MPAA admits it miscounted how many students download movies

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In 2005 the Motion Picture Association of America released a study where it estimated that 44 percent of the industry’s domestic losses came from illegal downloading of movies by college students. That figure has been widely cited as a reason why Congress should act to require higher-ed institutions to install software (which is itself not all that ready for prime-time) to keep students from illegally downloading movies and music.

Steve Worona points out this AP news item:

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 loss.

In the article Educause VP Mark Luker goes on to point out:

…it does not account for the fact that more than 80 percent of college students live off campus and are not 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 itself.

In a related note, the Common Solutions Group released a summary of our meeting two weeks ago with the three major vendors of software that claims to supress illegal file sharing. The findings?

Although each of the technologies we discussed works in the narrow technical sense, it is the sense of CSG participants in the discussion that current products cannot stop all (or even most) unauthorized sharing of copyrighted material without interfering with the efficiency of the networks essential to research and teaching in higher education.

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