Scuppering pirates

Exex winning fight to keep events secure

They are watching you.

The Berlinale already uses night vision equipment, bag checks and security staff to combat piracy.

Other measures were listed by Berlinale manager Johannes Wachs at a seminar Tuesday where top festheads fought to calm fears that film festivals are becoming piracy hubs.

Organized by the Intl. Federation of Film Producers Assns. (FIAPF), the seminar also produced a sprinkling of best practices from film suppliers, techheads and fests alike.

Pow-wow, if not a wake up call, was a keep-awake call.

FIAPF already demands security measures from the world’s Category One fests, including Berlin, Venice and Cannes.

FIAPF’s Benoit Ginisty said it would study whether to strengthen these measures in the light of new developments.

Given the subject, the seminar summoned up visions of producers fingering festivals for losing them hundreds of thousands of dollars from piracy. That never happened.

Not one speaker cited a case of successful piracy at a festival, though San Sebastian director Mikel Olaciregui recalled his staff hauling a journalist out of a cinema after he’d been caught camcording a film.

But producers certainly have cause for concern, as fests preem pics sometimes months before their theatrical bow.

As Stine Oppegaard at the Norwegian Film Institute observed, there are some 1,000 festivals around the world.

Some festivals accept DVD screeners while others are increasingly encouraging digital transfers of pics.

“Festivals asks for DVDs, but they rarely send them back. It costs E1 to make a copy, and E2 for postage,” Oppegaard said.

She added she’d never send DVD screeners to a festival she didn’t trust.

Festival security measures are, to a large extent, common sense.

The Berlinale, which receives 4,000 prints, searches bags, carries out spot checks, gives theater staff night vision equipment and grooms its staff to remain on the lookout for pirates.

“A lot of security comes with the prints themselves. If the film is marked at least you can trace the piracy,” said Wachs.

“The Good Shepherd” and “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK” came marked, he added.

Fest crowds may not be piracy fodder.

“Every Swiss person has a policeman inside then. If someone pulls out a cam recorder, they’re likely to ask what that person is doing,” said the Locarno’s Frederic Maire.

Anti-piracy measures can have benefits.

Maire detailed precautions taken by Locarno at its large Piazza Grande, which allow not only indie but also studio pics to screen there.

And the technology is there. Warner Bros. Germany’s Christian Sommer unveiled an arsenal of measures from increasingly sophisticated print encryption and watermarks to Cinea Cam.Jam technology and heat-seeking systems.

Cost may deter festivals from adopting the latter, however.

“Whatever you do, there will always be a small risk of piracy,” said Wachs.

Major festivals seem to have escaped piracy’s plague — so far.

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