In its campaign urging lawmakers and colleges to take the issue of on-campus illegal file sharing seriously, the Motion Picture Association of America has wielded an array of legal arguments, facts and statistics. It now appears that a central figure in that arsenal was high by a factor of three, galvanizing its opponents who maintain that colleges have been singled out unfairly as havens of downloading activity.
The association often notes that according to a 2005 study it commissioned, 44 percent of the money the industry lost within the United States that year was attributable to peer-to-peer file sharing by college students. It now appears that the figure was closer to 15 percent, or $243 million. Mark Luker, a vice president at Educause, an organization promoting technology use in higher education, said the numbers reflected college students both on and off campus even though college Internet service providers, the target of pressure from both Congress and the MPAA to step up anti-piracy efforts, typically only serve on-campus residents. It would be “reasonable,” Luker said, to divide the MPAA numbers by five, since about a fifth of college students live on campus, leaving the figure somewhere around 3 percent of domestic losses.