Pisano talks online content at confab

MPA's prexy says rights of creators are well-protected

ROME — A key question we face is how big an appetite for user-generated content is out there? How much are people willing to pay for it?

The Google acquisition of YouTube might suggest the answer is “a lot,” but Bob Pisano, for one, believes that the cinema experience, whether in theaters or on large-screen home entertainment consoles, will continue to be important to consumers.

The Motion Picture Assn. prexy and chief operating officer was speaking Monday during a panel focused on how the digital age would impact old media, specifically intellectual property rights holders.

A key point stressed by Pisano was that despite America’s film biz being a commercially minded enterprise, the rights of creators of all sorts are surprisingly well-protected by individual and collective bargaining agreements.

The daylong talkathon was moderated by new media consultant Peter Kruger, who kicked off proceedings by suggesting that the Google deal will, in retrospect, be seen as a major milestone in the development of the new media economy.

Pisano went on to describe the “work for hire” concept that underlies the contractual relationship between American producers and creators.

He suggested that the frequency of negotiations between the American entertainment guilds and producers ensures that whatever the new platforms are that come onstream at whatever period historically become part of the bargaining.

“The system has worked in the past and will do so in the future,” Pisano told the gathering.

The confab devoted to intellectual property rights — and how to protect them in the digital age — was attended by 100-odd delegates, including film experts, academics and media officials mostly from European Union countries.

It was organized by API and Anica, two of the main orgs repping Italian producers and film creators.

Event, held in an excavated early Roman church near the American Embassy, is just one of a number of initiatives involving film experts from around Europe during the 10-day Rome Film Festival.

In contrast to the U.S. model of intellectual property rights, said U. of Rome media professor Stefania Ercolani, the European model is “not a model but a mosaic” in which there are fragmented and disparate norms that regulate the exploitation of content and who gets recompensed for it.

Implicit in most of the Europeans’ remarks was the sense that many more gabfests will unspool before a consensus on how to protect copyright in the digital age is reached.

That may be a good thing, one attendee suggested, since Europeans tend to rush in to regulate things before they have a chance to develop as a business model.

And exactly how Google comes to grips with these disparate European laws regarding copyright will be an ongoing theme, said another panelist.

Following his five-day sojourn in Rome, Pisano, along with the MPA’s Brussels-based senior VP Chris Marcich, heads to Moscow to meet with Russian film leaders and politicos.

“What’s at issue there,” Pisano told Daily Variety, is that the Russian film industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds, has as much to lose from piracy as Hollywood fare does in that territory.”

Among the execs he is scheduled to meet with in Moscow are the culture minister and the main producers association headed by Vladimir Dostal.

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