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Media, tech companies unite to fight piracy

A group founded by several major media and technology companies plans to promote the Web as a place for consumers to get songs, television shows and movies without resorting to piracy.
/ Source: Reuters

A group founded by several major media and technology companies plans to promote the Web as a place for consumers to get songs, television shows and movies without resorting to piracy.

Organizers of the group, which is called Arts+Labs, are touting it as the first time technology companies and content creators have met in a room — instead of fighting in court.

In recent years, the two sides and consumer advocates have waged numerous legal battles dealing with the rights of artists, distributors and users on the Web.

"I just like this approach a whole lot better," said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America and an advisory board member, told a news conference on Monday in Beverly Hills.

Arts+Labs is co-chaired by Mike McCurry, who was a press secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The group's other co-chair is Mark McKinnon, who has served as media advisor to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain.

The global music industry loses $12.5 billion a year to piracy, according to industry statistics. Illegally downloaded songs outnumber legally downloaded ones, 20-to-1, Carnes said.

"For songwriters, it's a recipe for extinction," he said.

Movie studios in the Motion Picture Association of America lost $2.3 billion worldwide to Internet piracy alone in 2005, the most recent year for which MPAA statistics are available.

The leaders of Arts+Labs said their main goal will be to educate consumers and highlight innovations by media companies and Internet providers to make the Web a better place to legally get songs, movies and TV shows.

"It's almost like safe sex," McCurry said. "How do we actually help people understand that something that they enjoy doing they need to be thinking about ways in which they can protect themselves and protect others."

Founding members of the group are AT&T Inc, Viacom Inc, NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co, Cisco Systems Inc, Microsoft Corp and the Songwriters Guild of America.