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Poll: Tech industry more crucial to California than entertainment

If there’s a brawl between Silicon Valley and Hollywood to be California’s marquee industry, it looks like the geeks have come out on top.

More than 65% of those surveyed in the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll said the technology industry was more important to the state’s economy than entertainment, perhaps showing that SoCal’s famous vixens and heartthrobs are losing the battle for screen time to NorCal’s search engines and social networks.

The results were one part of a larger set of poll results on technology and data privacy that The Times will publish online Saturday at 8 a.m.

The state’s two popular industries have not always gotten along well. It wasn’t long after YouTube started in 2005 that the video start-up got its antennae sued off by Viacom Inc., the parent company of Hollywood’s Paramount Pictures, beginning a landmark copyright case that lasted for years. Nor did the record business take kindly to Napster the decade before, when the Recording Industry Assn. of America  successfully got the music-sharing site shut down over piracy concerns.

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The two sides have found some middle ground in recent years, however, as YouTube has cracked down on piracy and moved toward mainstream videos, and sites like Hulu and Netflix have thrived by finding ways to distribute digital entertainment legally -- and make money doing it.

But technology and entertainment found themselves facing off once again late last year when a debate began to rage over proposed legislation aimed at stanching the flow of pirated content online.  SOPA and PIPA, as the bills came to be known, were eventually consigned to the legal netherworld after raucous opposition from across the Internet and heavy lobbying by tech firms.

About 32% of survey respondents agreed that these types of laws would be bad for the Internet. That group believed anti-piracy proposals like SOPA and PIPA would slow online innovation, cut off access to movies and music, and even cripple sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, which rely in large part on legal content supplied by users. 

But the majority -- 56% -- took the other position, agreeing that sites that enable illegal piracy of movies and other content are effectively stealing property, and that creative work should be protected from online thieves.

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So even if Californians believed that the technology business was keeping the state going, they didn’t turn their backs on entertainment, whose movies, TV and music people still value and want protected.

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