More piracy warnings at Cannes

Int'l planning needed; panel is one of many to mull topic

If the film industry is to survive the age of piracy, “it must adopt new business models,” warned U.K. Film Council CEO John Woodward. The pic biz has to help the public “easily buy what they’d otherwise steal.”

Woodward’s warning was one of several alarm bells rung loudly at the festival’s first antipiracy conference.

After pointing out the connection between piracy and organized crime, Motion Picture Assn. regional director Dara MacGreevy said it’s “unlikely” the Internet could ever be policed. But he emphasized that policing orgs of various countries must step up mutual cooperation, and international groups like Interpol should become central to the battle.

MacGreevy said the org is working on various tech solutions (such as watermarking), pressing for legislation on in-theater camcording (with 90% of online films coming from camcorder copies) and fighting to increase public awareness.

Serge Siritzky of Ecran Total labeled the situation “quite disastrous” and “a catastrophe.”

Series kickoff

The session, held in the Palais’ Salle Bazin, was the kickoff in a series of events about piracy. After the two-hour introductory meet, three afternoon events explored tech contributions to the antipiracy fight, legal responses and the relationship between cinema and the Internet. The day concluded with remarks from jury prez Quentin Tarantino and fest topper Gilles Jacob.

The daylong event is the first of several fest events devoted to the topic. On Sunday, Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart and director Philippe Labro will host worldwide film execs to mull the topic.

MacGreevy was one of several panelists who rattled off a series of scary stats: The org seized 72.8 million pirated items (DVDs, discs, etc.) in 2003, up 25% from the previous year.

An animated Laurent Petitgirard, head of music authors’ rights group SACEM, spoke of the music crisis, with 50 million files downloaded in one month from December 2002-January 2003. Not coincidentally, he said, the music multinationals saw a drop of 14% in 2003 income, with a 21% decrease in the first quarter of this year.

Petitgirard was the first of several speakers to emphasize that it’s not just the biggies that get hurt. Citing a Chinese proverb that when the fat get thin, the thin will die, he said reduced revenues for the big companies mean fewer contracts for artists and smaller companies.

Staying ahead of pirates

The U.K. Film Council’s Woodward agreed Hollywood is not the only one that needs to worry; many smaller Brit producers are finding they’re unable to sell rights to their films that have been widely pirated.

Summing up the others’ sentiments, ALPA prez Nicolas Seydoux predicted, “Cinema will disappear if we continue to let films and music be downloaded.”

A Mediametrie survey of 3 million French Internet users found 19% admitted to downloading a copyrighted item for free that month. The users downloaded an average of 4.7 U.S. pics each month, compared to 6.5 French films, though the top five titles were all Hollywood product: “Finding Nemo,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Matrix,” “American Pie” and “The Fast and the Furious.”

Other speakers at the opening sesh included CNC’s David Kessler, ALPA’s Frederic Delacroix, CNC’s Benoit Danard, IVF’s Jean-Paul Commin and SACD’s Pascal Rogard.

The event was sponsored by the Cannes Festival, Centre National de la Cinematographie and the Canal Plus Group in concert with the Association de Lutte Contre la Piraterie Audiovisuelle.

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