Russian evolution

Gov't approaches MPA to step up piracy battle

CANNES — Motion Picture Assn. chairman and CEO Jack Valenti will hold talks with Russian government officials in Cannes about the continued piracy problem.

U.S. targeted its antipiracy efforts at China last year, but the Chinese authorities, encouraged by the threat of U.S. trade sanctions, have “been reacting positively,” Valenti told Daily Variety.

Russian enforcement lax

The problem in Russia, however, is that while copyright legislation exists — the MPA helped draft the rules –local authorities have been less than energetic about enforcing it.

“The Russians contacted us and they want to address the issue,” said Valenti, who added that he is looking to open an MPA office in Moscow, possibly as soon as July — provided the Russians start giving the right signals. “There’s not much point in our antipiracy guys investigating piracy only for the local authorities to fail to prosecute.”

The MPA chief arrived in Cannes from the northern English city of Newcastle, where he announced that the MPA is committing $60,000 to support Northern Screen Training. The Newcastle-based initiative trains indie producers, writers and directors in the region.

The MPA also stumped up another $60,000 to back the scriptwriting Artista Story Editor Workshops in London.

The new coin is the latest installment of the $1 million training investment promised by Valenti at Cannes two years ago.

That investment commitment came at a time when relations between Europe and the U.S. majors was at an all-time low, following acrimonious GATT talks.

“Those days are behind us. The acrimony of three or four years back has gone and the atmosphere is much better,” Valenti said.

Euro renaissance

Part of the reason appears to be that local Euro film industries are enjoying something of a renaissance. Local pics increased their box office marketshare in Germany, Italy, France and the U.K. last year.

In addition, some of the Hollywood heavyweights, including Walt Disney and Warner Bros., are starting to invest in locally produced TV programs and films, in the process deflecting criticism that Hollywood has failed to support Europe’s audiovisual industry.

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