A crackdown on counterfeiters operating at car boot sales, the threat of exemplary damages to increase the financial risk to film pirates, and better legal internet film distribution are some of the thirty measures recommended in Film Theft in the UK, a major new anti-piracy report released today by the UK Film Council.
The report, which was compiled by a special Anti-Piracy Taskforce convened by the UK Film Council, includes short, medium and long-term actions for both the UK Government and film industry necessary to tackle a trade which is a major source of revenue for organised crime. The value of the black market in pirate DVDs in the UK is estimated at between GBP400 million and GBP500 million in 2003 and is expected to exceed GBP1 billion within three years.
The problem of film theft is growing at an alarming rate and the UK has one of the highest piracy levels in Western Europe. The latest figures from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) reveal that seizures for the first half of 2004 were 1.4 million - a 207% increase on the first half of 2003 and a staggering 1768% rise on the same period in 2002. FACT has seized in excess of 3 million pirated film products already this year - around 5% of the total 60 million estimated to be in circulation.
Amongst the Report's recommendations are:
- cracking down on the sale of pirate products at car boot sales and street markets. Every weekend, 7,000 open markets in the UK trade in pirate videos and DVDs. The report recommends more powers for Trading Standards Officers to close down car boot sales where pirate DVDs are persistently sold;
- clamping down on car boot sale traders who use under-age children as a front for their illegal activity when registering with authorities to avoid liability;
- making the act of camcording in a cinema a clear criminal offence (it is currently a civil offence) and providing incentives for cinema staff to look for unauthorised camcorder usage;
- introducing exemplary damages for copyright infringement to increase the financial risk to film pirates in line with Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand;
- increasing co-operation with the EU and international trade organisations to encourage better intellectual property rights across the world;
- putting pressure on countries with relaxed anti-piracy laws where organised crime gangs often seek refuge;
- looking at ways the film industry can legitimately deliver films to consumers through the internet - within one day of release both The Matrix Reloaded and Finding Nemo could be illegally downloaded from the internet;
- campaigning to raise public awareness of the dangers of piracy for example the links between piracy and organised crime, the threat to UK film development and long-term creativity and the dangers of non-certified films becoming available to young people;
- educating young people about the damage of film piracy to jobs and future film development;
- rewarding members of the public who provide information leading to piracy convictions; and
- developing improved security procedures for the handling of film prints and digital materials throughout the production process.
In December 2003, FACT and the police raided premises in north London, recovering 250,000 counterfeit discs of major film titles, imported from the Far East, destined for UK car boot sales and street markets. The street value of the goods was GBP1.25 million. Films seized included some that were still six months away from release. Pirate copies of films currently being sold in car boot sales include The Incredibles and Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason.
Releasing the report UK Film Council Chief Executive Officer John Woodward said:
"Film piracy is the single largest threat facing the UK film industry today. We have to act now to tackle this escalating problem.
"This report represents an important step forward in the fight against film piracy.
"Film pirates are not harmless 'Del Boy' characters, they are professional criminals with links to organised crime and drugs. The pirating of films on DVDs or the internet is not a victimless crime - counterfeiting threatens future film production and in the end it is our culture, our economy, and the jobs of thousands of people that will suffer.
"Consumers buying from these silver screen pirates are not only wasting hard-earned cash on products which often have terrible sound and picture quality, they are funding criminals and putting people out of work.
"As well as the Government taking the right steps to crack down on counterfeiters, it is important that the film industry learns the lessons of music piracy, and responds quickly to technological change by providing legitimate ways for consumers to download films from the internet. Only by working together can we deal with this menace effectively."
The report will now be submitted for consideration to The Creative Industries Forum on Intellectual Property which has recently been created by the Government. Headed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Trade and Industry and Patent Office, the group contains Ministers from eight Government Departments including the Treasury and Home Office. The UK Film Council is a member of the Forum as well as representatives of a variety of creative industries.
Notes to Editors:
1. The production of 'Film Theft in the UK' was overseen by a taskforce chaired by UK Film Council board member Nigel Green, and including representatives of UK film producers, distributors, exhibitors, visual effects companies and major US studios, film sales agents, as well as actors' union Equity.
2. For more information and facts and figures on piracy in the UK visit www.piracyisacrime.com and FACT's website www.fact-uk.org.uk
3. Pirate DVDs can be identified in a number of ways. The most common indicators of a pirate DVD are the use of 'All' in the regional coding section or the lack of a British Board of Film Classification marker (such as '18'). Other indicators include the presence of Asian languages, misspelled film credits, and poor quality labels. Films that are still in cinema theatres are generally not LEGALLY available in any home entertainment format.
4. The UK Film Council is the lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad. We invest Government grant-in-aid and Lottery money in film development and production; training; international development and export promotion; distribution and exhibition; and education. Our aim is to deliver lasting benefits to the industry and the public alike through:
- creativity - encouraging the development of new talent, skills, and creative and technological innovation in UK film and assisting new and established film-makers to produce successful and distinctive British films;
- enterprise - supporting the creation and growth of sustainable businesses in the film sector, providing access to finance and helping the UK film industry compete successfully in the domestic and global marketplace;
- imagination - promoting education and an appreciation and enjoyment of cinema by giving UK audiences access to the widest range of UK and international cinema, and by supporting film culture and heritage.
Contact: Caroline Nagle/Ian Thomson, UK Film Council
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