Universal Chief Pitches Piracy Protection


Universal Pictures president Rick Finkelstein will be on the Hill Wednesday making a personal pitch to members of the Senate Judiciary Commitee for closing "loopholes" that permit peer-to-peer piracy.

The so-called Induce bill, S. 2560, which would target secondary copyright violations by parties that "induce" pirating, particuarly distribution over peer-to-peer computer networks, has been through a number of drafts as the studios and "fair use" proponents continue to push for different versions. It is expected to be marked up in the committee Thursday, though it has not yet been scheduled.
Studios want as much copyright protection as they can get, while fair use proponents are trying to make sure that the language is not so broad that currently protected copying and distribution are criminalized. One side's protection, of course, is the other's loophole.
Universal is not ready to support the bill, whose language has been a moving target for weeks. Groups like Public Knowledge are urging more time to study any copyright changes that it says could lead to numerous lawsuits targeting existing audio and video recorders and computer software.
But without some kind of legislation, says Finkelstein, billions of dollars and thousands of jobs will be lost, pointing to the copying and distribution woes of the recording industry.
It is not a new message from Universal, but adding an urgency to Finkelstein's pitch, and prompting his bicoastal trip, is the scheduled markup Sept. 29. That's on top of the general urgency from the continued drain of dollars and the new business models that have to stay on the launching pad or the drawing board until content distributors get some regulatory certainty.
Finkelstein says that some of the companies that have publicly expressed concern with peer-to-peer usage have, in private conversations with Universal, acknowledged the need for regulatory certainty so they can secure the rights to content.
In addition to the face-to-face meetings, Universal has taken out an ad in Capitol Hill
industry papers Roll Call and The Hill for Wednesday and Thursday to make its case.
"Close the loopholes that increasingly allow electronic piracy to rob America of its greatest export," it says under graphics of a spool of movie film, instruments and tickets and the label: America's #1 Export: Creativity."
"Strengthen Our Copyright Laws," it concludes, "Don't Play Politics With American Jobs"