Countries all over the world have developed different ways to battle piracy, but what these strategies mean to the industry, audiences and innovators must be carefully evaluated.
This issue focuses on the impact of piracy on the industry and how different markets are responding to the problem. Across the globe, common approaches and tactics are being deployed by content owners in the fight against film piracy.
“There is an urgent need for digital pioneers who are prepared to look at new ways to connect audiences with film, new pricing models and new means of distribution”
Politicians and police forces are being called on to create new laws and enforce them against the millions of people who are downloading or buying illegal copies of films every day.
There are, of course, some differences between markets. The UK, for example, is relying on stiff warning letters to do most of the work before the next step of capping or reducing broadband access.
In France there is a push for a more rapid response with a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy of warning online users then cutting off their internet if they continue to offend.
In Sweden we’ve seen the creation of the world’s biggest illegal online site -The Pirate Bay -with the founders imprisoned and fined. In the same country, the recent elections for the European Parliament saw a candidate for the Pirate Party -backing The Pirate Bay site -win a seat with 7.1% of the national vote.
So, as the industry strives to show piracy is a crime, some citizens are electing their politicians purely on a platform of decriminalising sites such as The Pirate Bay.
In all this, the role of the internet service provider (ISP) is a consideration in every market. In almost all cases, ISPs are being compelled by the industry and governments to do more than they would like.
Internet providers do not want to be copyright enforcers, and they will do all they can to ensure it’s the content owners, not them, who take legal action.
There are some reading this column who will roll their eyes at such industry initiatives to fight piracy, insisting this is an analogue response to a digital era and that those pursuing them simply “don’t get” the new world order. They are right in that legal and technological sanctions will not in themselves be enough to combat piracy. A deeper change in the way both the industry and the audience approaches content is required.
This will involve looking at all aspects of the film business and how it meets the needs of customers, and, as Lord Puttnam said in a speech this week to UK distributors, it will require all parts of the industry - producers, distributors and exhibitors - to work together on the right solutions. The film business needs to meet and engage with audiences in new ways - and on this front it is simply not doing enough.
“Without innovation and experimentation around content and distribution, the industry’s image with large sections of the market will be all about threats and legal action”
The fact is that this issue of Screen is long on examples of content owners cracking down on pirates through legal and political means -and short on examples of them seeking to engage with audiences in new ways. There is an urgent need for digital pioneers who are prepared to look at new ways to connect audiences with film, new pricing models and new means of distribution.
Without innovation and experimentation around content and distribution, the industry’s image with large sections of the market will be all about threats and legal action.
In the current climate it is hard to ask people to take risks - but in this business every decision is a risk of one kind or another. The reality is that unless the industry finds new ways to engage with audiences online, it could lose a significant portion of the market. There’s no digital silver bullet and only by trying new things will the appropriate models emerge.
Hopefully, we will see more of these risk-takers in the pages of Screen over the next few months. The industry needs them.