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Sun Valley: Eric Schmidt, Harvey Weinstein Talk Piracy

Moguls acknowledge changing relations between Google, studios

Striking an almost defiant tone, Eric Schmidt made it clear that Google was doing all it could to combat piracy, but it would not be pushed around.

“The industry would like us to edit the web and literally delete sites, and that goes counter to our philosophy,” said Schmidt in an informal press conference he held Thursday at the Allen & Co. conference, pointing to last year’s debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Harvey Weinstein and author Scott Turow have criticized Google in the past for royalty-related and piracy issues. Weinstein has been quoted as accusing Google and other sites of “stealing” content, a remark he clarified Thursday from Sun Valley — not long after Schmidt’s outdoor presser, which lasted nearly an hour.

Flanked by senior vice president and chief business officer Nikesh Arora (pictured left) and YouTube and Video senior VP Salar Kamangar, Schmidt acknowledged the piracy concerns, but emphasized that Google had done much to combat them.

“It is an absolute fact that there are pirate sites and we’ve done things to reduce the amount of people who use them,” Schmidt said. “”Our position is that somebody’s making money on this pirated content and it should be possible to identify those people and bring them to justice.”

According to Arora, Google has shut down 82,000 AdSense users who have infringed on content owners’ rights in some way. AdSense allows publishers to earn money by displaying targeted Google ads on their websites or feature Google’s search engines.

Because of these and other efforts, Kamangar says that Google’s relationship with studios and labels is “completely different” than it was four or five years ago.

“Completely different,” Schmidt immediately echoed.

Weinstein strolled by minutes after the press conference ended and clarified that he had never accused Google of “stealing content.”

“Google doesn’t steal, they’re a great company,” Weinstein said when asked whether he agreed that Google had improved its relationship with Hollywood. “I hope so … if they have with the studios, that’s good enough for me.”

Weinstein also said that his contention was always that Google should work out a royalty rate with content owners.

“We know that ‘Chicago’ had nine songs on YouTube, you could almost watch the whole movie,” he said.

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