Hollywood laid much of the blame for illegal movie downloading on college students. Now it says its math was wrong.
In a 2005 study it commissioned, the Motion Picture Assn. of America claimed that 44% of the industry's domestic losses came from illegal downloading of movies by college students, who often have access to high-bandwidth networks on campus.
The MPAA has used the study to pressure colleges to take tougher steps to prevent illegal file-sharing and to back legislation currently before the House of Representatives that would force them to do so.
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% of revenue loss.
The MPAA says the revised percentage is still significant and justifies a major effort by colleges and universities to crack down on illegal file-sharing.
But Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents higher education in Washington, said the mistakes showed that the entertainment industry had unfairly targeted college campuses.
"Illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing is a societywide problem. Some of it occurs at colleges and universities, but it is a small portion of the total," he said.
The original report, by research firm LEK, claims that the U.S. motion picture industry lost $6.1 billion worldwide to piracy, with most of the losses overseas. It identified the typical movie pirate as a male aged 16 to 24.
MPAA said in a statement that no errors had been found in the study besides the percentage of revenue losses that could be attributed to college students, but that it would hire a third party to validate the numbers.
"We take this error very seriously and have taken strong and immediate action to both investigate the root cause of this problem as well as substantiate the accuracy of the latest report," the group said.