NAICU Washington Update

Oops! MPAA Reveals Math Error

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has acknowledged that its contention that college students are responsible for 44% of the total revenue loss from the illegal downloading of movies is based on a math error in a 2005 study conducted by the research firm LEK. This figure has been widely touted by the industry in its efforts to promote legislation aimed at illegal file sharing on college campuses.

MPAA now estimates the collegiate illegal download figure to be 15-16%. This figure includes all college students – not just the estimated 20% of students who live on campus. Although the higher education community does not condone illegal file sharing, community representatives have raised major objections to the legislative solutions proposed by the industry. These proposals have ranged from requiring institutions to report on file-sharing, to requiring all institutions to adopt "technology-based deterrents."

The Senate Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill includes a requirement on disclosures to students about institutional copyright infringement policies and sanctions (see WIR, 7/25/07). The House HEA bill includes an identical requirement, but in addition would require institutions to develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading, and a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to illegal downloading. The House bill also establishes a grant program designed to assist in programs of "prevention, education, and cost-effective technological solutions" to reduce or eliminate illegal file sharing.

It remains to be seen if this revelation affects the ongoing congressional debate. MPAA believes that even the smaller figure indicates a significant problem, and the recording industry has already played a major role in putting legislative and other pressure on colleges and universities to address the illegal file sharing issue (see WIR, 3/13/07).

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