Sarajevo’s Regional Forum session tackled internet piracy and legislation of new technologies. Bosnia’s Association for Protection of AV Works presented its own model.

The latest session of Sarajevo Film Festival’s Regional Forum, titled Business models: Film industry between new legislations and new technologies, focused on how to fight Internet piracy, and how to involve the new players in the film value chain.

The panel included Chris Martich, President and managing director, Motion Picture Association; Tomislav Lukicic, Cable Coordinator, European Broadcasting Union; Roberto Olla, Executive director, Eurimages; Antonio Beus, President, APAW BiH; Zoran Vujasin, President, APAW Croatia; Elisabeth Sjastaad, CEO of FERA, Federation of European Film Directors.

The sway of digital technologies has absolutely undermined the existing business models in content creating industries. At the moment, the film industry on both sides of the Atlantic faces the new players - from Silicon Valley Internet giants to respective national telecom operators and ISP providers. Recent head-to-heads, like over the SOPA and PIPA acts or ahead of the new US-EU trade agreement negotiations and the repeated struggle for “l’exception culturelle,” showed the rivalry is fierce and that the bases for both undisrupted lawful exploitation of intellectual property and state protectionism are under significant pressure.

In the US, there is absolutely no tolerance for any formally illegal use of copyrighted material, while Europe is still looking for its own model.

“In Europe we have a different model of financing films from the one in the US, and the impact of their distribution is different,” said Olla. “The US approach to piracy and legislation is justified by the economic interest which is stake, and it is certainly not in stake in Europe in the same way, so the approach we have in Europe is milder.

“Also, although the countries within the EU are cooperating in dealing with this issue, the markets are still fragmented so the impact that it has on our economies is reduced. I am not saying this means the infringement of law should be tolerated, but that it is a matter of measure.”

Lukicic agreed: “We have to divide those who are making money out of illegal distribution and those who are passionately following film- the end user is not always a criminal.”

When it comes to Internet piracy, the situation is more complicated than in traditional distribution channels, but the understanding of the issue in the public debate on the problem has matured.

“Internet has created parallel businesses that are supported by well known names in the technology sector, such as Google who look the other way when they have very profitable sites being exploited that they make referrals to,” said Martich.

“Understanding this has led to a much more balanced approach in a number of countries where legislators are realizing that internet companies have responsibility. The balance is to find the right proportion between protection of freedoms that need to be protected and protecting the rights of those who create the content. We have to understand that this is never going to go away, just like tax evasion is never going to go away. It’s a matter of containing and I think we have turned the corner and started to contain the bigger commercial operators.”

Sjastaad believes that the consumers’ perception has also changed in the last five years.

“I think the people who grew up with internet being free are starting to see that internet has really never been free and what they’re paying with is their personal data,” she said. “They are starting to realize that maybe it’s better to pay five or ten dollars to see a film online than to not know what your data is being used for.”

Availability of content through streaming services has also grown tremendously in the same period. There is about 400 distinct platforms and over 1,000 services around the world offering legally accessible films and TV shows. But legislation in this field is not up-to-date compared to traditional models such as TV broadcasting.

“You have an incongruity in the treatment of traditional platforms like broadcasters who are regulated and they have to respect and abide by certain rules and are doing so,” said Martich. “The internet is competing with them now but it doesn’t have the same regulatory framework. So the situation is emerging now where broadcasters are sort of confined and the internet will take a lot of business away from them if the playing field is not made more equal.”

The field is particularly unregulated in Balkan countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina where piracy in all forms, from illegal DVDs being sold on the street to completely unmonitored use of illegal services such as torrents. But the first step in attempt to contain the situation and develop legislation in the territory was made right after this session of Sarajevo Film Festival’s Regional Forum.

The Association for Protection of Audiovisual Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (APAWBiH) has presented its model for protection of copyright on the internet in the country. The main characteristic of the model is refraining from controlling the end users and blocking their access to internet servers, with obtaining the proof of illegal activity turned to the services providers. This mild approach is suited to most of the so far developed European legislation in the field and intended to gradually contain piracy in the country where awareness of the damage it is causing is still very low.

In addition, the representatives of APAWBiH have signed an agreement on co-operation with Bosnia’s Ministry of Security in fighting the illegal distribution of audiovisual content on the internet. With the new audiovisual law in preparation (the bill was presented to members of the Parliament earlier in the week at the Sarajevo Film Festival, see more here), this could represent a big step towards putting an end to one of the most burning problems of the Balkan film industry and harmonizing Bosnia’s legislation with that of the European Union.