MPAA Wrong On Piracy Prevalence
The Motion Picture Association of America is the latest poster child for reasons not to trust research put out by entities with vested interests in the results of the research. The MPAA is having to send out word that their previous estimates of movie piracy on college campuses were a bit overstated—by a factor of three.
They haven’t sent out word via the MPAA website yet, which is cluttered with anti-piracy information, including their piracy research, but are busy backtracking with Congressional officials, who took the research at face value and issued stern warnings and threats of funding cuts to universities perceived to be doing little to combat it. They even introduced legislation at the MPAA prompt.
Based on the research, the methodologies of which were kept under wraps until recently, the MPAA concluded that 44 percent of movie downloads on college campuses were pirated. Two years later, make that about 15 percent.
You can thank Howard Berman, a California Democrat (who, incidentally, has a brother rather heavily involved in districting in the state, whom he has paid for services with campaign money – legal, perhaps, but interesting at least) for giving the MPAA’s research a pass and then threatening the nation’s universities.
You might also note Berman’s top contributors happen to include Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp. (Fox), Sony, and Viacom. But I suppose that has little to do with Berman’s complete trust of the MPAA’s research.
Or perhaps that good old-fashioned Washington cronyism isn’t just for Republicans anymore, eh Barack?
Nate Anderson at Ars Technica laments that members of Congress accepted "evidence" from an study with secret methodologies and claims that were not vetted:
"After all, this is exactly opposite the approach taken by most of the academic world (and the open-source community) when it comes to research, and there’s a good reason why findings need to be open and repeatable and scrutinized by other experts before gaining acceptance. Or before guiding US law."
Indeed, and it’s also why it is always a good idea to double check who releases and/or funds a study to see if they have a vested interested, whether it be a Net Neutrality study funded by the telecommunications industry, or a pro-prescription medication study brought to you by pharmaceutical company "independent" front-groups.