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‘Walking Dead’ Producer Blasts TV Execs Who Support Piracy

Vince Gilligan, Jeff Bewkes among TV vets who have suggested piracy has promotional value

Gale Ann Hurd
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan may want to avoid “The Walking Dead” executive producer Gale Anne Hurd at the AMC holiday party.

Though Hurd didn’t mention Gilligan by name, she issued a sharp rebuke Thursday at Variety’s Content Protection Summit to TV producers who have publicly suggested that piracy helped promote their series.

“There’s a mistaken belief by many of my peers that piracy is somehow good, that viewers will develop a habit to pay for it,” Hurd told Variety’s Ted Johnson in a Q&A at the event. “I’m not sure they really understand other than anecdotal evidence that their ratings go up that the people who pirate are not then going to choose legal downloads or legal viewing in the future.”

The rebuke came just a few months after Gilligan told the BBC in an interview after his series concluded that piracy “led to a lot of people watching the series who otherwise would not have.”

And Gilligan is hardly alone in his view. In August, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes went so far as to suggest that piracy was even better than an Emmy award when it came to HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.”

But at the conference, Hurd took a harder line on piracy. “It creates a habit,” she said, noting that a generation of children is growing up without receiving the education that file-sharing is essentially stealing. “I don’t think its something we should encourage.”

Fellow TV producers were just one of many different categories of individuals that she believes are responsible for curbing piracy. Hurd spoke of “Walking Dead” fans she’s engaged with via Twitter who didn’t even realize they were illegally downloading content due to slick pirate-streaming sites that mimic legitimate services. Other factors she touched on was the importance of Google doing a better job filtering search terms to suppress copyright-infringing options, as well as the Fortune 500 marketers and credit-card companies making money off advertising on those sites.

Hurd noted the issue was something she even had to contend with in her own home when she confronted her own teenage daughter illegally downloading music.

“Did you pay for this?” she recalled asking her daughter. “Would you like to continue to be clothed and fed?”