- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

Recently, computer users all over Capitol Hill received an e-mail headlined "Learn how to copy any DVD movie." The tag line was even better: "Learn the Secrets Never Buy Another DVD Movie Again." What a deal: Pay absolutely nothing for a film that can cost more than $100 million dollars to make, involved the creative genius of hundreds of people, sustains local theatres, video stores and television services, is a major export, and contributes to an economic engine that creates millions of jobs for Americans and generates the biggest trade surplus of any sector of the economy.
Our copyright laws provide the economic incentive that allows a business to invest millions hoping for a return on its investment. Can a studio afford to invest in the special effects needed to make "Spiderman" or "Star Wars" come to life if the film is e-mailed around the globe within days of its release or even before? If an online music file exchange service replaces legitimate music sales, can a music company promote and market dozens of fresh new sounds hoping that one of those artists will be lucky enough to find an audience?
These creative businesses, as well as the videogame, software and book publishers, make this risk/reward calculation every day. The result is that, today, the United States is far and away the world's largest producer and exporter of the creative works that entertain, inform and educate the world. How much longer will that remain the case if "never buy another again" resounds as a rallying cry across the Internet?
One thing that we learned from Napster is that industry has been too slow to respond to new technologies and consumer demand for new ways of delivering music. Consumers and policy-makers, myself included, have been impatiently waiting for Hollywood to fulfill its promise of a fully stocked, easy to use, electronic marketplace. Some ask, "If KaZaA can do it, why can't they?" That one's easy online music file swapping sites pay nothing for their "inventory" of creative material, so they have few costs, need little revenue and run few risks. It takes a lot longer, and a lot more investment in technology and online security, to build a business that deals fairly with creators, entrepreneurs and other contributors, rather than just ripping all of them off.
Over the past few years, we have seen the Internet explode into a revolutionary tool for business, communication, entertainment, education and commerce. Even so, the Internet is still in its infancy, and we are still struggling to determine how and when we should apply our existing laws to this new and growing medium.
The United States is the world leader in intellectual property. We export billions of dollars' worth of creative works every year in the form of software, movies, recordings, and other products. In addition, the contribution of the American copyright industry to the strength of the overall American economy is significant. The core copyright industry is the largest exporter of goods from the United States and employs more than 7 million Americans. Copyright industries are responsible for 5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
However, recent statistics show that copyright piracy is growing exponentially. There are billions of unauthorized music downloads per month. Last year, record sales in the United States were down 10 percent. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that it already loses more than $3 billion annually to the sale of illegally copied videotapes. By some estimates, more than 350,000 movies are illegally downloaded every day. With the recent economic challenges to this industry, reducing the impact of digital theft becomes even more critical.
Pirating works online is the same as shoplifting a videotape, book or record from a store. Imagine the same situation occurring with tangible goods that could not be transmitted over the Internet, such as copying popular movies onto hundreds of blank tapes and passing them out on every street corner, or copying personal software onto blank disks and freely distributing them throughout the world.
Few would disagree that such activities are illegal and should be prosecuted. We should be no less vigilant when such activities occur on the Internet. We cannot allow the Internet to become the Home Shoplifting Network.
There are several legislative proposals pending in Congress pertaining to online content and digital- rights management. However, the ultimate success of any legislative effort dealing with the application of copyright law to the digital environment depends on a simultaneous commitment to fighting a war on piracy in all its forms.
This war must occur on several different fronts, including the commitment of adequate resources to law enforcement, industry cooperation and consumer education. Only when the war against piracy is effectively waged and won will businesses and consumers move in significant numbers to the online marketplace.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte is a Republican from Virginia.


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