CEO sez other media could suffer next

Seagram Co. chief Edgar Bronfman Jr. has issued an aggressive attack on Internet piracy, calling for stiff penalties for those who steal music off the Web and pledging that his music operations will track down violators.

Bronfman issued the warning in a keynote address at the Real Networks conference last week in San Jose. He asserted that piracy of music could spread to other forms of entertainment, such as movies, and destroy the Internet in the same way the Soviet Union collapsed.

“If the Internet should require an unfair and unjust paradigm to perpetuate itself, then it too will crack, crumble and collapse, and it won’t take five decades of Cold War politics for it to happen,” Bronfman said. “We will fight for our rights and those of our artists, whose work, whose creations, whose property are being stolen and exploited. We will take our fight to every territory, in every court in every venue, wherever our fundamental rights are being assaulted and attacked.”

Bronfman reiterated a previous promise that Seagram’s Universal Music Group will develop systems for consumers to legally access content from the Internet. He said the first secure downloading format will be available to consumers this summer in partnership with Real, Magex and InterTrust Technologies.

Bronfman also said the system will protect consumers’ privacy because of security safeguards, while tracing those who make illegal downloads. However, he did not specify what steps would be taken against violators.

“While adhering to the principal of respect for individual privacy, we fully intend to exploit technology to protect the property which rightfully belongs to its owners,” Bronfman said.

The executive, who engineered Seagram’s $10 billion purchase of PolyGram in 1998, attacked the “dangerous and misguided” notion that everything on the Internet should be free. “Other than the gifts of God and Nature, that which is free is free only because someone else has paid for it,” he asserted.

Bronfman cited several court rulings, including recent findings against Napster and myMP3.com, as successful in defining the boundaries of right and wrong in the new technological era. “All of us who believe in the right to own property, and therefore in the sanctity of the copyright, will be fiercely aggressive in this area,” he added.

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