Panelists at FSC Summit Address Whether to Sue Copyright Pirates

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Attorneys from all areas of the entertainment field addressed a crowd of interested adult industry veterans on determining who and how to go after when their content is being infringed.

The seminar "To Sue or Not to Sue and What's to Gain?" was part of the Free Speech Coalition's "How to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Environment" summit held Tuesday at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. The panel consisted of Harvey W. Geller, deputy general counsel and senior vice president of legal affairs for Universal Music Group; Steve T. Kang, vice president of anti-piracy legal affairs for NBC-Universal; Alasdair McMullen, executive vice president of legal affairs for EMI Music North America; Gill Sperlein, general counsel for Titan Media; and George M. Borkowski, partner in the Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP law firm. The panel was moderated by Steven B. Fabrizio, a partner in the Jenner & Block LLP law firm.

Fabrizio kicked off the presentation by asking panelists if they bought into the school of thought that piracy can't be stopped, so why bother to fight? Sperlein said Titan Media actively goes after people they know engage in copyright piracy, and have noticed when they visit known offending sites these days, there are big notes that read "No Titan."

"We know we've had an effect," he said.

Panelists also addressed the idea of issuing lawsuits against repeat downloaders of copyrighted material, and whether it was a good practice or a measure that simply scared off potential legitimate customers.

"For us, we felt we were backed up to the point that we had no choice," McMullen said, referring to the infamous lawsuits music companies throughout America have filed against people they identified as having downloaded hundreds and even thousands of illegally obtained songs and CDs.

He noted that while the lawsuits initially brought some bad press and a feeling of ill will from younger customers, overall it had an education effect in alerting people to the problems of piracy.

Borkowski, however, pointed out that suing end users might not be a solution for every company, or even every industry.

Overall, however, the panelists agreed each company should decide what portion of the copyright piracy food chain they are willing to attack.

"For us, it's a complicated process, and there are a number of things that factor into the decisions, but we go after each part of the piracy chain," Geller said. "We have lawsuits against end users, distributors, aggregators and investors."

Geller said Universal Music Group's goal is to create a legal precedent in each area, because they don't think there need to be new laws created, but the existing laws need to be interpreted in the correct way.