BASCAP is a cross-industry initiative.

A coalition of cross-industries business leaders from some of the world's top companies launched today (Oct. 4) an initiative to address the theft of intellectual property at the highest international level.

Gathered under the banner "Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy" (BASCAP), a group of 13 chief executives from a cross-industry background met today in London for the first time.

Described by co-chair EMI Group chairman Eric Nicoli as a "task force," their mission is to create a united front of industries against piracy and its effects.

"Piracy is having a devastating effect on our businesses," said Nicoli. "It is an illegal activity that threatens the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century."

Nicoli said the entertainment sector, especially the music business, has been at the forefront of the fight against piracy, but also one the most affected industries. "Technology advances at such a rate that it is now virtually possible to replicate any product," he said. "The music industry took the blunt of it because we have a product that is easy to copy."

NBC Universal chairman and chief executive Bob Wright pointed out that in the U.S., IP-related businesses account for 25% of the country's GDP. He added, "The problems are spreading and no one is immune. In my business we're just looking over the shoulder of the music industry, which has gone through a very difficult time."

Nicoli dismissed the notion sponsored by Apple that a single price for tracks sold online would help reduce music piracy. "I'm not persuaded by the argument that a single price deters piracy," Nicoli said. "I'm not persuaded of the fact that a lower price deters piracy," he added. "What I am persuaded of is that making music more convenient and better value is a deterrent to piracy."

The meeting took place at EMI headquarters in London and was organized under the aegis of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Nicoli said that the group has already discussed an action plan and expects to recruit more CEOs.

The initial, four-point action plan includes: creating counterfeiting and piracy indices, identifying issues that deserve greater attention within national IP protection programmes; developing of a clearinghouse to share best practices and strategies and leverage existing industry efforts; compiling a compendium of case studies and statistics; and to developing educational materials for policy makers and the public to explain why IP rights should be respected and enforced.

BASCAP called upon governments to act against piracy and counterfeiting. Co-chair Jean-René Fourtou, chairman of Vivendi Universal's supervisory board, said, "This is a long term fight. We have to convince governments to change their legal framework and take steps in enforcement."

IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy tells Billboard.biz that he is "enthusiastic" about this new initiative. "This is a group of executives who run big corporations, employ thousands of people, pay huge amount of taxes, and contribute to the global economy," he adds. "Theirs will be a louder voice that governments will have to listen to."

"The collective power of the assembled companies should make a difference," said Nicoli.

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