Letters to the town’s new lobbyist

Guest column

Dear Secretary Glickman:

Congratulations on joining the MPAA. Your track record of adapting to meet challenges and your political experience make you an excellent choice for the industry.

This doesn’t mean the job will be easy. As any insider will readily admit, Hollywood is a complex universe and is not for the faint of heart.

Piracy will be your most difficult problem over the coming years. In the next decade, a cheap hard disk will have enough capacity to hold every major motion picture ever released — in high definition. It will take seconds to download a movie instead of hours. Every step of the industry will become digital. The technology available to pirates will keep advancing, regardless of whether Hollywood is prepared.

Despite the doom and gloom, I’m an optimist. Piracy won’t go away. But with the right focus and guiding principles, you can help Hollywood continue to run a thriving business.

The first steps in this direction have already been made. Jack Valenti has done a terrific job of raising awareness. Your job will be to present a vision of what the industry needs to do about it. As someone who has designed antipiracy, antifraud and data security systems used in over 100 million devices, I can say with confidence that this will be one heck of a difficult and interesting challenge.

I recently led a group of data security experts in a discussion on what you and the industry can do about piracy. I thought I’d share some suggestions.

Most important, you will need to decide which efforts to support. To do this properly, you will need to seek out reliable and objective technical analysis — something Hollywood conspicuously lacks today.

Listen to computer scientists, cryptographers, economists and electrical engineers who have dealt with difficult technology and security problems. This is essential for avoiding fatally flawed technologies (like the protection on the DVD format) and political quagmires (like the recording industry’s SDMI).

Provide the MPAA technology office with the mission and resources necessary to perform an objective cost/benefit analysis of each credible anti-piracy proposal that appears.

Use your political influence to help technologists, and build relationships with the venture capital community.

Hollywood must do more than create great movies; it must innovate to survive. Einstein’s comment, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them,” clearly applies to piracy.

Obviously, the piracy problem will not be solved by vendors whose only incentive is to make the minimum investment necessary to gain permission for their products to access Hollywood’s movies.

Unfortunately, funding for new antipiracy companies is vanishing. Too many past efforts have failed, and few experienced technologists have the talent or patience required to navigate the industry’s complex political processes.

Why am I an optimist? I have never seen an industry agree so widely about the need to address a coming security threat. We still have time to prepare — the brunt of the storm now roiling the music industry is still at least two technology generations away from Hollywood.

You are joining the MPAA at a time when you can make a difference.

Paul Kocher is president and chief scientist of Cryptography Research.

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