- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

The film industry will suffer if it does not make movies available for people to download from the Internet legally, Hollywood’s top lobbyist told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.

“We would be foolish not to actively engage new technology. … The public is going to demand more hassle-free, legal, cost-effective entertainment,” said Dan Glickman, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The studios are experimenting with video-on-demand services that make movies available online legally. But none has matched the success Apple Computer Inc. has experienced with its ITunes service. It has sold more than 200 million songs since its introduction two years ago.

Movielink LLC — a joint venture involving Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and three other studios — offers films that can be downloaded and viewed on a personal computer at prices that range from $1.99 to $4.99 per movie, according to its Web site.

Another company, CinemaNow Inc., has a library of about 1,500 titles that can be downloaded for a single viewing or through a “download to own” feature that costs about $20 per movie for the newest titles.

The association, which represents the major movie studios, has filed three rounds of lawsuits against online bootleggers since November. More lawsuits are possible, Mr. Glickman said, but he did not offer specifics, saying the situation is evaluated on a month-to-month basis.

An association spokesman declined to state the number of suits it has filed.

Piracy costs the studios about $3.5 billion annually, according to the group’s estimates.

Most bootlegging occurs when people sneak camcorders into theaters to tape movies off the screen and sell copies on the street, Mr. Glickman said.

But Hollywood executives are increasingly concerned about people who trade illegal copies of movies through online file-sharing services as the technology improves, he said.

The association does not break down the percentage of piracy that occurs through traditional bootlegging versus through file swapping, a spokesman said.

By suing pirates, the studios have borrowed a page from the nation’s top record labels, which have sued about 9,100 illegal file-swappers since 2003, settling with roughly one-quarter of them.

Some of the movie industry’s suits have been settled, Mr. Glickman and a spokesman said, but they would not provide an average settlement amount.

Mr. Glickman acknowledged that the recording industry experienced a public backlash when it began suing bootleggers, many of whom were youths.

“There’s no question they ventured into fires where clearly they got singed,” he said.

It isn’t clear if the movie industry’s lawsuits have deterred piracy, but Mr. Glickman said the lawsuits were needed. He compared the association to the Internal Revenue Service: The tax-collection agency continues to audit people, even though it is only able to identify a small percentage of cheaters.

“We’ve got to enforce what rules there are,” Mr. Glickman said.

The entertainment industry’s fight against piracy will move to the Supreme Court Tuesday, when justices are scheduled to hear arguments in a case that could help define the boundaries in online piracy.

The entertainment industry wants the court to overturn a lower-court ruling that said Grokster Ltd., one of the most popular file-sharing services, is not liable for illegal downloads done with its software.

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