MPAA Supports Illegal Downloading Act, Lists Top 25 Offending Schools

Anne Winter
WASHINGTON — The MPAA last week announced its support of the "Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007," legislation introduced to give colleges and universities an incentive to crack down on on-campus movie piracy.

Most recently the MPAA released a list of the top 25 piracy-ridden schools in an effort to compel them to take a more active role.

Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University and UCLA are among the list's top abusers of movie-file-sharing networks, an issue that MPAA head Dan Glickman said costs the mainstream film industry $500 million annually.

Piracy of adult content is just as costly. Keith Webb of Titan Media recently claimed his company lost $30 million last year to illegal file-sharing.

"I don't think there's [an adult] studio out there who isn't affected by online piracy," said Megan Stokes, vice president of sales at Shane's World.

Stokes told XBIZ that Shane's World's college-oriented content has a popular following in colleges and universities and she wouldn't doubt that some illegal downloading of Shane's World content takes place on campuses. Stokes commends the MPAA's efforts.

"I think it's awesome," Stokes said. "Anything to stop piracy."

The "Curb Illegal Downloading on College Campuses Act of 2007" was introduced by Congressman Ric Keller, R-Fla., and has the strident support of Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., the new chair of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property.

Berman recently announced his frustration with American colleges' and universities' lack of cooperation with the MPAA, and that he plans to accelerate his subcommittee's hearings on piracy on campus.

"Unfortunately, many schools have turned a blind eye to piracy," Berman said. "I don't doubt that there are legitimate issues that universities must grapple with, including piracy and cost concerns. However, when a university such as Purdue tells the AP that it rarely even notifies students accused by the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] because it is too much trouble to track down alleged offenders — such inaction is unacceptable."

In February, the RIAA sent 400 pre-litigation settlement letters to 13 different universities informing them of upcoming copyright suits against personnel and students, which were then forwarded to the offending users.

Whether the MPAA plans to take similar action is not yet clear.

Berman said he hopes that these top-25 lists will help "shame" colleges and universities into compliance with the MPAA. In addition to these lists, Berman has hinted that his subcommittee will consider legislation that would further entice schools to comply.

"I am concerned that current law isn't giving universities enough incentive to stop piracy," Berman said. "While Congress has given universities many exemptions from copyright liability it might be time to condition some of those exemptions on action taken by universities to address the piracy problem."