NBC's Wright: Put anti-piracy at top of agenda

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BRUSSELS -- NBC Universal chairman and CEO Bob Wright on Tuesday called for governments and businesses to join forces in a rigorous alliance to combat piracy and counterfeiting.

Wright appealed to broadband providers, Internet auction sites, financial intermediaries and shipping companies to act more promptly in staunching the flow of illegal downloads and trading on their watch.

"Business leaders have to put it at the top of their agendas," he said. "The days of 'hear no evil, see no evil' must come to an end."

Wright said the issue had reached new heights that could not be ignored by businesses and policymakers.

"The scale of the epidemic leaves no choice. Legitimate businesses have to step forward and declare that they will not profit on the back of IP theft. And if they don't step forward, governments need to adopt laws to require cooperation," he said.

Wright is among dozens of CEOs and government ministers in Geneva for a major two-day meeting aimed at stamping out piracy and counterfeiting. The meeting, named the Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy, is co-hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Customs Organization and Interpol.

The issue of piracy has reached a tipping point, Wright said, with officials, consumers and businesses recognizing the dangers of the phenomenon.

"Just as the issue of global warming is now starting to capture the attention of businesses and governments around the world, so is the issue of counterfeiting and piracy," he said. "Accomplishing our goals begins with understanding that we must move past abstract statements to concrete actions."

Wright referred to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis which show that every dollar lost to piracy by Hollywood studies generated more than three dollars of damage to the wider economy. "The estimated $6 billion in piracy losses suffered by U.S. movie studios actually amounts to a $20 billion loss in overall economic output to the U.S. economy," he said.

Wright is a founding member of the Global Leadership Group for BASCAP, the Business Alliance to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, and has long called for concerted government and business action against piracy. He argued Tuesday that, in our digital age, anyone who has a new invention, creative idea or technological breakthrough is at risk of being ripped off.

The Congress also gathered other international organizations, government officials, judges, lawyers and representatives of rightsholders, including Universal Music vp David Benjamin, Microsoft associate general counsel David Finn and IFPI enforcement chief Iain Grant.

Officials and executives at the meeting hailed the rising level of international cooperation in combating piracy, but called for more marshalling of efforts and resources to counter the current escalation.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said that the global crime-fighting agency has set up a new database on international IP crime, which would make information provided by private companies available to law enforcement worldwide.

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