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French talk piracy with MPAA honcho

Glickman champions use of legal recourse

BEAUNE, FRANCE — A host of new faces marked the 14th annual French Cinema Rendezvous in Beaune, which this year put piracy at the forefront of the confab organized by France’s powerful Association of Authors Directors and Producers (ARP).

Among the most notable players at the gabfest was new MPAA topper Dan Glickman. Between five-course dinners and samplings of the Burgundy region’s famous wines, Glickman outlined his stance on Internet piracy under the watchful eye of Gallic film hardliners who were curious to see how the new topper would differ from his predecessor Jack Valenti.

“This year is different, because in the past when things got boring someone could always just attack Jack Valenti,” Jean Prewitt, topper of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, told Variety. In past years at Beaune, Valenti has acted a lightening rod for Gaul’s mistrust of the power and the reach of Hollywood.

“I’m finding my feet,” Glickman admitted.

The ARP lobbied hard to insure that first trip the former secretary of agriculture under President Clinton made outside of the U.S. was to France.

“I’ve been extremely impressed by the passion and energy that I’ve seen during the debates here; I’d like to see more of it in the U.S.,” Glickman said during the debate on Internet piracy.

“When I was hired, piracy and how to contend with it was the main challenge presented to me.” Warming the cockles of French hearts, Glickman declared that “what is at stake is the future of the creative process” — a sentiment echoed throughout the debate by the recently-appointed culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres.

Glickman furthermore championed the use of legal recourse as a means to control piracy. “Some part of law abidance is based on fear. I mean most people wouldn’t pay taxes if there wasn’t some element of fear,” Glickman said, earning a hearty round of applause from the audience.

In France, the music industry has already banded together with Internet providers and government officials to create a charter on how to fight piracy. The four-day Beaune Rendezvous saw the first tentative steps of Gaul’s film industry to follow suit.

Alain Sussfeld, managing director of exhib UGC, called for graduated legal sanctions depending of the gravity of the crime. He suggested “fines that could be put in a communal pot that will go to finance the fight against piracy.” But he warned that as long as free downloading existed, paying services would not be possible.

“It would be like if you try to sell movie tickets in a theater on the Champs Elysees but left all the emergency exits totally open,” he said. During the debate, Glickman’s remarks highlighted the U.S. perspective on the relationship between the industry and Internet service providers (ISPs). “The advancement of Internet technology can’t be stopped. It shouldn’t be stopped. We need to be working with the technology industry to develop new solutions for content rather than facilitating content theft.”

Gaul’s minister of industry, Patrick Devedjan concurred. “Blocking peer-to-peer technology is neither possible nor desirable,” he asserted. Some in the Gallic film industry, however, took a harder stance toward the ISPs. “The launch of low-cost high-speed Internet subscriptions by the providers inevitably favors piracy, because it is thus possible to download a film in two minuets,” said Pascal Rogard, head of the Society of Authors and Composers of Dramatic Works, intimating a deep rift between the content creators and the content providers here.

“I’ve asked him if he would come to the U.S. and speak and he said he would,” said Glickman of Donnedieu de Vabres, “It’s heartening that they care so much about the piracy issue. There aren’t a lot of other places in the world that take it as seriously.”

But while the piracy debate took center stage, the film industry didn’t leave the Rendezvous with a hard set of proposals. “I heard a lot about how it needed to be stopped,” Glickman said. “But they didn’t want to get too expansive.”

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