John Landgraf
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John Landgraf: Voluntary self-policing better route than legal battles

Internet gatekeepers like Google may have made strides to combat content piracy, but there’s room for improvement.

That was the message from Rick Cotton, senior counselor of IP protection at NBC Universal, and John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, at a keynote conversation Tuesday at the inaugural Digital Entertainment World conference in Los Angeles.

Cotton came armed with data indicating that digital copyright infringement is as rampant as ever, citing stats suggesting pirated content represents nearly one-quarter of all broadband bandwidth. “If we sit back and let existing trends continue, the future will not be a pleasant one,” he said.

While Landgraf praised the progress Google has made with better content filtering on YouTube, he also made clear Internet gatekeepers need to do more to thwart infringement occurring on their platforms.

“We need this young, fledgling Wild West industry, which now has within its sector some companies much larger than entertainment companies, to step up and join the league of adult citizens of the business community and take some responsibility in terms of investing in some resources,” said Landgraf. “Some is taking place, but more needs to take place to look after our priorities.”

Citing a Digital Citizens Alliance report issued earlier in the day estimating how much blue-chip marketers were unknowingly generating revenues from ads placed on pirate sites, Cotton and Landgraf emphasized that voluntary self-policing of all companies in the ecosystem was a preferable route than interminable legal battles.

“The alternative is to fight it out in courts and Congress, which isn’t good for either side and not good for consumers either,” said Landgraf.

While Landgraf and Cotton acknowledged the media business has moved slowly to make content available on digital platforms as seamlessly as possible, they also provided stats showing that providing a legal alternative can often be the impetus for more Internet piracy: The legal copy of a property that’s been placed online can then be pirated, and the increased visibility and desirability of a property associated with the marketing of the legal online copy can lead some Internet users to seek out a pirated rather than a legal copy online.

Still, even best efforts can only go so far. As Landgraf noted, “We’ve licensed our content to more than 300 legitimate distributors on a worldwide basis but how are they going to compete with free?”

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