College students: The MPAA still hates you

Last year, the MPAA released a study claiming that 44% of all illegal movie downloads via P2P networks could be directly linked to college students with high-speed network access.

Using that report, the MPAA then coerced many college campuses into installing a P2P-monitoring toolkit on their networks. This program reports back to the MPAA directly, and tracks which IP addresses on campus were violating copyrights.

As that saga unfolded, the MPAA was accused of stealing copyrighted material to use as their toolkit, so red-faced, it withdrew its deployments and removed the link to the toolkit from their Web site.

Now the MPAA has more egg on its face. The report blaming college students was flawed. “Bad math,” said the agency. The MPAA is still accusing college students of villainy, but now its number sits at 15% of illegal downloads, a far cry from the hearty 44% they claimed earlier.

From the AP here:

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 Association of America claimed that 44 percent 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 percent of revenue loss.

Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents higher education in Washington, said the mistakes showed the entertainment industry has unfairly targeted college campuses.

“Illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing is a society-wide problem. Some of it occurs at colleges and universities but it is a small portion of the total,” he said, adding colleges will continue to take the problem seriously, but more regulation isn’t necessary.

So why did the MPAA come clean about its falsified study? Maybe because it’s a crime to intentionally submit flawed documents as testimony to Congress?

I agree that copyrights need to be enforced, but when the copyright holders adopt tactics of organized criminals, pushing a “protection racket” at a bunch of colleges ill-equipped to stand up to rabid attorney teams, they need to be stopped.

The last thing we need is Congress meddling with network administrators who are trying to do their jobs. This applies both to the P2P issue and to the net neutrality issue.