Inside Move: Biz gets sympathetic ear on copy guards

Sen. Hollings blasts tech industry

Score one for the studios.

The pitched battle over copyright protection in the digital era reached its latest crescendo Feb. 28, with Mouse House chieftan Michael Eisner, News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin and MPAA topper Jack Valenti rallying the showbiz side at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

The panel, chaired by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), blasted the tech industry for refusing to figure out a way to stop pirated pics from proliferating on the Internet. Hollings and other pols increasingly cite the lack of copy protection as one of the factors holding up the digital TV transition.

Eisner exchanged heated words with Intel exec veep Leslie Vadasz.

“There are people in the tech industry who believe that piracy is the killer app for their business.” Eisner said. “Their growth is pushed forward by people getting things for free.”

“I really take exception to that,” Vadasz countered. “Contrary to what Mr. Eisner says, we as an industry have not been built up around thievery.”

The political powers-to-be clearly sided with the MPAA forces, threatening legislation if the tech sector doesn’t return to the bargaining table and solve key copy protection issues.

Solons exacted one promise from Vadasz: By the end of March, computer makers will present technology blocking content from digital TV sets from being uploaded to the Internet.

Two key issues remain unresolved: Studios also want technology that would stop traditional TV sets receiving a digital signal from being hooked up to cyberspace. And, perhaps more critically, the Hollywood majors are seeking technology that will stop computer users from file-swapping pirated movies on the Internet.

“If you don’t protect content on the Internet,” warned Eisner, “that’s the end of the entertainment business.”

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