Studios fire off letter to tech toppers on piracy

MPA missive demands computer industry pick rep by July 24

WASHINGTON — In a clash of the titans, studio chiefs shot off a terse letter Wednesday challenging the country’s top computer execs to back up their word and commence immediate negotiations on how to stop Internet piracy.

All seven majors gave Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy-CEO Jack Valenti the greenlight to write the missive, which came two days after the computer execs sent a letter to studio heads suggesting it was Hollywood, and not the tech biz, that was holding up matters.

“We are ready to begin the talks immediately, with no preconditions,” Valenti said. “Please select an emissary and have that person call me no later than July 24 so we can begin these discussions by the first week of August, whose aim it is to shape the digital future on behalf of consumers and to the long-term benefit of all of us who serve consumers.”

There was plenty of grumbling among studio reps, who said the computer biz took its sweet time responding to an April 12 letter sent by Valenti regarding face-to-face meetings.

And when the computer execs finally responded earlier this week, they timed the letter’s release to a Capitol Hill summit on digital TV and copy protection, creating the perception that Hollywood was balking at holding the talks.

“They took 11 weeks to respond, and we took 48 hours,” one studio lobbyist said.

Among those receiving Valenti’s letter were Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer, Intel Corp. CEO Craig Barrett, Dell chair-CEO Michael Dell, Hewlett-Packard chair-CEO Carly Fiorina, IBM CEO Louis Gerstner and Motorola chair-CEO Christopher Galvin.

Peer-to-peer challenge

At issue is the question of how to stop pirated movies from being downloaded from peer-to-peer Internet sites. The studios say the computer biz must develop technology stopping the Napsterlike practice.

Computer congloms, however, have argued that the movie biz shouldn’t be allowed to control the Internet. In their July 15 letter to studio heads, computer execs said peer-to-peer technologies are an important part of the economy and shouldn’t be shut down or severely constricted.

“Any solutions to the problem of piracy must not compromise the innovations this functionality has to offer, and — more importantly, must first address the means by which unprotected content finds its way onto these systems in the first instance,” the computer execs wrote.

Options

Computer biz has suggested that other measures be considered in the battle against piracy, such as educating consumers about the impact of piracy and encouraging enforcement of existing laws.

But Hollywood remains adamant that copy protection technology is a big part of the solution.

“With trust in each other’s commitment to move swiftly to resolve whatever chasms may exist, the sooner we begin, the sooner we can come to agreements,” Valenti wrote in Wednesday’s letter.

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