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Big Technology Firms Take on Hollywood Over Piracy
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Big Technology Firms Take on Hollywood Over Piracy

BY Rob Lever

Big US tech firms joined Thursday with consumer groups and others to fight Hollywood's demands for mandatory technology to prevent piracy of films and other digital entertainment. The new coalition, the Alliance for Digital Progress (ADP), includes Microsoft, Cisco, Intel and Apple, as well as several consumer groups, think tanks, taxpayer organizations and other organizations. The alliance will lobby to dissuade Congress from passing laws requiring anti-piracy technology in computers, DVD players and other electronic devices. Alliance members say that they do not advocate distributing illegal copies, but that mandatory technology aimed at stopping piracy would be a solution worse than the problem. "Piracy of digital content is a serious, complex problem that concerns all of us," said Fred McClure, president of the alliance. "But government-designed and mandated technology that swaps the diversity of marketplace solutions for a 'one size fits all' approach is not the answer. Mandates are a mistake. A mandate will raise the price of everything from CD players and DVD players to personal computers. It will make the devices consumers own today obsolete. And it will stifle the innovation at the heart of digital progress." Consumers and technology groups have been concerned about possible legislation that could require technology that makes it hard to copy films or music or make it impossible to play DVDs on more than one device. "We are greatly concerned that Hollywood is trying to pressure Congress into forcing technology mandates onto American consumers," McClure said. "Hollywood should be working with others in the private sector to develop solutions to the piracy problem that will succeed in the marketplace and benefit consumers." Although the music industry said recently it would stop lobbying efforts for such mandates, Hollywood's main lobby group, the Motion Picture Association of America, has maintained its policy. "Hollywood leaders like Jack Valenti (of the MPAA) would have organized the monks to burn down Gutenberg's printing press if they were alive during that period of rapid change and innovation," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, a high-tech group that is part of the alliance. "Legislators have heard Hollywood's pleas to stifle innovation, but more education will help them make informed decisions. We look forward to working with ADP to make sure all sides are heard when it comes to digital rights management." The MPAA had no comment on the new alliance, but last week Valenti argued that Hollywood may split with the music industry on the issue. even though they have been united against swapping services like Napster. "The film and music industries are separate, unique enterprises with different strategies for addressing the outstanding issues concerning digital copy protection," Valenti said last week. "We are not prepared to abandon the option of seeking technical protection measures via the Congress or appropriate regulatory agency, when necessary." Valenti and other Hollywood executives have claimed piracy is one of the biggest threats to the industry, potentially costing billions of dollars and depriving creative artists of royalties. Digital rights advocates say Hollywood has cried wolf before, having sought special protection against videotapes when VHS technology arrived, but noted that the industry's 2002 revenues set a record for the third year running. The alliance includes several other tech firms including IBM, Dell Computer, Motorola and Hewlett Packard; and a hodgepodge of organizations including Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers.

01/23/2003