Piracy and distribution windows: future issues in the pipeline
by Fabien Lemercier
- The Minister of Culture has added the fight against piracy to her list of priorities, while negotiations continue for the provision of works
During the 24th Film Meetings organised by the ARP (the Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers) in Dijon, French Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin responded to the growing concerns of French film and television professionals, reminding them of “the government’s preference for a graduated response” and listing several practical measures (a blacklist of illegal websites, a charter for online advertising players and online payment method organisations, strengthening anti-cybercrime services, and so on). “Piracy has again become a great scourge that is beginning to be a major burden on the activities of television companies,” declared Rodolphe Belmer (managing director of Canal+).
Nonetheless, in return, the public authorities would like film professionals to accept a degree of flexibility in the time frames for making works available, particularly in the SVoD (subscription-based video on demand, for which the window only opens 36 months after the theatrical release of a film) sector, by offering, for example, a time advantage to the services that comply with obligations regarding the funding of creation. But other possibilities are also being considered, such as that suggested by filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius: organising digital premieres or even starting up a system of exemptions for the VoD exhibition of works that have not been pre-purchased by television channels.
There were therefore many areas to think about, all of which are currently facing several elements driving the negotiations between professionals into a stalemate. On one hand, Canal+, the main funding body for French cinema, is clinging unwaveringly to its window that gives it 12 months of exclusivity (beginning ten months after the theatrical release) and highlights that the experiments it has carried out prove that piracy is not bound to a lack of availability of works or to how quickly they are made available. On the other hand, beyond the fact that French film professionals (producers, distributors and exhibitors) do not wish to undermine Canal+, Marc Missonnier (Fidélité Films – chair of the Association of Film Producers/APC) stressed that “no one saw any point in bringing forward the SVoD window, because not a single player is ready to make a significant contribution in exchange for bringing the window forward to 24 months”. According to a study by the APC, five million SVoD subscribers would only generate an annual €7 million worth of investment in French works, compared to the €130 million that come from free TV channels and the €170 million from encrypted channels. These sums speak for themselves and discourage professional bodies from setting the huge distribution-window gears in motion (shifting one window around would mean that all of them would have to move), even though nobody is really against the idea of conducting some experiments (except for theatres that would wish to protect the inviolability of their first window at all costs).
However, the public authorities in France have not yet uttered their last word on the matter, and some developments could well be edged into the forthcoming renegotiation of the requirements binding Canal+ and the French film industry.
Meanwhile, in Dijon, Lucia Recalde Langarica, the new head of unit for MEDIA – Creative Europe, opined that the experiments had to be carried out in accordance with the particular characteristics of the various European countries, and that the French industry has a special feature (a huge number of cinemas and very loyal audiences), which is not the case in Eastern European territories or in certain countries in the south of the continent, for example.
(Translated from French)