Dan Glickman, the new chief of the Motion Picture Association ofAmerica (MPAA), warned yesterday (8) that the US film industry faced calamityunless the studios tackled online piracy immediately.

"Illegal piracy of movies over the internet poses the greatestexisting threat to the motion picture industry," Glickman said in his firstpublic address since succeeding Jack Valenti.

"If left unchecked, especially with new technologies emerging allthe time, it will become a problem for virtually every movie produced."

In a 20-minute speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council,Glickman outlined a three-pronged strategy in the MPAA's ongoing anti-piracycrusade, which reportedly costs Hollywood $3bn in lost profits each year.

The plan involves copyright law enforcement, public educationabout piracy issues particularly among young students, and partnership withtechnology companies to develop low-cost and legal ways of allowing onlineaccess to pictures and digital rights management.

"The industry is aggressively pushing against physical piracy, butnow we're also going after the internet as it relates to the illegal trade ofmovies."

Last week Glickman announced the MPAA would begin civil andcriminal action against individuals who trade in illegal digital files ofmovies, mirroring notorious steps taken by the recording industry.

To illustrate what he called the "viral" spread of piracy,Glickman said that an illegal copy of Spider-Man 2 was posted online withinfour hours of the picture's theatrical debut earlier this year. Within 48 hourssubtitled DVDs had appeared in three languages on three continents.

Glickman stressed the MPAA would use its lobbying might inCongress to fight piracy, while the global message was equally emphatic as hepledged to protect American content through the pursuit of international tradeagreements, urging countries with lax copyright protection like Russia and Chinato tighten up on enforcement.

"We must work with countries to help them produce indigenous filmindustries," he said. "People are less likely to resort to piracy in thesecases. Most of the countries where we have problems have undevelopedindustries."

Earlier in hisaddress Glickman paid generous tribute to his predecessor. "Jack [Valenti] didan extraordinary job for this industry and for film in general and I hope to domy best as an effective spokesman for the industry in this country."