPAA's Oster said, "We will continue to aggressively fight piracy on all fronts including working to forge alliances with other copyright organizations, deploying technologies that help combat piracy and working closely with governments around the world...."

A copy of the MPAA's retraction can be found at the link below. It's dated Jan. 22 (the date of the initial AP report) but was not posted on the MPAA's site until Jan. 23.

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About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director, education for 1105 Media's Public Sector Media Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal. A 22-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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