Silicon Valley and Hollywood must put aside their differences to combat digital piracy, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd said Wednesday.
In remarks delivered at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) Fall Conference in Hollywood, Dodd reiterated his stance that online content theft is one of the gravest threats facing the movie business and the 2.2 million people it employs.
“We need to spread the message in the digital community and in the entertainment community that these activities hurt working Americans, and that we will not tolerate them,” Dodd said.
The subject of the speech dredged up one of the new MPAA chief’s favorite bugaboos. From the halls of Congress to the National Association of Theater Owner’s annual trade show, Hollywood’s chief lobbyist has painted content theft in existential terms.
Though Wednesday’s address once again outlined the economic costs of piracy, it was also an appeal for help. The former U.S. senator said that the tech and entertainment sectors face an uphill battle to change popular attitudes about the dangers of piracy.
Dodd said that polls reveal that 13 percent of the adult population — or 29 million Americans — have downloaded or watched illegal copies of movies and TV shows. Nearly a quarter of all internet traffic represent copyright infringement, he claimed.
Dodd argued that the explosion in digital piracy is doing significant damage to the U.S economy, resulting in in a loss of 373,000 jobs and some $58 billion in economic output.
“In economic times marked by bad news and deep uncertainty, we remain one of the great engines of growth on the planet,” Dodd said. “Movies and TV matter to our nation's culture and to the economic security of middle class families. After all, we aren't just a red-carpet industry; we're a blue collar industry.”
Dodd said engineers must convince internet service providers to crack down on the online advertising and payment processors that keep bit torrent sites that offer pirated films and shows in business. To urge them on, he cited a deity in the technology sector — Steve Jobs.
“Steve was a friend to our industry,” Dodd said. “He loved movies; he helped to make Pixar the incredible creative factory it is and he challenged us to join him in embracing the potential of innovative technology.
“After his passing, Jim Giannopoulos, the co-chairman and CEO of Fox, wrote a piece in the Hollywood Reporter about their relationship. He and Steve last spoke a few weeks before Steve passed, and Jim writes that the legendary technologist told him: ‘Hey, do me a favor, will you? Don't let what happened to the music business happen to your [business]. Keep coming up with better ways to provide people with your content.’"
Though Dodd acknowledged that the relationship between old and new media has often been frosty, he disputed claims that the movie business was a slow moving engine of change.
Citing the prevalence of Blu-ray discs, internet connected televisions and mobile devices, Dodd said the movie business was evolving rapidly to meet the shift in consumption habits.
“It's no wonder that today's studios have made their marks as much for technological innovation as for storytelling,” Dodd said. “Seeing the men and women who work on these masterpieces, you begin to wonder which ones are the artists and which ones are the technologists-and you begin to realize that they are one and the same.”