Wright: Piracy imperils U.S. jobs, economy


Bob Wright wants you to know that piracy is wrong.

And the NBC Universal chairman and CEO told a Wednesday night audience at the Beverly Hilton Hotel that intellectual property piracy isn't limited to ripping off Hollywood-created content. It imperils the nation's economic fabric, he warned.

"The U.S. economy is threatened by increases of counterfeiting and piracy in sectors as diverse as automobiles, aerospace, computer software, defense contractors, fashion design, high-tech manufacturing and pharmaceuticals," Wright told the dinner crowd of about 250.

"At risk," he added, "is every part of our economy where creativity, innovation and invention drive the creation of economic value and of high-wage jobs."

The Los Angeles World Affairs Council, which hosted the event, billed Wright's address as a "major policy speech." In it, the NBC Uni boss laid out a four-step plan for stemming the tide of product counterfeiting: greater recognition of the extent of the problem; spreading the word through the media that "piracy and counterfeiting are serious crimes"; increasing the use of government resources to fight the problem; and collaboration in all business segments to find technological solutions.

"The fact is, technological steps that would significantly reduce much of the piracy problem for media companies are available right now," Wright said. "We have the ability to insert a digital tag or watermark in our content. (Various) content industries have cooperated in developing technological standards for the new high-definition generation of DVDs, which will include provisions for detecting copyright watermarks in order to interfere with the playback of pirated material."

A recent MPAA study showed that piracy cost the group's six member companies $6.1 billion worldwide in 2005, he remarked.

"Absent piracy, 141,000 new jobs would have been added to the U.S. economy," Wright added.

China and Russia are among the worst global territories for piracy of Hollywood's intellectual property, he said, with counterfeit product rates of 95% and 80%, respectively.

But in remarks to a reporter after the speech, the NBC Uni topper expressed graver concern over increased piracy in developed territories such as the U.K., where cyber-piracy and other woes have pushed the counterfeit product rate to almost 20%.

Heedless of his gloomy message, Wall Street has been relatively unconcerned over Hollywood's vulnerability to content piracy, Wright acknowledged. "It's not a focal point for them," he said.