The film industry has a great future as long as it realisesthe existing economic order is dead.
That was the warning of John Perry Barlow in his keynoteaddress to this year's Digimart conference in Montreal.
The co-founderof the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist of the GratefulDead said the debate about the future ofcinema in the Western world was based on an untenable set of assumptions.
Chief among those is that intellectual property representeda business model for digital distribution, replacing the current more tangiblereturns from box-office, DVD sales etc.
"We are in a golden age without knowing it," he said. "Butthe powers that be are trying to recreate an economic model that died 10 yearsago."
He accused the industry in the US and Western Europe of wishing to put a monetary value on human thought, which theinternet allowed to be exchanged freely for the first time in history.
The financial muscle of the industry had "bought" supportfrom government, international bodies and the judiciary for the idea that intellectual property online could be effectively copyrighted but it was racingagainst the tide of history he suggested.
In countries like China, the notion of intellectual propertywas entirely alien: "The idea that the North-Western quadrant is going to ownhuman thought is laughable to the Chinese," he said.
What's more a gulf had grown up between age groups. "Theolder generation wants to hold on to what they've got but they have created awhole generation of young Americans who are an electronic Hizbollah."
It will be impossible to take the existing business orderand transfer it to the digital world, he said. Barlow said the search for a neweconomic model was pointless because it would not be accepted by consumers, particularly younger ones.
The speech was aimed as a thought-provoking opener to theconference which has brought together some of the leading thinkers on digitaldistribution.
Launching the event, festival founder and chairman DanielLanglois said the distribution was already going through a period of "irreversiblechange."
He said the driving force was the demand of consumers forcontent when and where they want it.
Langlois called on exhibitors to change their attitude ofactive resistance to change. "They are trying to protect old business modelsnot finding new ones."