Hollywood, recording industry beg Obama to help save them from pirates

Faced with the global menace of digital piracy, some of the largest entertainment companies in the world have banded together to beg the Obama administration to help their industries, which they claim are under assault by digital brigands. Among them are AT&T (T), CBS Corporation, Microsoft (MSFT), News Corp. (NWS), NBC Universal, Disney (DIS), NASCAR, the NFL and the NBA.

"Hear us as we speak with one voice about the importance of creators' rights," the entertainment giants wrote in a melodramatic letter to President Obama published yesterday. "We are the essence of America. Since the founding of our country, our work has provided light in the darkness of conflict, humor in the depths of sadness, beauty in the face of ugliness, and reason in the dysfunction of division."
In its letter to the President, the Copyright Alliance, as it calls itself, claims it was speaking on behalf of its "grassroots network of creators." The group says it represents artists whose "work brings significant cultural and economic value to our society - and contributes $1.52 trillion to the nation's GDP."

But the letter goes on to say: "Yet that value is being disregarded as our rights and incentives to create are increasingly under threat," in a reference to the revenue supposedly lost due to illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

The Copyright Alliance is basically a coalition of entertainment companies, trade groups and others who advocate for a broad range of policies, including "effective civil and criminal enforcement of copyright laws domestically and internationally." Among its board members are Viacom (VIA), NBC Universal, the Motion Picture Association of America, and Time Warner (TWX), (which is the parent company of AOL, publisher of DailyFinance.)

The letter comes on the heels of the White House's announcement of Victoria Espinel as Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, or IP czar, to help strengthen U.S. efforts to stop the sale of pirated or counterfeited music, movies, software and other goods.

The new IP Czar post was created when then-President Bush signed the "Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act" -- or PRO-IP Act -- last October, handing a victory to Hollywood, the recording industry, and the major media companies, which had lobbied hard for its passage.

"Increasingly, creators are finding their work misappropriated, reproduced and distributed without their knowledge, consent or benefit by those who believe intellectual property should be free for the taking." says Lucinda Dugger, the Alliance's director of outreach.

The recording industry alone has shrunk from a $15 billion business to a $10 billion business in just a few years, as compact disc sales have plummeted. The rise of legal Web-based music services has not nearly recouped those losses.

So the industry needs help, which is why it is lobbying President Obama.

As of Thursday, more than 8,000 people have signed the online letter, including one "Long John Silver," a "musician/writer" hailing from "Treasure Island."

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a DailyFinance request for comment.

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