NBCUniversal’s Rick Cotton works to combat
Internet piracy and protect content
BY TIMOTHY HARPER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL PARAS
FOR MUCH OF HIS LONG AND VARIED CAREER IN LAW,
business and government, Rick Cotton has been behind the
scenes. He’s typically not the general leading the troops. Instead,
he’s the top aide who quietly makes sure the general knows when,
where and how to lead the troops.
But now Cotton, executive vice president and general counsel
at NBCUniversal Inc., has stepped to the forefront of one of the
most important legal battles of the 21st century—the battle over
ownership of Internet content. The stakes are high not only for
artists and corporations, but, Cotton believes, for the future of the
U.S. economy as well.
To some techies and torrent users, he’s a man whose efforts may
limit the free and open spirit of the Internet, and prevent people
from sharing the popular bounty—movies, TV shows, music and
more—of the digital revolution. Adweek called him “tech’s public
enemy No. 1” in May 2011.
To others, Cotton is the righteous protector of intellectual
property, defending artists from thieves. “Rick Cotton, in addition
to being a knowledgeable and distinguished attorney, has
been a great champion of the fight against digital piracy and
counterfeiting,” says U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican
and a leader in the battle against online piracy. “He has helped our
economy by working with businesses and lawmakers to improve
and expand access to technology while protecting intellectual
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