Bootleg copies of 'Episode II' also swapped in cyberspace

WASHINGTON — Normally it’s Spidey who’s chasing down the baddies. But an Oregon politico has come to the aid of Sony’s web-spinner, urging Capitol Hill to cast a wide net to help trap Internet pirates.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) sent a letter this week to his colleagues warning that thousands upon thousands of pirated copies of “Spider-Man” have already been downloaded from Internet file-swapping sites.

He further informed his colleagues that while “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” hasn’t even opened, there’s already bootleg copies being swapped in cyberspace.

“And while these two films may become successes today, (future) movies like these may never be made should the risks posed by piracy continue to mount,” Gordon said in his May 14 letter.

“These numbers and the problem they reflect go beyond the movies themselves. What is at stake is the economic well-being and vitality of an entire sector of the American economy. The American copyright industries are responsible for over 5% of the nation’s Gross National Product — more than the automotive industry, more than the aircraft industry and more than agriculture,” the solon wrote.

Studios at odds

The Motion Picture Assn. of America has been waging an intensive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill seeking copy protection in the digital age. It’s a touchy topic, though, since the major studios themselves are divided over how best to proceed.

The MPAA recently endorsed legislation introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) that would force the computer biz to load down its wares with technology blocking the file-swapping of pirated pics on the Internet. Otherwise, Washington will step in and come up with the technology itself.

Warner Bros. doesn’t think the government should be involved in such matters, and didn’t back the MPAA’s endorsement; the Walt Disney Co. is a major force behind Hollings’ legislation, causing further rift between the Mouse and Warner.

In his letter, Gordon clearly advocates an aggressive approach, saying Congress needs to take action.

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