The U.S. chairman of the media giant Sony says piracy threatens the technological
promise of the coming century. The executive outlined industry efforts to fight
what he calls a "digital crime wave."
Sony America chairman Howard Stringer says the 20th century was dominated
by mass media, but coming years will be the age of personal media, digitally
delivered. He says the revolution has already started, and includes movies
and games played on handheld PDAs, or personal digital assistants, and music
downloaded from the Internet.
But he says the promise is threatened by pirates, and by those who think
that anything on the Internet should be free.
"So far this year alone, more than 50 Hollywood films were pirated before
they were released," he said. "All told, film studios lose between $3 billion
and $4 billion a year to piracy, and that does not even include films on the
Internet, where we estimate a half million copies of films are traded digitally
Sony is a manufacturer of consumer electronics and a producer of entertainment.
The Japanese-based company released last year's hit film Spider-Man.
But the U.S. executive confirmed that the company will cut 300 positions from
its film and television divisions, which is says is part of an effort to increase
shareholder value. Shares in the parent Sony Corporation lost 20 percent since
the start of the year, and Mr. Stringer says some of the company's losses stem
Sony is also a force in the music business, although revenues are down in
its music division as well. The executive says piracy has reduced the value
of the global music business by seven billion dollars in the past two years,
and Sony is suffering with other companies.
The executive says the industry is fighting illegal file sharing through
aggressive prosecutions, by educating consumers and by supporting music sales
over the Internet. This month, Sony announced plans for its own online music
service, and the media executive says long-range tactics to combat piracy include
development of digital copyright protections.