French factions foster piracy fight

Tactics include tougher laws, wider awareness

PARIS — Music and film industryites, the heads of Internet service providers and senior French politicians huddled Thursday to thrash out measures for a Gallic antipiracy charter to be revealed later this month.

The rendezvous follows an international antipiracy pow-wow in May at the Cannes Film Festival, at which France promised to lead the way.

Since then, other pan-European meetings have taken place, and France will host a second international antipiracy confab at the Deauville Film Festival in September.

Some 60 participants attended the gathering at the Ministry of Finance including the ministers for finance, culture and industry. Film reps were lead by Gaumont’s Nicolas Seydoux, who heads the industry’s antipiracy lobby.

The French battle will be fought on three fronts, finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy told journalists afterwards — tougher antipiracy laws, raising awareness, and the development of alternatives to illegal downloading.

“Most Internet users would give up (piracy) if they understood what was at stake for the future of artistic and intellectual endeavor,” the minister asserted.

ISPs in France have agreed to convey the antipiracy message to their clients, and schools will launch awareness campaigns for over-11s toward the end of this year. New laws on copyright and counterfeiting are due to reach the statute books in the fall.

ISPs also will warn their clients against illegal downloads and close the subscriptions of people convicted of piracy.

Some 16 million songs and 1 million films are illegally downloaded from the Internet each day in France, according to estimates — four times the quantity legally acquired.

The Gallic music biz is hardest hit, with revs down 15% in 2003 and down 20% in the first half of 2004.

In terms of the French film biz, rapid DVD growth has seen a slight slowdown but the industry hasn’t seriously felt the pinch — yet.

Because of this, officials in Gaul say the film industry still hasn’t grasped the urgency of the problem. Culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabre said the film business absolutely must be involved in this negotiation.

The Centre National de la Cinematography, which regulates the local film industry, is exploring ways to develop legal paid-for services and is charged with coming up with concrete suggestions by the end of the year.

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