GUEST BLOG: Now based in Los Angeles, Mike Weatherley, the former British MP and intellectual property advisor to British prime minister David Cameron, serves as vice-chairman at Motion Picture Licensing Corporation.
Those who have read my four reports produced over the last year whilst IP adviser to the British prime minister will know that I believe there are three key steps to combatting piracy: education, carrot and stick. I am delighted that the film industry agrees and, working with government, there is a whole raft of measures being implemented.
The UK support for the film industry is widely known: production of inward-investment films is booming and generated £1.233bn [approximately $2.03bn] in the UK in 2014. The production spend of high-end television is now £615m [$962m] in the UK following the introduction of tax relief for these productions in 2013.
And it is the UK’s holistic approach to protecting intellectual property and confronting piracy – with the assistance of the film industry – that truly makes the UK a positive creative environment.
Education: The creative community has long struggled to directly engage with, and reach out to, users who are intentionally or inadvertently engaging in copyright infringement. Via the IPO (UK Intellectual Property Office) – and as a result of my third report – there is now a task force to coordinate efforts from all creative industries. Via organisations such as the excellent Film Industry Trust and support for initiatives like my ‘Film The House’ IP awareness competition in Parliament, the movie industry is taking a central role in this must-do first step. Also, Creative Content UK is a new partnership that will boost consumer awareness of the wide array of legitimate online content services through directly mailing end-user infringers.
Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit – PIPCU: New ground was broken in the IP protection fight when the UK formed a police unit dedicated to IP crimes. PIPCU has a central role in the ‘follow the money’ initiatives with brands (and, in due course, others) to remove all advertising revenues from sites with illegal activity. PIPCU is a world-leading anti-piracy initiative and the prime minister agreed with my proposal that funding should be extended and they now have a remit until at least 2017. And both the music and film industries support via direct involvement. I recommend every country adopts this single unit approach – it gets results.
Site Blocking: In the UK we are fortunate – our courts issue injunctions (initiated by rights holders such as the film studios) forcing service providers to block specific sites. This has been one of the most effective tools anywhere in the world and is amazingly effective. A recently study found that the blocking of a group of 19 illegal sites in October-November 2013 caused a 25% reduction in overall pirate traffic and a 23% increase on legitimate sites. To date, access has been blocked to over 100 pirate sites that are focused on infringing copyright for commercial gain.
Search Engines: Following my first report in April 2014, the UK’s IP minister now leads bi-monthly voluntary discussions with the search engines and the film industry (and others) with a clear agenda to de-rank illegal search results. It was a 2015 manifesto commitment. There is also film industry support for one of my recommendations that search engines should remove sites from their search listings when those sites are subject to court site blocking injunctions. That is an area where we need more collaborative work. And here is a significant point: a collaborative approach is the preferred course of action in the UK, rather than immediate legislation (SOPA* anyone?) and I have high hopes good progress can be made in these innovative meetings.
All these measures and more – I haven’t even touched on DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notices to search engines and other ‘follow the money’ initiatives – are glowing examples of how the film industry in the UK is working in many areas to combat online illegal activity. Measures I firmly believe have helped turn the tide against rising piracy – and a battle that we now have the potential of winning.
Weatherley’s responsibilities at the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, which he notes is the largest non-theatrical licensing company and operates in 33 countries, include international studio and government relations, corporate and strategic development.
During his time as MP for Hove, Weatherley worked closely with the prime minister and produced four reports: Search Engines And Piracy; Follow The Money; Copyright, Education and Awareness; and Safe Harbour Provisions And Internet Service Providers.
Prior to his political career, Weatherley owned a manufacturing company and worked in the music and film industries. This week he was in the UK to receive the Hero Award from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute for his impact on consumer protections while in Parliament.
*Stop Online Piracy Act