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Copy Protection Battle Moves To Capitol Hill

7 Mar, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Studio executives and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) president and CEO Jack Valenti squared off against Intel EVP Leslie Vadasz at a hearing on Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings' proposed Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), which would mandate standardized copy protection systems in video players and, if Hollywood gets its way, Internet content.

"Only two in 10 films ever retrieve their total investment from U.S. theatrical exhibition," Valenti testified, adding that the emerging digital realm exposes films to possible "great peril" and a demeaning of their value through piracy.

The film industry's goals, Valenti said, are to create a "broadcast flag" to prevent redistribution of broadcast TV shows on the Internet; to develop a way to stamp out Internet file sharing; and to put watermark detectors in hardware that would recognize and prevent copying of copyrighted materials.

Calling entertainment piracy "the killer app," Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Michael Eisner framed it as an economic apocalypse at last week's hearing.

"This is not just about entertainment, this is about the economy," he said. "U.S. creative content industries … lead the U.S. economy in contributions to job growth, gross domestic product and foreign sales and exports."

Hardware and technology companies should agree on an open standard for protection, he said, then "once standards are set, they must be mandated for inclusion in all digital media devices that handle creative content."

Vadasz bristled at the notion that technology companies should include copy protections in their hardware to prevent devices from playing illegally copied products, and said hardware makers should not have to "abdicate a key design issue to the entertainment industry."

Digital rights management (DRM) companies contacted for this article did not respond by press time or declined comment.

Hollings accused the consumer electronics industry of stalling and gave all three industry sectors 12 months to reach an accord.

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