The film industry’s largest interest group admitted yesterday that it overestimated by almost 300 percent the amount of money the industry lost to piracy by college kids – a figure the group had used to lobby for legislation that would force colleges to crack down on file-sharing by their students.

In the 2005 study, the Motion Picture Association of America claimed that because of their high illegal download rate, college students were responsible for 44 percent of the MPAA’s total lost revenue to piracy. Now, the association has lowered that figure to 15 percent.

The MPAA – the advocacy group for six major movie studios that leads the industry’s anti-piracy campaign – originally claimed college students cost the industry more than $18 billion a year.

MPAA representatives said the miscalculation was the result of “human error,” the Associated Press reported. The MPAA representatives could not be reached for comment when contacted yesterday.

Although the MPAA contends that the impact of illegal piracy by college students is still significant, the misreported numbers might disrupt pending legislation in Congress.

Because the bill was largely based on the original numbers from the MPAA, some lawmakers might remove their endorsement from legislation. The bill was strongly championed by the MPAA and RIAA after its introduction.

“It’s unfortunate that Congress has relied on these numbers,” said Jack Bernard, the University’s assistant general counsel, who handles legal issues involving file-sharing at the University.

The bill, which is currently awaiting consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives, says that each participating institution must not only make public the policies and procedures regarding illegal piracy to their students and employees, but must develop alternatives to illegal peer-to-peer programs for its members.

According to the bill, universities who fail to offer “technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity” could potentially lose federal aid for their students.

Bernard said that Congress should focus its anti-piracy campaign elsewhere. He said college campuses are “among the most responsible Internet service providers” because they educate their users on the legality of file sharing.

“Before the MPAA had this research conducted, the University was thinking about how to help educate people about peer-to-peer file-sharing,” Bernard said. “We think there’s a better place for Congress to spend its time,” he added.

Bernard said he was skeptical of the original statistic because the data used to estimate the figure were never made public.

“When those numbers came out, we questioned them because they seemed so high,” he said. “Clearly the MPAA has come out and said they’ve made a mistake interpreting their data, and we’re glad they came out and are trying to correct the record.”

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