Emanuel Vs. Google

Ari Emanuel has never been one to mince words, and during a recent appearance at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital Conference the WME head gave the tech-friendly crowd a piece of his mind about piracy.

“I’m going to piss a lot of people off,” Emanuel warned before launching into his first complaint – Hollywood versus Silicon Valley.

“We need Northern California to figure out how to keep our intellectual property from being stolen,” he said. “If Google was in China, and their stuff was being stolen, they would leave China, right?”

Google, Verizon and AT&T could play a huge role in antipiracy efforts and legislation, Emanuel said, but added he is “concerned they’re going to wait it out.”

“Ask Google, ask Verizon why they haven’t come to the table?” Emanuel said.

During Q&A, he explained he’d like Google to start “filtering when people are stealing our product internationally, that’s their responsibility.”

Audience member and founder of tech blog The Verge Josh Topolsky disagreed, posing a question that led to one of the evening’s most heated exchanges.

“Aren’t you saying that the road is responsible for the fact that someone drove on it before they robbed my house?” he asked.

“That’s a stupid example,” Emanuel fired back, telling the editor to sit down. “Look, Google can filter and does filter for child pornography. They do that already. So stealing is a bad thing, and child pornography is a bad thing.”

To be clear, Emanuel does not think all tech is a bad thing.

Asked about the recent WME deal with Silverlake Partners that brought the tech investment company onboard with a one-third stake in the agency, Emanuel showed he’s no luddite when it comes to his own company.

“We’ve been increasingly interested in tech,” he said. “We’ve been buying and investing in start-ups. … When we merged a couple years ago, we kind of shifted the whole focus in terms of where things were going, and we’ve spent a lot of time up in Silicon Valley, trying to figure it out.”

Following Emanuel’s Google smackdown, Google VP Susan Wojcicki fired back the next day, telling the conference he was “very misinformed.”

Naturally, Emanuel disagreed, responding in a letter to Deadline Hollywood.

“One of our last remaining dominant American exports is our creativity, no matter how you define it, either as a story or as an algorithm,” he wrote. “There is equal genius behind companies like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google as there is behind artists who create stories that resonate around the world.

“We need to protect America’s intellectual property and Hollywood can’t do it on its own. I understand that the onus is not entirely Google’s, but let’s stop talking at each other and get in a room with all parties to figure this out. … It’s time for Hollywood, our government and Silicon Valley to step up and collectively resolve this problem. Let me know where and when and I’ll be there.”