Hollywood's All-Star Assault on Piracy

03/06/2003 at 10:14 AM EST

Ben Affleck, Johnny Depp, "Titanic" director James Cameron and "Lord of the Rings" actor Sean Astin are among those who have joined forces for an all-star attack on one of Hollywood's most frightening enemies: digital piracy.

To take up the fight, they are appearing in a 72-second public service announcement produced by 20th Century Fox, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, unveiled the ad before industry insiders Wednesday and said the spot is being made available to theater owners across the country.

Digital piracy allows counterfeit DVDs of the latest hit movies -- such as "Lord of the Rings" and "Chicago" -- to be produced cheaply and quickly (usually in Asia), and robs Hollywood of millions of dollars annually.

The latest movie titles are typically available, sometimes even before their theatrical releases, on the streets of New York's financial district, among other high-population areas, at $10 a pop. (Quality of the pirate DVDs is often questionable -- though in some cases, thanks to digital technology, the knockoffs are technically superb.)

"A big part of what we believe is important to deal with this challenge ... is education," Gianopulos told the trade paper. "We need to teach this generation that stealing is stealing, in whatever form."

He added, "People must be taught that the so-called victimless crime of downloading movies has the power to cost real people real jobs -- not just executives like me or others in this room, but hundreds of thousands of people who are involved in this process (of making and distributing movies)."

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