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Chris Dodd: Consumers Need to Understand That Piracy Hurts Middle-Income Families

This column is part of Variety’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

Two million people get up every morning in all 50 states to go to work in good-paying jobs. Few will ever walk a red carpet, but their jobs are in jeopardy because of piracy.

When we talk about stolen property like pirated films or shows, I think the assumption is these are wealthy people, so what difference does it make if I steal from them? There’s not an understanding that 96% are hard-working, middle-income families paying mortgages and trying to educate their kids.

In many cases, the financing of projects is at risk, particularly midsize films, like a lot of those this year nominated for Oscars.

Twenty five percent of Internet bandwidth traffics in infringed property. In January 2013 alone there were some 327 million unique visitors to sites with illegally downloaded material.

In the last few years, we have developed some 400 legal distribution services providing access to legal content. These have resulted in some 57 billion downloads of legal TV episodes and 6 billion legal downloads of films. We need to make it easy for people to find content at a price point that’s affordable.

China is an incredibly important market. It’s the second-largest market for the American film industry, but it’s also a major source of piracy. Yet as they are becoming very active in producing and distributing their own content, they recognize that piracy is impacting their ability to have a vibrant industry.

If you want to make a dent in a decentralized echo chamber like the Internet, what’s necessary is the voluntary understanding and buy-in of stakeholders. In the coming years, we hope to facilitate some of those conversations with companies such as Google. We need to propagandize better, to engage more of the community and make them aware of the threats to our creative future.

The events that we’ve had recently, such as the hacking at Sony, show that it’s more than just a movie problem; it’s a business problem. Photos, personal information, company data are all at risk. In retrospect, I wish I’d spoken out more. This happened to a member of our family. This was an attack on free speech and private property, and as the head of the MPAA, I should have been more vocal.

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