BOSTON (06/07/2000) - Threatened by the rampant piracy of music and movies on the Internet, the leaders of the nation's largest software companies are asking Congress and the two presidential candidates to crack down on people who violate digital copyright laws.
Such high-tech luminaries as Intel Corp.'s Andy Grove, Novell Inc.'s Eric Schmidt, Lotus Development Corp.'s Al Zollar and Network Associates Inc.'s William Larson gathered in Washington Wednesday to support an Internet policy platform that includes strong copyright protection, free trade with China and eased immigration laws. The software industry CEOs outlined their legislative priorities in conjunction with the Business Software Alliance's fifth annual CEO Forum.
At the top of the group's agenda is copyright protection for computer software.
The Business Software Alliance projects that by the year 2005 66 percent of all software sales will be made over the Internet, up from 12 percent today.
A rise in Internet sales and distribution is a scary proposition for the U.S. software industry, which already loses an estimated US$12 billion a year in illegal copies. That's why software CEOs are asking the Department of Justice to spend more time and money enforcing existing laws that make software piracy over the Net illegal.
"The laws on the books today are being violated by the free exchange of intellectual property over the Internet," Schmidt says. He pointed out that only three prosecutions have been made since the federal digital copyright law was enacted. "Existing laws need to be enforced. More funds are needed." "We'd like to see the Justice Department and the [FBI] provide more training to its agents in prosecuting cybercrimes, and we're willing to help with that," says Carol Bartz, chairman and CEO of Autodesk. "We need to see more raids on college campuses, and more people brought to court."Bartz and the other software CEOs criticized what they call a " culture of theft" that has become prevalent on the Internet, where users feel it is OK to download and share pirated copies of music, movies and software.
"Many in the media talk about this as if it's swashbuckling or interesting.
It's not interesting. It's theft," Bartz says, adding that this issue shows a decline in basic morality.
The software CEOs say technical solutions that they can develop themselves to enforce copyright protection are too onerous and inconvenient for users because software packages would be tightly mapped to particular machines. Instead, the software industry wants more federal prosecutions under the existing copyright laws.
"We find offenders. We take the government cases, and they're not prosecuting them," adds John Warnock, chairman and CEO of Adobe Systems.
Other policy issues that the software CEOs embraced:Open markets free of regulation, particularly with China.
Eliminating the cap on H1-B visas, which are given to skilled foreign workers seeking high-tech jobs in the U.S.
Educational reform, particularly for math and science curricula.
The software CEOs sent identical letters outlining their policy priorities to Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, and Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate.
"We urge you to make Internet policy a centerpiece of your campaign and, if elected, of your administration's agenda," states the letter, which was signed by 13 software CEOs including Microsoft Corp.'s Bill Gates.