The film industry can sometimes operate in a vacuum. In many ways, of course, that is because it is different; though the peculiarities that William Golding summed up as 'no-one knows anything' ought to be a reason for change, not a badge of honour.

Still, sitting down with other businesses can offer a fresh perspective and last week's Media Festival in Manchester was a case in point. Representatives from television, music, gaming and PR were among the speakers and delegates to the conference, which was supported by Screen and its sister publications.

One session that seemed particularly pertinent concerned business models in an age of easy mass replication of products. This is an era which is, to an extent, defined by consumer attitudes to payment. Most obviously, the web has become a key platform for globalised trade, yet perversely it exists in a parallel universe in which few expect to pay for the content they view.

Listening to the former CEO and chairman of EMI, whose business was taken apart by piracy and downloading, was highly instructive. Eric Nicoli was honest about the failure of the music giant to engage with a change that was far more profound than anyone imagined.

Few foresaw the music world would be turned upside down. Looking back, he agreed it was dangerous to hold on to the status quo too tightly - but that does not mean he is now in favour of a free-for-all.

The value and protection of intellectual property is the basis of commerce, but it also rests to a degree on the consent of customers. Consumers, for example, have demanded the ability to use bought content on multiple devices. Any business framework has to balance protection with legitimate demand.

So when Quantum Of Solace executive producer Callum McDougall said this week that piracy would bring the UK film industry crashing down 'like a pack of cards', he was overstating the case. What is true is that the system as it operates today is under threat now in the same way music was.

In theory, film has a big advantage in having the music model from which to learn. It has even been given a little catch-up time because of the technical difficulties in shifting huge files. That time is, however, also being used by criminals to ramp up operations and reel in users. It ought to be a time for the industry to consider obsessively the right approach towards rights.

That doesn't mean obsessing about technical weaponry that at best will slow crime, nor does it mean a gung-ho resort to the courts - but what it does mean is having a working plan.

That's all easier said than done. Where the lines in the sand are drawn varies in film as in music, gaming or any other creative endeavour. The up-and-comings are more radical about rights than the already-arriveds, though eventually, those who say today that they hope they die before they get old become grumpy old men and women when they have something to protect.

A workable framework is one that finds a balance, although attaining that, of course, is fraught with risk. Make the controls too tight and you lose innovators and customers. And pirates thrive on protectionism.

But does all this matter too much now' Screen Digest put out a rather optimistic report about home entertainment. Even scaled back on previous predictions, the outlook for DVD is promising. DVD is a great format - mobile and easy to use - and the new Blu-ray system is a neat fit with the HD televisions. The report sees digital as representing a fraction of market revenues even by 2012.

The note of caution comes from Nicoli. The music industry was skipping along merrily, aware that the potential for downloading existed but content that it would operate at the margins. For some more complacent industry figures it seemed downloading was just a geek's substitute for a relationship, but the point from the introduction of the iPod to the moment every commuter was plugged in to those white headphones was frighteningly fast.

The emphasis on piracy needs to mature into a bigger debate about intellectual property - and soon.

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