An analysis of the recording industry's own piracy data has shown that China is far from leading the theft of digital media, and that the UK ranks near the top of the table.
A survey of over 20,000 consumers in 22 countries conducted last year showed that US movie studios lost $6.1bn to piracy, of which 80 per cent came from overseas.
Topping the list of offenders was Mexico, the UK and France, accounting for a quarter of all losses. China was well down the table in sixth place.
The data was published in the Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law by Aaron Schwabach, associate professor of law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Taken on a damage per capita basis China's cost to the industry was minimal, even if only the top 10 per cent of the country's inhabitants likely to have internet access were considered.
This goes contrary to public perception that China is responsible for large scale intellectual property theft.
"Politicians in search of a safe, non-voting scapegoat often target foreigners," said Schwabach.
"The unfortunate xenophobia that characterises public political discourse on everything from immigration to trade policy, not just in the US but worldwide, is the result of this cost-minimising behaviour by politicians.
"It will always be safer for a senator from Michigan to blame Detroit's economic woes on Japanese carmakers (for somehow competing unfairly) than on Detroit's carmakers for making lousy cars."
Schwabach explained that, while there is large scale piracy in China, it is largely confined to domestically produced content which does not require a knowledge of English to view and is more suited to Chinese tastes.
He also questioned the values attributed to the loss of revenue by the movie studios. "Not every unlicensed copy necessarily represents a lost sale," said Schwabach.
"Many who might have been willing to pay 60 cents for a pirated DVD of the mind-numbingly awful conclusion to the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy would have been unwilling to pay $22 for a licensed copy or $11 to see the movie in a theatre."
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