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Debating the risks of digital piracy for Hollywood

March 16, 2011 |  2:42 pm

There's no debate over the evils of digital piracy in Hollywood. But that's not necessarily the case in all quarters of the country.

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge in Washington, dismisses online piracy as a serious threat, saying that the film industry chronically overestimates its losses from digital shoplifting.

The debate is taking on relevancy as the Obama administration begins to insert itself into the movement to strengthen intellectual property laws and their enforcement globally. On Tuesday, the administration proposed revamping laws to make unauthorized digital streaming of music, movies or other copyrighted content a federal felony. The proposal also called for federal enforcement officials to use wiretaps to pursue those who infringe on the law.

Turning cases of individual piracy into a federal crime is overkill, Feld argued in a Dust-Up series that kicked off Tuesday and is hosted by the Los Angeles Times' Opinion section. Holding up the other end of the debate is Andrew Keen, author of the upcoming "Digital Vertigo: An Anti-Social Manifesto" and the adviser to Arts and Labs, a coalition of entertainment and technology companies.

The second part, published on Wednesday, considered whether entertainment companies should chalk up piracy as the cost of doing business.

-- Alex Pham

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