Sumner Redstone, chairman of Viacom and CBS, on Tuesday called for Hollywood to take a more flexible approach to pricing as it seeks to combat piracy and protect its intellectual property.

In a speech on Tuesday night, Mr Redstone suggested that studios might charge consumers one price for a single viewing of a digitally downloaded film, another for multiple viewings and yet another for the right to burn the film to a DVD.

“I would argue that’s where we’ve fallen down as an industry,” Mr Redstone said, citing the recent history of the music business. It forced consumers to pay steep prices for compact discs rather than allowing them to purchase individual tracks and was subsequently ravaged by illegal file-sharing.

“Let’s let the consumer decide what they want to pay and what they are willing to pay,” Mr Redstone said

Some film studios, such as Warner Brothers, have discussed the possibility of tiered prices for film downloads that would be based on how soon a consumer viewed a film after its theatrical premiere. Mr Redstone, who controls Paramount Pictures through Viacom, represents one of the most high-profile media executives to endorse the idea.

He issued the call in a speech on Tuesday night in which he urged fellow media and consumer electronics companies to continue their efforts to safeguard copyrights as their industries enter a new era of digital distribution.

His remarks came amid an explosion in popularity of social networking and internet video sites whose users often trade and re-edit copyrighted materials. Some established media companies have turned a blind eye because of the promotional value of having their music videos, television programmes and other content distributed on the web.

However, Mr Redstone warned against this, saying: “Don’t free ride by authorising services that are unlicensed and undermine the economic model that supported the creation of content in the first place.”

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