The media industry wheeled out its biggest guns at Comdex 2002 in Las Vegas today in an attempt to enlist the support of the technology industry in fighting digital piracy. George Lucas, director of the Star Wars films, and Peter Chernin, president of News Corporation and chairman of Fox Entertainment Group, said that the "epidemic" of digital theft threatens to strangle the creativity of artists and the growth of the technology industry.
Lucas insisted that pirates who believe that they are only hurting the big media corporations are ultimately harming the creative artists and jeopardising the future of the movie industry.
"In the end somebody gets ripped off. Somebody is getting screwed and I'm going to represent that group that's being screwed most. We're trapped between the consumer and the corporation," he told the audience.
"If the revenue drops we're the ones that suffer the most. We're the ones that don't get to make the movies. Be very aware of the unintended consequences because that is where the real threat is for everybody."
Chernin called for a "partnership" between the media and technology industries to combat digital theft.
"The unauthorised downloading and illegal redistribution of copyrighted content has become an epidemic. And the rapid spread of this digital robbery is not only damaging, it is wrong, because it is a crime," he said.
And, if the computer industry does not come up with methods of protecting digital content, the growth of many next-generation technologies is under threat, he claimed.
"The emergence of the next generation of digital businesses will be crippled as the promise of our digital revolution dissolves into petty theft," warned Chernin.
Cable and satellite television did not take off in the 1980s until proper encryption methods had been developed that allowed content providers to feel confident in contributing their best programming. The same happened with DVDs in the late 1990s, according to Chernin.
"The promise of the internet and digital commerce rests on our ability to earn the business of paying customers, not pirates," he said.
Broadband, home networking and digital rights management all stand to benefit from collaboration between the media and technology industries, but are under threat from piracy.
"Without the rich injection of digital content, consumer uptake of broadband will fall well short of projections," concluded Chernin.