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MPAA chief urges Hollywood and Silicon Valley to join forces against piracy

Chris Dodd says it's time for California's two signature industries to stop fighting each other over the issue of rampant online piracy.

October 27, 2011|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times
  • Chris Dodd, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, adjusts the earphone prior to a seminar as part of the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival in June.
Chris Dodd, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, adjusts… (Eugene Hoshiko, Associated…)

Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd is calling on Silicon Valley and Hollywood to jointly fight the entertainment industry's biggest enemy: piracy.

The former U.S. senator from Connecticut said it was time for California's two signature industries to stop sparring over the issue of rampant online piracy.

"We have so much in common," Dodd told a gathering of scientists and engineers who work for the entertainment industry. "There is so much we can accomplish together — for our customers and for the millions of Americans we employ. And yet, there are those who would pit these two communities against each other in a manufactured conflict more reminiscent of the Beltway chatter I learned to ignore in my last job."

The plea, which Dodd delivered Wednesday at a conference in Hollywood held by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, comes as the studios face opposition from high-tech giants like Google Inc. to a new law that would crack down on rogue websites that traffic in pirated movies and television shows.

Known as the Protect IP Act, the bill would give law enforcement more tools to prosecute such sites but has been resisted by some in the technology industry as an unwarranted intrusion on Internet freedoms. The bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but has yet to be voted on by the full Senate. The House on Wednesday introduced similar anti-piracy legislation.

In an interview, Dodd said there were issues on which the studios and tech companies could collaborate, such as building more support for California's film tax credit program. But he said his main goal was to muster broader support for the anti-piracy measures.

"A majority of people in the IT community are sympathetic," he said. "They don't like the idea that people are stealing our content. But they are unwilling to help us close the loop. Help us to do this together. You need us. We need you."

In his speech at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel — his first Los Angeles address since being tapped this year to run Hollywood's leading lobby group in Washington — Dodd described the toll that online theft is taking on U.S. jobs and earnings and the role that some tech companies are playing in facilitating it.

Citing a recent poll, Dodd said 13% of the adult population in the U.S. — 29 million American adults — have downloaded or watched illegal copies of movies or TV shows online. He said piracy costs the nation 373,000 jobs, $16 billion in earnings and $58 billion in economic output each year.

"The online theft industry relies on advertisers, payment processors, Internet service providers and search engines — legitimate businesses that in my view debase themselves when they act as accomplices to digital theft," Dodd said.

As a model of how the industries can collaborate, Dodd pointed to the example of the late Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who launched both the world's most innovative technology company and the most successful animation operation, Pixar Animation Studios.

"Steve was a friend to our industry. He loved movies and he challenged us to join him in embracing the potential of innovative technology," Dodd said.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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