At the 2012 Chief Legal Officer Leadership Forum, executive vice president and general counsel of NBC Universal, Rick Cotton, was interviewed by Steven Zipperstein, former general counsel of Verizon Wireless. The subject of their interview was the continuing efforts of NBC Universal to spearhead a campaign of anti-piracy. According to Cotton, the opportunities presented to NBC Universal through mergers with Comcast and the acquisitions of subsidiaries like Hulu and Fandango meant that NBC Universal could approach the question of piracy from multiple points of view. By adding to their portfolio of media companies, Cotton says that NBC has been able to take advantage of the changing complexion of the media landscape, while solidifying its position as a leader in the field. This consolidation of power, though, required NBC to seriously enter into the struggle against piracy, since their content was covering so many different platforms and emerging media outlets. “We’re really still coming to terms with how does one use and benefit from the distribution capabilities [of the internet], the access to information, the amount of commerce we all do on it, both personal and professional. It really has become a dominant pillar on which all of our day-to-day lives are based and to some extent, our social and governmental and societal lives are based.”
When dealing with questions of legality on the internet, according to Cotton, it is of the utmost importance to use a sense of what is legal and illegal in the real world as a benchmark. Certain crimes can be recognized as such regardless of which sphere they take place in, the digital or the tangible. Theft, Cotton believes, is one of those crimes, and as such, a unifying anti-piracy law is needed in order to protect the intellectual property of companies like NBC Universal. The problem with instituting such laws, he says is that the legal sphere in general is not necessarily the first to adopt or be receptive to technological changes. Since the lawmaking community is not used to thinking in terms of in depth technological issues, the laws regarding piracy often end up behind the techniques that pirates are using to commit the crimes. Because the idea of piracy on the internet is still relatively new as far as the mind-set of the legal community is concerned, the tactics that lawyers and companies use are still being tested, leading to a longer process than one might encounter in more traditional aspects of the law: “There’s a lot of effort at communication, at education, and at some point you do wind up with what’s called a deterrent measure. It could be that your speed’s cut back, it could be that you go to a landing page and until you do some activities you can’t actually use your Internet connection,” says Cotton. However lawmakers end up dealing with the problem of internet piracy, Cotton believes that their decision will greatly impact the media industry.