MPAA Suffers “Intelligence Failure” On Piracy, No Weapons of Mass File Sharing On College Campuses

“We have also learned that college students have used university networks to download 40% of all pirated movies, while eating yellow cake (aka ”Twinkies“).”

— Dan Glickman, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Testimony Before the House Wholly Owned Subsidiary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property

As some of you may know, the MPAA ad RIAA have been pushing their wholly owned subsidiaries in Congress to pass rather draconian laws against those vile dens of vice and iniquity, colleges and universities (Or, as RIAA President Mitch Bainwol explained: “never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.” He was promptly sued by ally MPAA CEO Dan Glickman). They have justified this on the basis of a 2005 report Commissioned by the MPAA and created by
LEK Consulting Services that purported to show that an astonishing 40% of industry loses from internet piracy could be traced to file sharing at universities. Because the MPAA refused to share either the methodology used or the underlying data, a number of folks expressed a healthy skepticism about this evidence. Nevertheless, a credulous Congress accepted this as “credible evidence” of a “weapons of mass file sharing” in our nations colleges and universities, and sought to impose heavy sanctions and possible invasion by federal troops.

The MPAA now admits it overstated the numbers a wee bit. According to this story, it turns out that the real number even using the data and methodology approved by the MPAA and LEK was 15%, not 40%. Further, as Mark Luker at EDUCAUSE points out, since the number was based on college students without regard for whether the activity took place on campus, the real number of files traded illegally over college networks is more like 3%. (And again, that’s based on the MPAA’s numbers and methodology as now disclosed, not confirmed by independent evidence).

Members of Congress — who uncritically accepted the MPAA’s previous statistics despite the lack of any corroborating evidence, the refusal of the MPAA to disclose its data or methodology, and the utter ludicrousness of the number to anyone who actually knows anything about file transfers and the amount of bandwidth and computer powering it would take to even come close to the numbers MPAA estimated for college campuses — expressed surprise at the disclosure. “Wow,” said a Spokesman for a Senator from California who has vigorously supported the sanctions against colleges when she can take time away from supporting immunity for telephone companies who secretly spied on Americans based on Administration insistence this was “necessary for national security” and who voted to authorize the war in Iraq based on intelligence reports and statements by the Bush Administration that later proved to be filled with outright lies, questionable data, and utterly ludicrous statements questioned by the vast majority of reputable experts. “Who would think we’d fall for this again?”

Nevertheless, both California Senators and a majority of the California delegation to the House issued a joint statement that while the MPAA and RIAA evidence continues to turn out to be total self-serving bunk, support for a raft of bills that would curtail fundamental freedoms and cost tax payers billions in both direct costs and lost productivity remained strong. “We will continue to support whatever means prove necessary to end the scourge of piracy that do not impact the monopoly profits of the entertainment industry for as long as the threat against this industry — which produces more of our home state’s jobs and revenues than you could possibly imagine — persists,” said the statement. “Sticking it to colleges and universities seems like a good way to do that even without any real evidence that it will help.” The statement was pointedly not joined by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who, in a separate statement, pleaded with her colleagues to “please get a Goddamn clue already” And to “stop embarrassing me, the State of California, and the Democratic Party.”

The MPAA blames the gross overstatement of internet piracy on college and university campuses — which it pushed aggressively for the last two years — on “human error.” The MPAA has promised a thorough investigation to determine what has went wrong. “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 in a statement.

In an unrelated item, the MPAA announced it would give LEK Consulting, which created the 2005 Report, the coveted “Oscar of Freedom” at this year’s Academy Awards.

Stay tuned . . . .

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