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Pirates pillage U.S. economy

Wright: Costs go beyond H'wood

Declaring that most corporate and public officials don’t yet fully appreciate the threat of piracy and counterfeiting, NBC Universal topper Bob Wright issued a call to arms to a range of business and industry leaders at a high-profile intellectual property summit on Friday.

People need to start working together to stop the scourge, he said, or the economic future will be bleak, he said.

Large parts of the U.S. economy — not just the entertainment industry — are seriously threatened by an “increasing” problem, Wright said, and as an example, he announced results of a new study that found movie piracy alone causes far more damage than previously realized.

“Sectors as diverse as automobiles, aerospace, computer software, defense contractors, fashion design, high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and software” are suffering from piracy, Wright said to a packed room at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Too frequently, the fight against counterfeiting and piracy gets downplayed as just being about movies and music,” he continued. “But let me tell you, we in the media are just the canaries in the coal mine.”

Last May, the Motion Picture Assn. of America released results of a study it had commissioned that showed global losses to piracy totaled slightly more than $6 billion.

Wright revealed a new study, conducted by the Institute for Policy Innovation, that shows the figure jumps to $20 billion when factoring in the cascading or ripple-effect losses to other industries tied into Hollywood, such as film equipment manufacturers, ad agencies and caterers.

Moreover, the IPI report claims that if movie piracy did not exist, more than 141,000 new jobs would have been added to the economy — 47,000 directly in filmmaking and 94,000 in other industries.

In addressing the summit, entitled “Threatening Health, Safety and Jobs: The True Cost of Counterfeiting and Piracy,” Wright praised some governmental and industry antipiracy efforts to date. “But from where I sit, we are not close to where we need to be,” he said. “This issue needs to be moved up on the agenda of every business leader, every trade organization and every congressional office. Too many in policymaking and law enforcement still view counterfeiting and piracy as relatively minor crimes that pale beside the many other demands on law enforcement.”

He then called on his listeners to join him in a four-point plan of attack. He said more research into the full effects and costs of piracy is needed; different organizations must work together; government must coordinate more law-enforcement efforts among federal, state and local levels; and a determined search for more and better technological countermeasures against piracy is vital.

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