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CDSA Forum: Industries Talk Fighting Piracy

10 Mar, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

LA QUINTA, Calif. — The music, gaming and film industries are all approaching piracy in different ways. But that doesn't mean they can't work together.

Representatives from all three areas of entertainment met at the 38th annual Content Delivery and Storage Forum March 8 to share their tactics in tackling piracy at the.

The trio shared similar concerns, that their industries may have too many trade groups fighting the same battle, and similar obstacles in educating both the public and their companies' own executives.

Richard Atkinson, VP of global anti-piracy strategy and operations for Walt Disney Studios, represents the industry that's hardest hit in terms of dollars lost to Internet piracy: more than $7 billion a year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

“If [our product] gets out there, it's $25 million [we've lost] …” he said, explaining what he tells Disney employees. “The marketing people can weigh the risks [of screeners]. The business folks understand that their decision every day can either feed piracy or starve piracy.

“There's certainly been economic pressure from within the industry to fight piracy. We mark and track everything, but it can get so complex.”

Atkinson added that what affects music also affects movies.

“For all of … Disney's efforts, we're all stitched together,” he said, looking at his counterparts on stage. “If someone is downloading music, they're doing it with films too.”

Jonathan Bender, SVP of operations and digital media for Concord Music Group, said he realizes that music is the most-pirated form of entertainment, but rights holders haven't thrown in the towel.

“It's just so easy to copy music these days,” he said, adding that music is harder than movies or games to keep off the streets before it's supposed to be there. “To really lock it down is an expensive proposition.”

“The good news, bad news of this business is I don't have to look very far for an example. It's not theoretical,” Bender added. He said that while digital music is slowly pushing CDs out the door, physical discs wouldn't disappear overnight.

“Are we reaching the point where it falls off the cliff and becomes a niche format?” he asked. “I think the physical format has a way to go.”

For gaming, the risk is less digital and more physical, said John Mott, director of international security and risk management for Electronic Arts.

“We're very much looking at risk in a physical world,” he said, pointing to lost shipments and the lack of control in warehouses along the supply chain.

Atkinson said that when music first started losing money to piracy, the film and gaming industries didn't do enough to help out their entertainment brother. Now everyone's paying the price.

“We sat on the sidelines while we watched the music industry fight it alone,” he said. “It wasn't our problem until it affected us.”

Timothy Gorman, moderator of the panel and director of worldwide anti-piracy compliance for the Content Delivery and Storage Association, said the three industries should look into joining forces to combat piracy, especially when it comes to lobbying the government.

“Disney does a good job, Concord does a good job, EA does a good job [to fight piracy],” he said. “Can they work together to do a great job?”

Atkinson said that all of the industries have battled piracy by going after those who promote it, such as peer-to-peer networks. He wondered aloud whether the consumer should one day be a target too.

“One of the challenges is whether any of us are ever going to sue an end consumer,” he said. “At some point we know enforcement works. It's not about knowing it's wrong, it's about whether I'm going to get caught or not.”

In other news at the conference:

  • Blair Westlake, corporate VP of Microsoft's Media & Entertainment Group, shared his thoughts on the future of digital delivery, and whether it will replace physical media any time soon. “America loves its optical disc,” he said.

    “Indications are that the two-, three-inch screens still have a limited audience,” Westlake said, adding however that the ages of those who'll watch video on a mobile phone isn't limited to teens.

    He shared statistics that showed that even though it can take six hours for someone to download a high-def movie on the Xbox Live system, 40% of all downloads are of the high-def variety.

  • Joseph A Grasso, manager of graphics and marketing services for Imation Corp.'s Americas Consumer Brands, shared ways his company has cut back on packaging waste, in order to meet the demands of Wal-Mart's green initiatives.

    “We're all going green, and paying more for it,” he said. “Wal-Mart has been driving this … while Wal-Mart may be driving it, we should be picking it up. If you want to do business with them, you have to play their game.”

    By reducing packaging, shipping costs are also reduced, Grasso pointed out, and the entire supply chain benefits from the use of less waste.

    “The Wal-Mart scorecard is an arbitrary one,” said Rod Streeper, director of customer operations for the Entertainment Distribution Company. “ … It's probably the most important metric we have out there, however.”

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