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US Media Executive Warns of 'Digital Crime Wave'

The U.S. chairman of the media giant Sony says piracy threatens the technological promise of the coming century. The executive outlined industry efforts to fight what he calls a "digital crime wave."

Sony America chairman Howard Stringer says the 20th century was dominated by mass media, but coming years will be the age of personal media, digitally delivered. He says the revolution has already started, and includes movies and games played on handheld PDAs, or personal digital assistants, and music downloaded from the Internet.

But he says the promise is threatened by pirates, and by those who think that anything on the Internet should be free.

"So far this year alone, more than 50 Hollywood films were pirated before they were released," he said. "All told, film studios lose between $3 billion and $4 billion a year to piracy, and that does not even include films on the Internet, where we estimate a half million copies of films are traded digitally every day."

Sony is a manufacturer of consumer electronics and a producer of entertainment. The Japanese-based company released last year's hit film Spider-Man. But the U.S. executive confirmed that the company will cut 300 positions from its film and television divisions, which is says is part of an effort to increase shareholder value. Shares in the parent Sony Corporation lost 20 percent since the start of the year, and Mr. Stringer says some of the company's losses stem from piracy.

Sony is also a force in the music business, although revenues are down in its music division as well. The executive says piracy has reduced the value of the global music business by seven billion dollars in the past two years, and Sony is suffering with other companies.

The executive says the industry is fighting illegal file sharing through aggressive prosecutions, by educating consumers and by supporting music sales over the Internet. This month, Sony announced plans for its own online music service, and the media executive says long-range tactics to combat piracy include development of digital copyright protections.