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Entertainment Industry Decries International Piracy - 2002-02-22

The entertainment industry says it fears piracy is going to bring it to its end. Leaders in the industry have made an emotional appeal to Congress for help in ending copyright infringement.

Representatives of various entertainment media, movies, music, video games, and software, sat Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and told many stories about the illegal copying and distribution of their products. They told how in China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand people can buy illegal replicas of their products for $1.25.

Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti said Internet technology already makes it easy to get unauthorized copies of movies for free. "With the click of a mouse, anybody can send a two-hour movie hurtling around the globe to every nook and cranny of this wracked and weary planet, and do it at the speed of light," he said.

He and his colleagues said the situation would only get worse with the introduction of newer broadband Internet capabilities.

Broadband is a way to use wider bandwidths that can carry more information at faster speeds. Jack Valenti says it takes an average modem about 10 to 12 hours to download a movie. But with increased bandwidth technology, people could be able to download the same movie in about 45 seconds.

The panel said piracy of this copyrighted material is costing tens of billions of dollars a year, and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. President of Interactive Digital Software Douglas Lowenstein said companies are going to stop producing new and innovative products if they know they can not make a profit.

"What piracy is doing is it is sucking money out of the industry," he said. "It is depriving the industry of the R&D dollars that are required to make that next game that is going to cost $10 or $15 million. And with $145 million Americans who are playing video and computer games, not just a bunch of adolescent boys these days, that means millions of Americans are being deprived of entertainment options."

The industry asked Congress to be tougher on foreign governments that allow the piracy to continue. Jack Valenti told Congress the industry needs broadcast flags on televised material to prevent it from being copied. The Internet needs encryption so the legal sale of movies can take place, but not illegal copying. And he said companies need to watermark packaging so consumers know they are buying authentic products.

"We know what ingredients are required to protect this, and until you get those ingredients all put together in an all-embracing solution, we are going to suffer in a lamentable way, the slow undoing of one of America's greatest assets," he said.

Committee Chairman Joe Biden told the panel that there is legislation already in place to prevent this copyright problem. He said more effective law enforcement in countries where the piracy is rampant and bilateral international agreements are necessary to combat the situation.