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Charles Rivkin, Jean Prewitt Stress Piracy Prevention at American Film Market

Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Charles Rivkin and Independent Film and Television Alliance topper Jean Prewitt presented a united front against piracy Friday in the opening conference at the American Film Market.

The piracy issue dominated in a 45-minute-long conversation at the Fairmont Hotel titled the Global Perspective before 500-plus attendees as both execs expressed frustration over how to deal with theft of content amid evolving technology.

“We are living in an A.I. world with AOL rules,” said Rivkin, who succeeded Chris Dodd as MPAA chairman in December. “We are not seeing enough accountability from the major internet platforms. It’s an ongoing threat that we need to fight. It is a threat that is ever-changing.”

Rivkin, who reps the six majors (Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal and Warner Bros.), warned that the industry may seek help in Washington, D.C.

“We should not rule out the possibility of legislation because the major internet platforms are not serving the public like they used to,” he said. “When people steal creative content they are threatening the livelihoods of millions — hairdressers, mechanics, caterers.”

Prewitt, longtime IFTA president, said that piracy is particularly damaging to the independents.

“Because of piracy, the marketplace is massively bifurcating between larger pictures that are basically guaranteed theatrical distribution and smaller-budget films from independents,” she said. “We’ve seen a decline around the world in distributors participating in the industry. This is a global industry and companies need to be able to do business without restriction.”

Both officials also asserted that there are plenty of positive developments in the industry. But Prewitt noted that producers need to take risks to succeed, adding, “Creativity is risk and that risk needs to be managed.

“Change is coming so rapidly that everyone in this room and at the Loews has to buckle down,” she said. “The audience is there but it’s a scary time.”

Rivkin said the emergence of the Chinese market, which he said will soon surpass the North American box office, has been a positive.

“China is a win-win for the industry,” he added. “It is building 25 screens a day.”

The conversation was moderated by Erich Schwarzel of the Wall Street Journal.

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