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Movie Industry Admits Error in Study on Campus Piracy

In 2005, when the Motion Picture Association of America stepped up its campaign against college movie pirates, officials with the trade group said that 44 percent of the film industry’s domestic losses were the result of illegal downloads on campus networks.

That statistic — which came from a report by a research firm called L.E.K. — was certainly striking. But it was also wrong, MPAA officials now say. According to the Associated Press, a “human error” compromised the study: In fact, the MPAA says, just 15 percent of the movie industry’s domestic losses can be attributed to campus piracy.

Although its revised numbers are rather less impressive than the old ones, the trade group says campus downloading is still a significant problem. (The L.E.K. study also concluded that U.S. movie studios lose over $6-billion a year to piracy, and MPAA officials say they have found no reason to doubt that finding.)

But higher-education groups argue that the error discredits the movie industry’s efforts to convince Congress to pass an antipiracy measure focusing on college 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,” said Mark A. Luker, vice president of Educause, to the Associated Press. Antipiracy measures directed at colleges, he added, “will have only a small impact on the industry itself.”

Movie-industry officials say they contacted lawmakers and higher-education officials as soon as they discovered the error, and the MPAA will hire an independent firm to check the accuracy of the full L.E.K. study. —Brock Read

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