Centre for Content Promotion

commentary

Strong Partnerships Drive Content Protection Success In Asia Pacific

by Mike Ellis — 12 Jan 2018

As CineAsia
marks the end of another year and we draw together to muse about Hollywood’s
upcoming slates and the year ahead, it’s also a good opportunity to cast an eye
back at how things have progressed.  


There
are many reasons to be optimistic about the state of our industry here in
Asia.  For one thing, the economic indicators
confirm continued growth not only last year, but also consistently over the
past five years.  But perhaps an even
more positive, emerging trend is a new consensus towards the promotion and
protection of filmed entertainment and a shared concern for the future of the industry.

Raising awareness about this simple message – the value of intellectual property rights protection and creativity – remains a fundamental priority for the Motion Picture Association and its represented studios. For the past 11 years, we have highlighted during CineAsia the contributions of various individuals throughout the Asia Pacific region whose tireless work has served to educate consumers and policy makers in their markets about the value of screen content, and the need to provide a strong copyright framework for filmmakers. 

The Asia Pacific Copyright Educator
(ACE) Award is a natural extension of the MPA’s core objective to promote and protect
screen communities through a better understanding of the creative process and
the economic benefits resulting from strong intellectual-property rights
protection. Nowhere is this objective more relevant than in the Asia-Pacific
region.

APAC remains the shining light on
the world’s box-office stage, with revenues up 5% in 2016 to a total of USD
14.9 billion. 

China itself accounts for an estimated USD 6.6 billion of that
amount and is now the single biggest market for cinema exhibition outside of
the United States, by a healthy margin. Seven of the other top 20 international
box-office markets for all films—namely, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia,
Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong—are also in Asia-Pacific, where regional gate
revenues have collectively increased by 44% over the past five years.

Asia is indeed the global epicentre
for world cinema exhibition. The screen count throughout the region experienced
an 18% growth in 2016, with more than 66,000 screens now in operation.  More than 90% of those screens are digital –
in fact there are now more digital screens in Asia than in the rest of the world,
combined – and 78% of those screens are 3D (the highest proportion in the
world).

Clearly, people throughout the
share a healthy appetite for filmed entertainment and enjoy going to the
movies.  Asia remains, for all intents
and purposes, a bright spot for film distribution and exhibition. It’s certainly an industry sector worth
protecting.

The economic contribution reports
commissioned by the MPA throughout the region further confirm the value that
the movie and television industries provide to local economies.  In 2016, for example, the film production,
distribution, and exhibition sector in China supported more than 4.1 million jobs
throughout the country, contributing a total USD 86.3 billion to the country’s
GDP and tax revenues of USD 15.9 billion.
Yet still the industry faces its
challenges and exhibition revenues in Asia are detrimentally impacted by
intolerably high levels of copyright piracy. It’s impossible for any legitimate
business to compete with free. Ironically, all too often the problem begins
right in the very place it hurts the most and at the worst possible time, when
front-line releases are camcorded in theatres 


Last year, 93 different audio and video camcord releases of MPA titles
were traced back to cinemas throughout the region.

Unfortunately, too many
jurisdictions throughout the region still have insufficient laws and
regulations on their books to effectively address unauthorized camcording. Here again, the MPA’s initiatives with governments
throughout the region include raising awareness about the problem and its
impact on their local businesses and national economies, and offering
assistance filling any legislative gaps or deficiencies found to exist.  



Although the stalled Trans
Pacific Partnership agreement’s negotiated text contained helpful
anti-camcording provisions that could have served as a cornerstone foundation
for best international practices, sadly there has been no further legislative
progress in this regard throughout the region over the past twelve months.  This is particularly concerning because camcorded
films have historically been the source for the vast majority of movie
infringement found online.  


However, it is in the area of
online infringement that we seem to be experiencing a new sense of
enlightenment, sensibility, and cooperation. 
Site blocking has emerged as an uncomplicated, cost-effective and
judicially defensible tool that so far hasn’t broken the Internet. By now, more
than 40 countries around the world, including seven in Asia, have enacted and implemented
specific laws, regulations and judicial procedures intended to cut off the
supply of pirated content at its source by preventing Internet subscribers from
accessing significantly infringing sites.

Jurisdictions including
Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea and Thailand
now all engage in site-blocking against copyright infringing sites either
through specific legislative provisions within their copyright laws involving either
a judicial or administrative determination and a prescribed remedy, without any
of the baggage historically associated with it.


The new view towards so-called
‘no-fault’ site blocking – in which the ISP’s liability for the underlying
infringements of its customers is put aside to achieve an expeditious and
effective remedy – has served to tone down much of the inflammatory rhetoric
that previously characterized any discussion about the issue.  
Sentiments between rights holders and ISPs
about site blocking has historically been contentious (and in a number of
instances, litigious) in a number of territories. But this sentiment was based largely on
immutable, theoretical views between opposing parties concerning legal
responsibility for the underlying infringements taking place over the Internet.
 

The latest wave of legislation
and regulatory oversight therefore removes that factor from the equation, and
focuses instead on fashioning an appropriate and practical means to prevent
further infringement supported by due process and subject to an authoritative
mandate.

When legislation within this
context was enacted in Singapore in late 2014, we saw content providers, cinema
exhibitors, Pay-TV providers and ISPs all working together on public education,
awareness initiatives, messaging, and operational capacity.  For the first time in a long time, industry
representatives sat at the same table for a series of open and frank
discussions about would could, and could not, be done cooperatively to fight
back against the truly bad guys.
 

Similar legislation adopted in
Australia in 2015 engendered better dialogue and a renewed sense of partnership
there.  And once again content providers
and exhibitors worked cooperatively with ISPs and others to implement a shared objective.  Last December, the Federal Court in Australia
granted orders against four popular torrent sites, which effectively operate
more than 61 infringing URLs between them, and in August the Court issued a
second wave of blocking orders against another 68 sites.  Not a single ISP in Australia opposed either
motion, proving that it is possible for parties to cooperate with each other if
they truly want to.

Cooperative efforts between
content providers and the advertisers have also taken foot over the past year
in various regional territories in an attempt to cut off the revenue flow, sometimes
provided unwittingly by legitimate businesses, to pirate website operators.

None of this comes easy though
and it usually requires an enormous amount of time, effort, and persistence to
educate both industry and government representatives, as well as the general
public, about the importance of protecting the creative industries.  

Recognizing individuals throughout Asia who
champion important issues such as these in their national territories by
honoring them during a gathering of the international screen community thus
provides a meaningful synergy of purpose between the MPA ACE
Award and the annual CineAsia conference.

This year, we’re pleased to honor
the co-CEO of Village Roadshow, Graham
Burke
, for his selfless dedication to enhancing creators’ rights in Australia.
No-one in Australia has been as committed or as vocal about the valuable
contributions that our industry provides to the world community.  With ambassadors such as him, and our previous MPA ACE
Award winners, enlisted into the cause, the MPA is proud to carry on promoting and
protecting screen communities everywhere.
 

This article first appeared in the CineAsia 2018 program booklet.