MPAA admits 'human error' in its revenue loss estimates from piracy

Back in 2005, the Motion Picture Association of America released a study that blamed 44 percent of the industry's domestic losses on college students illegally downloading movies. Now the Association admits its numbers were wrong.

A more accurate figure, the MPAA now says, is about 15 percent, in an admission to educational groups cited this morning by the Associated Press. It attributed its overestimate of student-based losses to a "human error."

Then in a statement to the press later cited by the AP, the MPAA denied any such error existed, although it then expressed a desire to substantiate the accuracy of its findings, and stated it plans to affirm its revised findings through a third party.

The original report sponsored by the MPAA claimed the movie industry lost $6.1 billion to piracy worldwide, with a typical pirate being a male between the ages of 16 and 24.

College campuses, where high-speed connections are offered to practically everyone, were found in the study to be major contributers to the industry's losses, and subsequently pressured to take measures to block file-sharing.

Hofstra University in New York, for example, has a policy forbidding peer-to-peer file sharing. There, students found to have violated that policy face account revocation, university disciplinary action, and possible referral to local, state, and federal authorities.

Mark Luker, president of campus technology advocacy group Educause told the AP that measures like this have only a small impact on the industry, and that 3 percent is probably a more accurate figure in representing college-based piracy.

This afternoon, Educause is hosting an online conference that promises to examine the negative impact that its presenters claim the RIAA have made on the online activities of students and everyday users.

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