John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

I'm Told Those "Top 25 Piracy Schools" Offer Great Remedial Math Programs …


Turns out Benjamin Disraeli was wrong. There are four, not three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, statistics and Motion Picture Association of America piracy figures.

The MPAA this week admitted that a 2005 study that blamed a significant portion of the film industry’s domestic losses on college movie pirates was erroneous. Touted as “the most accurate and detailed assessment of the film industry’s worldwide losses to piracy,” the study (PDF), described piracy as “the biggest threat to the U.S. motion picture industry” and attributed an astonishing 44% of MPAA company losses in the U.S. to college students.

Hollywood was quick to seize on that statistic and used it as the foundation of a campaign against file-sharing on college networks that would ultimately result in the Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act, the demonization of the “Top 25 Piracy Schools” and the Higher Education Reform Act, which ties federal higher-education funding to efforts to combat piracy.

Trouble is, that 44% figure was a gross overstatement. In fact, the MPAA now says, just 15% of the movie industry’s domestic losses can be attributed to campus piracy. How did it happen that the study nearly tripled that figure? “Human error,” says the MPAA.

Ah. Well that explains it, then. Makes you wonder about all those other sky-is-falling piracy studies we’ve been bombarded with over the years though, doesn’t it?

“If the reports are true that the new, corrected numbers are way below the initial and highly publicized earlier numbers, then the MPAA owes an apology to the campus community,” Kenneth Green, director of the Campus Computing Project, told Inside Higher Ed. “The corrected MPAA numbers clearly confirm what many of us have said for a very long time: that P2P piracy is primarily a consumer broadband issue, not primarily a campus network issue, and that colleges and universities are more concerned and far more engaged in efforts to stem illegal P2P activity than are consumer broadband providers.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik