Viacom chief: We're sticking with DRM

Media conglomerate's head says antipiracy efforts "will usher in an unprecedented period of creative output across the globe."

WASHINGTON--Content creators and their digital distributors must unite against piracy by installing more "safeguards," Viacom's CEO said Tuesday.

Phillipe Dauman Dan Farber/ZDNet

Through more widespread adoption of copy-protection features and filtering tools like watermarking , "we will usher in an unprecedented period of creative output across the globe," Philippe Dauman told a few hundred attendees at the first day of an antipiracy summit hosted here by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business lobbying group.

Dauman lamented that "all manner of intellectual property" can now be reproduced more easily than ever "at the click of the mouse." Interestingly, his comments come as a handful of major media vendors-- most recently Amazon.com , in its effort to compete with Apple's iTunes--have taken steps away from use of digital-rights management (DRM) features, which have been known to .

But no one should accuse Viacom of being "media holdouts resisting change," Dauman argued. The conglomerate currently delivers more video programming to mobile devices than any other company, operates hundreds of authorized Web sites, just recently unveiled a social-networking platform called Flux and expects to pull in more than half a billion dollars in digital revenue this year, he said.

Dauman said his company supports fair use and would love to see its popular characters on "every nook and cranny of the Internet," but only if the "artists" behind the content are fairly compensated.

"It is obviously impossible to check every computer or look over the shoulder of every user to see if they have a license, and we don't want to," Dauman said.

Still, content aggregators, Internet service providers, hosting companies and site operators themselves need to help in the fight against piracy, he said, adding that several cable companies have already begun working "cooperatively" with Viacom to send notices to people who post its content without permission. He also applauded AT&T for " realizing the potential of new network tools" designed to detect pirated wares .

What Viacom doesn't need is new laws, Dauman said. In fact, evoking an argument made earlier this year by the movie industry, he said any new laws that restrict how ISPs manage their networks could stymie the fight against piracy. Letting the free market operate unfettered would be wiser, he added. (Although Dauman didn't mention it by name, he was obviously referring to Net neutrality, the idea that broadband providers shouldn't be allowed to prioritize content that travels across their pipes.)

Government could play a role, however, in rounding up more international allies against piracy through trade negotiations, Dauman suggested. (That's hardly a new idea in the copyright-lobbyist camp, by the way, with various U.S. copyright policies already exported to other countries by way of trade agreements.)

Dauman also couldn't resist getting in a few digs at two foes in the copyright sphere. He criticized The Pirate Bay , the BitTorrent file-tracking site based in Sweden, for what he characterized as making movies available online before they're "ever shown on the big screen." He also said his company's high-profile copyright suit against Google's YouTube filed earlier this year "promises to be a landmark case that will clarify the rights and responsibilities of all media and content owners in the digital age."

The Viacom suit and other copyright challenges against Google are "ironic given Google's own reliance on its software intellectual property," Dauman added. "Go figure."

 

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