Wright Issues Call to Copyright Action

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Add Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to the freedoms NBC Universal chairman Bob Wright is intent on defending.

In Washington, D.C., to accept a First Amendment award from the Media Institute, Wright, the dean of network chiefs, sent a message to legislators, regulators and whoever else was listening that his company is ready to lead the fight for copyright protection, saying that the Copyright Clause is under "enormous pressure and requires our vigilant attention."

Pointing to a recording industry "decimated by illegal downloads," he said unrestricted digital copying threatened a $1.25 trillion business--television, movies, publishing and software--"whose capital is composed almost entirely of intellectual property," as well as the sectors that support those industries or depend on them.

Together, they comprise 12% of the nation's GNP and 11 million jobs, he said. "I don't think the government gets it," he said. But Wright wasn't done tallying up the cost.

"Add in the intellectual property components of other commercial activity [the kinds his parent, GE, is involved in]...say, pharmaceuticals, engineering, semiconductors, microtechnologies, and its entirely likely that more than 20% of our national economy could be traced to intellectual property of some sort. This is a very big piece of the national pie to have at risk."

Wright also said it was a "terrible mistake" to assume that intellectual property violations were a price or the necessary byproduct of the transition to digital.

Wright said that technology, not legislation, is the best solution to intellectual property theft, but he also said that government needed to create "new rules of the road for the digital world...that encourage technological progress yet at the same time uphold the values that make commerce possible."

His suggestions:

1. Support a house Judiciary Committee package of antipiracy bills  "currently in limbo".

2. Find some compromise in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the so-called induce legislation targeted at peer-to-peer file sharing.

3. Support Attorney General John Ashcroft's proposed intellectual property protection recommendations.

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