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Coming soon to an Internet near you

Valenti believes movies may be released to the Web by 2005

Americans could be watching newly released movies via the Internet as soon as mid-2005 as the industry speeds development of a secure delivery system, Hollywood’s chief lobbyist said Wednesday.

“I really do believe that we will be able to have some — maybe by this time next year — we’ll be able to have the beginnings of some really sturdy, protective clothing to put about these movies,” Motion Pictures Association of America chief executive Jack Valenti said.

Valenti said he would like to see movies go straight from the big screen to the Internet, where customers could download or view them on demand well before DVDs and videos reach the store shelves. “We want to use the Internet,” he said.

Fighting piracy it says is putting its financial health at risk, Hollywood is working with high-tech experts, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and university experts, to develop a secure system for delivering movies, he said.

Valenti said the industry has no current plans to sue pirates like the music recording industry, but isn’t ruling it out because he has seen surveys showing music piracy is being taken more seriously since the lawsuits began early this year.

“As long as stealing movies and music is high-reward and no risk, people are going to do it,” Valenti said.

Valenti, a lifelong Democrat, said California’s new Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, could be exactly what the budget-strapped state needs and he urged the media to give the former actor a chance.

“He’s going to shake up things,” said Valenti, who attended the governor’s inauguration earlier this week. “Do not write him off. If anyone can do it, he can do it.”

Valenti, a political consultant who was present in Dallas 40 years go when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, gave a poignant recounting of that day, and how Lyndon B. Johnson brought him back to Washington on the plane with Kennedy’s body to work in the White House.