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Deputy News Editor

CES: Music stars join Fiorina in stand against piracy

Jan 09, 20044 mins
Enterprise Applications

Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre and Alicia Keys were a few of the big-name artists who joined Carly Fiorina on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday, where the HP chairman and chief executive took perhaps the toughest stand yet by a technology industry executive against digital music piracy.

At a conference where products for recording and sharing digital content are in abundance, Fiorina said HP is determined to help stamp out the illegal copying of music and video by including tough protection technologies in virtually all of the consumer products it sells.

“We are very proud to stand on this stage and take a tough stand on digital piracy,” Fiorina said. “Too much digital content is still being taken illegally, undermining business models and artistic integrity.”

“Starting this year, HP will strive to build every one of our products to protect digital rights,” she said.

In a photo opportunity that most CEOs only dream of, Fiorina was joined on stage at the Hilton Theater by a string of music industry heavyweights that also included U2 guitarist The Edge, Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg, and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Universal Music Group’s Interscope label, which produces U2, Limp Bizkit and others.

Iovine offered an impassioned, sometimes rambling speech about the harm that he said file-swapping services like Kazaa can do, to the music industry, to recording artists, and to our moral values.

“On behalf of Universal Music Group, we’re going to support HP to the point where they’re going to beg us to stop,” he said. “For a company that is willing to be this brave and forward thinking, we will show what our industry can do” to help HP in return, he said.

HP will build, license or acquire the best content protection technologies it can find to prevent its customers from illegally downloading and sharing copyright material, Fiorina said.

Its Digital Movie Writer product, used to record video tapes onto DVDs, already includes protection technology that prevents consumers from illegally copying VHS tapes, she said. “Soon that technology will be in every one of our products.”

HP will also implement the broadcast flag into some of its products this year, she said. The technology has been endorsed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission as a way of preventing consumers from recording digital television content and distributing it illegally over the Internet.

“And we’ll introduce new technology this year that will encrypt some recorded content,” Fiorina said.

For the music industry, HP is supporting Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes online music store, where consumers can purchase songs for download for 99 cents. Earlier Thursday, HP said it has partnered with Apple to offer its own branded version of Apple’s iPod music player.

Fiorina showed HP’s device for the first time here and said it will go on sale in June. In light blue and silver, it looked from a distance very much like Apple’s own iPod player. The company will also include Apple’s iTunes software with all of its consumer PCs, and provide a desktop link that makes it easier for consumers to visit the iTunes music store.

“HP is going to bring this award-winning product and service to market on a massive scale,” Fiorina said.

The moves are part of a broader effort by HP to turn itself into a significant provider of digital consumer products. Fiorina also announced several new consumer products including LCD and plasma displays that the company will release later this year.

But most of the speech was given over to the issue of music piracy. Instead of the computer industry’s Moore’s Law, Fiorina coined a new term: Kazaa’s Law, after the popular file-sharing software.

“Kazaa’s Law states that our sense of right and wrong does not evolve as fast as our technology. Just because we can do wrong doesn’t mean we should. Just because we can steal music doesn’t mean we should,” she said.

She claimed that HP has cancelled products in recent years because it was unhappy with the level of copyright protection they offered.

How customers will respond to HP’s promise to sell products that prevent illegal content sharing remains to be seen. Services and products such as Napster and Kazaa attracted millions of users apparently unconcerned about the rights and wrongs of downloading copyright material for free.

Alicia Keys, who performed two songs at the piano here, delivered a message after her performance that seemed at odds with the general message of zero tolerance.

“This is what I tell kids: You can download, but if you like what you hear, go out and buy it, go out and support the artist,” she said.