James Murdoch: Illegal downloading is theft

Says downloaders are not 'just crazy kids ... punish them'

LONDON -- News Corp. Europe and Asia CEO James Murdoch called on digital pirates to be punished for acts that he said amounted to theft, in an impassioned speech to the Abu Dhabi media conference Wednesday.

Speaking a day after his father, Rupert Murdoch, called for more deregulated media markets, the youthful former chief executive of satcaster BSkyB likened online theft to shoplifting.

"These are basic property rights. ... There is no difference between going into a store and stealing a pack of Pringles or a handbag and stealing online," he told an audience of media executives gathered for the inaugural Abu Dhabi media conference, where speakers have included Google boss Eric Scmidt and William Morris co-chief executive Ari Emmanuel.

"A basic condition for investment and economic growth is some level of sanctity on property rights."

Murdoch earned applause when he rejected the idea that illegal downloaders were just "crazy kids," responding "No, punish them," he said, according to a report in the Financial Times.

He also reiterated News Corp.'s hostility to search engines selling advertising against online content.

"Where Google and Yahoo are suddenly indexing copyright material and then selling bits of it and making money from it. You may have to withdraw access to those things. You may not."