Oscar winner Bardem denounces movie piracy

Spanish actor Javier Bardem has joined with film-makers in urging Internet users to support creative industries struggling to survive in an age of digital piracy by shunning illegal downloading of free films and music.

British film director Iain Smith, Egyptian producer Esaad Younis and Indian producer and director Bobby Bedi joined Bardem in appealing for a new global treaty to boost audiovisual performers’ rights. They were speaking at a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) event in Geneva.

According to Bardem, more than 90 per cent of people involved in the movie industry have serious problems to pay the rent, the bills and even eat. “Remuneration is crucial, not for me but for the 90 per cent who have serious problems in making a living.” He claimed that actors’ rights – unlike those of directors, screenwriters and musicians – were not protected under current international copyright law.

In terms of illegal downloaders on the Internet, Bardem said: “People think they harm the producer that flies around in a private jet or has five swimming pools or the Hollywood actor with three mansions in every town. They are wrong. They are harming people who are hardly making a living.”

Noting that digital technology had made such activities cheap, easy and instantaneous, Bardem said it permitted “the theft of our product at high-quality. It’s just not perceived as theft,” Bardem said that although he understood the economic motives behind piracy, it was still a form of theft. “It is like going to a shop, getting those products for free, and running. And the mentality of the people is that to do piracy is fine, because we will harm the actor who has a private jet. But they are wrong. They are harming the people behind these people,” he said.

Smith suggested that the Hollywood dream had become a “Hollywood nightmare,” describing piracy as “a huge threat,” causing a massive loss of revenue to American-based industry and others, estimating the U.S. industry alone lost $25 billion in 2010. Avatar had 16.5 million illegal downloads, followed by Kick Ass at 11.4 million, while ticket sales had fallen, Smith said. “Audience demand is clearly for magic, but it comes at a price. There has to be a contract between the money and the art, the investment and the creation,” he declared.

Bedi recognised that digital technology offered an opportunity for the industry to develop. “But if it is mishandled it can be a huge problem for us,” he warned. “Piracy is the biggest bane of my industry.” He noted that his native India had copyright laws but they were not fully enforced.

United Nations agency WIPO aims to reach agreement on a new international pact on audiovisual performers’ rights next year, WIPO director-general Francis Gurry said.

An agreement between the United States and European Union last month paved the way for concluding a pact as early as mid-2012, although the ratification process by WIPO’s 184 member states would take longer, said Gurry.

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