MPAA revises piracy study results

College students are a source of 15 percent of domestic movie piracy losses, not 44 percent.

by Ted Walker

Illegal downloading and file sharing remains a hot-button issue on college campuses, where widespread pressure from media trade associations has led to lawsuits against individuals caught sharing media files on high-speed campus networks.

Indiana University is one of many schools across the country to receive pre-litigation letters from record company trade representatives because of students who use IU networks to share digital media illegally. In addition, as recently as September 2007 three IU students were sued by the Recording Industry Association of America.

On January 22, however, one well-known trade organization, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), retracted what had been a widely cited figure concerning college students and the online piracy of motion pictures. A 2005 MPAA study had concluded that 44 percent of film industry losses in the US resulting from piracy could be pinned on college students. The new MPAA announcement reported that the actual figure should have been 15 percent.

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The 2005 study, conducted at the behest of the MPAA, originally reported that “44 percent of the motion picture industry’s domestic losses were attributable to piracy by college students.” While preparing the results of the 2007 version of the study, the independent consulting company LEK discovered what the MPAA refers to as “an isolated error” in the data. The error resulted in the heavily inflated figure about college students and movie piracy.

“The 2007 study will report that number to be approximately 15 percent,” reads a release from the MPAA, “or nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in stolen content annually by college students in the U.S.”

LEK Consulting is an international firm providing various business consulting services to companies across the world. Because of the mistake, the MPAA will engage a third party to validate the results of the LEK-led 2007 version of the study, the latest attempt to analyze movie industry losses that result from media piracy across the world.

According to Reuters, “MPAA president Dan Glickman and other executives have used the 44 percent number in their arguments to get lawmakers to enact sanctions” against educational institutions.

Indiana University does not monitor file sharing on campus networks. The university is, however, required by law to respond to complaints from copyright holders, as determined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. IU policy regarding online piracy can be found at, with information about copyright violation fines and resultant disciplinary action.

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