Record Biz Sings New Tune on Piracy

By | January 15, 2003 at 12:00 AM

A peace treaty announced Tuesday between the record business and Silicon Valley could reshape the debate over what role Capitol Hill should play in mandating antipiracy technology being sought by Hollywood, making it more difficult for the movie biz to pursue its legislative agenda.

The landmark pact among the Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA), the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP) launches a new chapter in the music industry’s fight to recover from devastating levels of computer piracy.

For its part, Silicon Valley will actively help the RIAA, the lobbying arm of the major labels, spread the word that pirating music and other copyrighted works is wrong. The computer and software sectors will stand alongside the RIAA in enforcement efforts.

In exchange, the RIAA won’t support any present or future legislation seeking a technological mandate when it comes to copy protection – legislation being actively sought by the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

Similarly, BSA and the CSPP won’t support legislation being pushed by various Silicon Valley companies.

WORKING TOGETHER

“This agreement keeps the RIAA’s focus on the tasks at hand and minimizes the distracting public rhetoric and needless legislative battles,” RIAA chairman Hilary Rosen said. “It follows what I have always believed – that our industries need to work together for the consumer to benefit and for our respective businesses to grow.”

Most Washington solons are in favor of having the private sector work out the issue on its own. Hence, they could refer to the RIAA pact as a blueprint for other sectors of the entertainment biz to follow.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA), which represents the major studios, says it is not worried about the deal having such an impact.

MPAA president Jack Valenti said he agreed with many of the principles set forth by the RIAA and Silicon Valley, but that he’s not willing to make a similar promise and give away the right to ask for governmental intervention.

NO PIC PACT YET

So far, the movie biz and Silicon Valley haven’t been able to negotiate a compromise when it comes to digital copy protection technology. On Capitol Hill, there are several pieces of legislation favoring one side or the other.

“The film and music industries are separate, unique enterprises with different strategies for addressing the outstanding issues concerning digital copy protection,” Valenti said. “Designing ways to protect valuable creative works is very much in the long-term best interests of consumers and indispensable to the nourishment of our nation’s economy. Because of this, we believe that no reasonable alternative course of action should be eliminated from consideration.”

Among the majors, Disney and News Corp. have been the most aggressive when it comes to asking for Capitol Hill’s intervention.

Top Disney lobbyist Preston Padden said in a statement that consumers would be best served by “prompt government facilitation of reasonable content protection standards that will unleash a rich and bountiful menu of legitimate online content.”

Other entertainment insiders credited Rosen for joining forces with Silicon Valley, saying it could easily accomplish more good than harm.

MUSIC BIZ’S BAD-GUY IMAGE

The music biz has been repeatedly painted as the bogeyman when it comes to cracking down on computer users who download pirated music. The agreement with Silicon Valley could diffuse some of the bad press.

“With this agreement, we stand committed to embracing technology and working together to find the best ways to harness technology’s promise for consumers, creators and the entertainment industry,” BSA president-CEO Robert Holleyman said.

Other studio insiders were quick to point out that BSA and the CSPP are on the eve of announcing a coalition to counter Hollywood’s argument for mandated protection technology. The coalition will be announced next week and will launch a $1 million campaign to plug its agenda.

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