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Tech Industry

GE's top exec urges piracy fight

Vice Chairman Bob Wright says media companies need to join forces with Internet service providers in the battle to end piracy.

CHICAGO--Bob Wright, vice chairman and executive officer of General Electric, said piracy is the major obstacle that telecommunications and media companies face as they partner to provide entertainment over the Internet.

During a keynote speech at the NXTcomm trade show here Wednesday, Wright, whose company also owns NBC Universal, said media companies and Internet service providers need to join forces to fight the illegal distribution of pirated content.

In the past, Internet service providers, such as cable operators and phone companies, have not had a vested interest in doing anything to stop the proliferation of pirated content, Wright said. But now, as these companies invest money in rolling out new services and start providing some of their own content on their networks, they are more interested in stopping piracy. As a result, the companies can work together.

"Now that ISPs are moving to offer video-on-demand and some of their own content, facilitating the theft of content doesn't make sense," he said.

Wright said some progress is already being made. Six of the eight largest ISPs in the country plan to adopt notification policies and enforce them if people violate usage agreements that prohibit the downloading of pirated content. If the illegal behavior persists after notifications are sent, these ISPs have agreed to take further action, such as shutting off service.

Wright also said that NBC Universal is working with ISPs to develop better technologies, such as filtering, that can prevent piracy. AT&T has already said it will work with the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America to keep pirated content off its Internet network.

"Technology must be a part of the long-term solution of fighting piracy," he said. "I applaud AT&T for their plans to work on technology. This type of relationship will contribute to a positive evolution of the Internet. It's in no one's interest for the Internet to turn into the Wild West."

Verizon's CEO Ivan Seidenberg said he agrees that service providers need to be more involved in stopping the distribution of illegally downloaded content. But he did not say what, if any, antipiracy technology the company is considering.

"We agree with what Bob is saying," he said. "And we're looking into it."

Beyond educating the public about piracy and developing new technologies to fight the proliferation of illegal downloads, Wright said that stronger legislation is needed to fight piracy. He also called for companies in other industries to band together to stop the distribution of pirated entertainment as well as other counterfeit goods, such as drugs and consumer electronics.

"This is a global crisis," he said. "It's not just about bootlegged movies. It's about counterfeit pharmaceuticals and cell phone batteries. It's a drain on the economy and a public safety issue. Business leaders from all industries need to join forces."