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Andersen, Panel Urge Industry to Address Piracy

15 Jul, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warning that the “wrenching” effect of piracy in home entertainment costs video retailers 20 percent in business annually, VSDA president Bo Andersen told attendees at the opening session of the VSDA's Home Entertainment 2004 that efforts to prosecute companies and individuals profiting from the illegal actions need to be increased.

Andersen participated in a panel discussion on piracy in home entertainment moderated by ABC News correspondent Robert Krulwich that included Fritz Attaway, EVP for governmental relations for the Motion Picture Association of America; John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners; British journalist and piracy expert Barry Fox; and Matt Oppenheim, formerly with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and now a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block.

Krulwich wondered whether the film industry — which is making lots of money on film, video and other distribution forms — really had a piracy problem.

Oppenheim countered that the film industry couldn't afford to wait and see, thus following in the footsteps of the music industry, which he said was slow to address piracy and suffered a severe decline in CD shipments. “The movie industry may well go where the music industry has gone,” Oppenheim said.

The panelists said illegal use of camcorders in movie theaters and the transfer of movies on file-sharing networks represent principal origins of piracy.

Krulwich countered that, in addition, piracy appeared to emanate from within the industry as well. “It occurs everywhere,” Fithian said. “In my membership, there are people who have an economic incentive to steal.” He said the use of night vision goggles by theater employees and the ability to trace counterfeit movies through watermarking is having an effect.

The panel agreed that the traditional staggered release of movies from theatrical, cable and home video helps spawn piracy, to which Krulwich suggested that titles be unleashed simultaneously throughout the entertainment food chain.

While that wasn't met with widespread enthusiasm, Fritz said replicating the RIAA's legal actions against downloaders could help. “Nobody wants to do that,” he said. “But we need to go after the people who are really making money at it.”

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