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On the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives was holding hearings in Washington on an Internet piracy bill that is opposed by many technology companies, former Senator Chris Dodd was in Hollywood warning the tech giants that if they fail to support the global fight against content theft, it is at their own peril and that of the U.S. economy.
“There are those in the tech industry who hold the mistaken belief that there is nothing wrong with providing links to stolen content,” said Dodd, appearing Wednesday before the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in his relatively new (eight month old) role as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group representing the major Hollywood studios.
“I wonder if they would feel the same,” asked Dodd, “if their patents were stolen and used by others for profit?”
With an evangelistic fervor, Dodd lashed out at those who condone the theft of intellectual property, which he said supported more than 2.2 million jobs worldwide, including 136,000 in Los Angeles County alone.
Some in the tech community believe that even if their website is being used to house stolen copyrighted content, that’s not their problem,” said Dodd. “Would they give the same answer if their sites were being used to distribute child pornography or computer viruses or phish for personal financial information?”
“Of course not!,” he roared.
Some believe they should be entitled to enjoy revenue they gain in selling advertising on these criminal rogue sites,” said Dodd, “and have the nerve to call this innovation. “
He paused and then added: “The moral failure of these piracy apologists is indeed glaring!”
Dodd said that on Thursday he would be going to northern California to personally deliver his message to Silicon Valley.
The time has come to take a tough stand against the rogue sites and the parasites who profit from the outright theft of our content,” railed Dodd. “We are ready – eager, even – to partner with technology companies to build new distribution models. But both sides of this debate must understand that we can only succeed if we succeed together.”
In a rehearsal for the message he will take to the tech community: Dodd added: “Silicon Valley needs Hollywood every bit as much as Hollywood needs Silicon Valley.”
Dodd used the example of what would happen if police came to a home and told parents their child had gone to Best Buy and stolen a laptop: “It’s hard to image them being anything short of horrified.”
“But when that same laptop is used to steal a movie,” he added, “too many parents don’t bat an eye.”
He said an MPAA survey indicated that 29 million Americans, which is 13% of the adult population, has themselves downloaded or watched illegal copes of movies or TV shows online. “Nearly one-quarter of all Internet traffic,” said Dodd, “is copyright infringing.”
Dodd said it is time for the tech companies to understand that without content people want to see, their products are not nearly as valuable.
He said part of his mission in Silicon Valley will be to find the next Steve Jobs, whom he cited as someone who “understood that the reason people wanted IPods and IPhones and IPads was that they made it possible to consume content anytime and anywhere.”
“It is our customers’ appetite for our content that drives the market for smartphones, tablets and a wide variety of other high-tech products,” said Dodd with the flourish of a minister delivering a sermon.
“It is up to us, the content community , to continue to evolve our business model to harness these innovations,” said Dodd. “And it is up to the tech sector to work with us to ensure that emerging technology is not used to destroy one of the great job producing industries.”
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