Jean Prewitt, president-CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance, has been encouraged by the vibrancy of this year’s Cannes market and by what she sees as growing traction for the biz’s antipiracy efforts.
“People are feeling that the market’s solidifying, so they’re confident enough to start taking action on intellectual property theft,” Prewitt said Wednesday in an interview with Variety. “I don’t think we could have done much a year ago, when people were just surviving, but the market for independents has stabilized since the American Film Market and Berlin. We’re even seeing sales in Japan, which we hadn’t seen for the past 12-18 months.”
Prewitt was enthusiastic in the wake of a Monday confab in Cannes for European buyers and sellers, organized by Summit Entertainment and attended by co-toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger and Summit Intl. prexy David Garrett. The meet included the details of antipiracy success stories, such as going after the companies providing subtitles on pirated pics.
“What we talked about was sharing information and best practices with the goal of offering specific plans at AFM in November — and a much bigger conversation,” Prewitt said. “There’s a recognition that this is not just a problem for a handful of big companies, particularly when you see thievery reducing the number of distributors to one per territory.”
That’s become particularly crucial for indies as digital markets begin to mature. Prewitt noted that members of Los Angeles-based IFTA, with more than 150 member companies in 23 countries, produce 70% of the titles released in the U.S. market.
“What we want to do is offer our members practical advice as to what works,” she said. “For example, they may need to know that camcording in a theater isn’t illegal in the U.K. or Spain.”
To that end, IFTA is closely tracking new U.S. legislation aimed at greatly curbing online piracy, with a focus on choking off support for foreign sites dedicated to selling unauthorized movies, TV shows and music.
One Senate bill, the Protect IP Act, would authorize the Justice Dept. to seek a court order directing third parties — search engines, payment processors, advertising networks and Internet service providers — to cease providing transactions and support to overseas sites engaged in online infringement. Another Senate bill would make the illegal streaming of copyrighted works a felony, bringing it in line with the punishment for peer-to-peer downloading.
“We’re trying to remind our constituents that they need to start shifting this fight to the political arena,” Prewitt said. “Our message is that this is a war.”
Prewitt noted that the federal legislation carried strong support from entertainment unions and her staff have been advising members that they need to craft that message in terms of the impact that intellectual theft carries.
“Most governments pay attention when to a message about jobs,” she added.