The UK Film & TV industry has been lacking the teeth up until now to be able to reprimand copyright infringers nationally.
Words by Juliet Takacs
Tackling digital piracy on a global scale became the mission of Maverickeye.De, the German Anti-Piracy combatants.
Pictured here with Robert Croucher (Hatton & Berkeley) is Patrick Achache, the talented young tech entrepreneur who turned his hand to developing software that tackles digital piracy for the film and TV industries.
Since the rapid conversion of physical piracy on disc to digital downloading and streaming from independently owned websites, the influx of digital piracy has now reached endemic proportions. This seemingly faceless crime has endangered tens of thousands of jobs in the creative industries both in the UK and abroad, destabilising the business sector. Something had to give.
A major change in the way the UK judicial system handles Copyright Infringement gave rise to IPEC, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. This fast track process of dealing with issues such as patents, copyright or trademark disputes forms part of the Chancery Division of the High Court and is designed to elevate pressure on the High Court to handle such vast amounts of court claims.
Over the last decade official bodies such as the Industry Trust have rolled out integrated campaigns targeting core groups of male copyright infringers aged 16 - 34 in an attempt to change the public attitude to piracy. The quality of the creative approach to these issues is recognised globally. The paternal top down approach to convince people not to consume pirated material used the threat of being socially ostracised (see ‘Knock Off Nigel’). Whilst this yielded positive results, the main ‘immorality’ of copyright infringement has been ignored as people continue to download and stream, ignoring the criminal implications.
It is clear that the UK Film & TV industry has been lacking the teeth up until now to be able to reprimand copyright infringers nationally; but thanks to the combined efforts from the world of Film Finance, Media Law firms, Telecoms companies and now new tech companies, we are beginning to see changes taking effect. As of the 21st of January 2015 legal precedent was established (see BSkyB Vs TCYK LLC) allowing crucial evidence to be released to rights holders from Internet Service Providers, in turn enabling the rights holders to compel infringers to pay up or go to court. Importantly the message here is both one of ‘Education & Reprimand’. Industry efforts to police opinion in the past have occasionally been unsuccessful: a candid approach by law firms like ASC Law and an inability to substantiate claims with factual evidence ultimately fell short in gaining the support of the public and the courts.
The ultimate success of this new program can be measured within the halls of the film finance sector; as distributor confidence in the home entertainment market return, minimum guarantees of sale increase and so do – if marginally – the committed volumes of private equity into film products. This practical, logical approach to sustainability outlines why multi pronged Anti-Piracy programs are not necessarily profitable in and of themselves. Their objectives are simple and their terms fair: stop piracy and return stability to the media ecosystem. Germany has seen great results in the past seven years reducing average copyright infringement volumes to around 1000 per title per annum, a vast difference to the UK’s averages of 100,000 per title per month.
Our aim is to assist rights holders consolidate their efforts in fighting digital piracy globally. With real, sustained advocacy protecting and promoting cinema, careers will be saved, careers which sustain and support the industry as a whole. It is our hope that each 'illegal file sharer' might become an advocate of the program as we engage the public in a conversation about the fiscal and social consequences of digital piracy through targeted marketing, creating awareness of the issues facing the creative industries and the impact on the national economy as a whole.
Initiatives such as ‘Find Any Film’ are a step in the right direction towards enabling consumers to find the films they want when they want, rather than resorting to illegally downloading or streaming. This, combined with ‘Moments Worth Paying For’, reinforce a theme of supporting and protecting the industry as a whole. For consumers this emphasis on a pro-copyright behavioural change is essential to the sustainability of the creative output of the UK.