U.S., France launch global bootleg battle

In a rare display of Franco-American amity, Gallic and U.S. film honchos were united May 16 in a plan to tackle global piracy — with Americans uncharacteristically happy to let their overseas compatriots take the leadership role.

At a press confab after the closed-door sesh, French Minister of Culture & Communication Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said he’d read the group a statement from Gallic prez Jacques Chirac and that France plans to introduce global-reaching legislation on the matter.

The meeting was hailed as successful, with the promise that such pow-wows will be repeated in the future, including participants outside the film industry.

Asked who will spearhead subsequent gatherings, outgoing MPAA topper Jack Valenti said, “I would have no problem asking the French Minister of Culture to take the lead” adding, “We (Americans) would be avid and energetic participants.”

The two-hour high-power huddle included not only U.S. and Euro participants, but honchos from such piracy trouble spots as China, India and Russia.

At the press conference, Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, who participated in the huddles, described it as “unprecedented in terms of depth and reach” and “unusually candid.”

Bart moderated the English-lingo portion of the noon press confab at the Espace Mediteranee at the Palais, while the French-language seg was headed by writer-director Philippe Labro.

Reps of the Hollywood majors included Sony Pictures’ Jeff Blake; Warner Bros.’ Richard Fox; 20th Century Fox’s James N. Gianopulos; DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg; Universal’s Rick Finkelstein; and Buena Vista Intl.’s Mark Zoradi.

There were also participants from numerous global companies: Luc Besson, prexy of Europa Corp.; French Telecom exec Franc Dangeard; helmer Jacques Fansten; Vivendi president Jean-Rene Fourtou; Mukta Arts’ Subhash Ghai; global producers group prexy Andres-Vincente Gomez; Canal+ prez Bertrand Meheut; Gaumont prez Nicolas Seydoux; Mosfilm’s Karen Shakhnazarov; and China Film Group prexy Buting Yang.

Yang said China has adapted some very aggressive policies against pirates, adding, “You need united action.”

Similarly, Valenti emphasized that piracy is a problem that affects “every creed and culture” in the world and tech changes in the next two years will be “dazzlingly swift.” In other words, he said, no country can do it alone.

Seydoux said “our American friends” will be a big help in the need for international solidarity. Unless piracy is stopped, “Creation itself will disappear. Cultural diversity will disappear.”

The event was part of the fest’s ongoing effort to tackle the issue, taking advantage of the fact that reps from around the globe are here for the fest. Ministers of culture of more than 20 EU countries will meet on Tuesday, with another huddle the next day.

Many of the participants emphasized that this is not a movement against freedom, but rather, in the words of Donnedieu de Vabres, a matter of finding “the maximum audience for the maximum number of works” while respecting the rights of artists and their creations.

When a journo quoted Quentin Tarantino as saying on May 12 that piracy was OK in some circumstances, Gomez said, “We are not in agreement with Mr. Tarantino. Probably Mr. Tarantino is not in agreement with himself.”

But Seydoux clarified that Tarantino was talking specifically about China, where his films are not distributed, and that he wants his films to be seen.

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