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STEALING MOVIES ONLINE IS STILL THEFT

In a punchy speech aimed at stirring debate on copyright law reform to suit this digital age, News Ltd CEO Kim Williams AM, devoted his Movie Convention keynote address (on August 21, 2012 at Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast) to the challenges of online theft. He also listed his top 10 movies ... (Edited extracts)

If you want to know why you should care about copyright, here’s a little exercise you can all do. Think about the ten greatest pieces of art that you couldn’t live without.

When there is no way for great artists to make a living from their work, those artists become, well... let’s choose the popular nemesis – lawyers.

And with due respect to all the law school graduates here today, thank God Anna Funder quit her job as a commercial litigant and wrote Stasiland and her Miles Franklin Award-winning novel, All That I Am instead.

At the risk of turning this speech into a Nick Hornby movie, in which the protagonist reels off lists of his favourite things, I thought I’d give this experiment a go myself. I thought I’d talk a little about my top ten films. 

Here they are, from one to ten:

1. Amarcord - Federico Fellini - my all time favourite film. Intensely personal, loving of community and tinged with nostalgia and clarity about people and the cavalcade of human events that affect one's life rendered with a poignancy that is literally unforgettable.

2. The Godfather - Francis Ford Coppola - quite simply the modern American masterpiece that reinvented epic narrative drama with intense intimacy and grand spectacle whilst capturing a cultural resonance that was wholly original.

3. The Rules of the Game - Jean Renoir - for me a timeless humanist drama which captivates my memory still after 40 years.

4. Close to Eden - Nikita Mikhalkov - the power of the cinema to tell a unique affecting original story like no other medium.

5. Gallipoli - Peter Weir - history rendered exquisitely so that it lives for an audience with power and enduring meaning. It captures the horror of war with all the insight and poignancy of Wilfred Owen. And the stupidity of so many of the generals. And what a line-up of home-grown acting talent, too.

6. Mad Max 2 - George Miller - the best modern post apocalypse heroic Greek style drama which is a true Australian masterpiece. George Miller is an Australian artistic genius, no doubt about it.

7. An Angel at My Table - Jane Campion - is for me one of the great story telling creations of the nineties. I shall love it forever.

8. The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin - the grandest and most cutting film of all about Hitler and yet it is silent and a brilliant mix of slapstick and satire. Art in the service of democracy, giving the world a reason to fight the Second World War.

9. Jedda - Charles Chauvel - my lifelong Australian cinematic hero who reflects all the best aspects of cheerful Aussie persistence, optimism and true one of a kind originality.

And…

10. Ten Canoes - by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djiggir - indigenous, inspired, funny, fascinating and wholly absorbing. Makes one proud to live here and be part of this country as do Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires.

Both Shakespeare and Dickens were prolific and famous in their own times. Both men were able to retire comparatively wealthy because they had a means of monetising their art. For Shakespeare it lay in being part of a theatre able to set up a gate and only let in those able to part with a few pennies for standing room or a bit more for a seat. For Dickens it was selling his stories to subscription-only magazines and selling tickets to his popular book readings. 

"truly astounding levels of intellectual theft"

The leakage of money would certainly have been there. No doubt a few people jumped the fence at the Globe or borrowed their friends’ magazines. Others perhaps listened to Dickens’ readings through a hole in the wall. But they would not have faced the truly astounding levels of intellectual theft they would face today in the age of digital publishing and distribution.

Imagine if you will, a rival theatre setting itself up across the Thames from the Globe, charging one-fifth the door price to see a rendition of Julius Caesar, using a script they had transcribed from the official performance. Or imagine a free magazine that serialised Oliver Twist, re-typeset without permission from Bentley’s Miscellany the day after the original’s publication. There may have been no Hamlet and no Great Expectations. No literary legends; just a couple of under-appreciated writers starving in their London garrets, now the subjects of literature PhD dissertations, instead of hundreds upon hundreds of movie and television adaptations.

So imagine what we may be losing today. Imagine the great works that are not being produced because the digital bandits are creating virtual pirate Globe Theatres and virtual literary magazines and making off with possibly 65 percent of the profits.

If you think I’m exaggerating, think again, because the copyright bandits of the paper age of Shakespeare and Dickens had nothing on the copyright kleptomaniacs of the digital age.

"to exploit their work in the certain knowledge that theft will be prevented and punished equally"

What the Australian production and distribution industry needs are renovated legal underpinnings that acknowledge the primary right of copyright owners to exploit their work in the certain knowledge that theft will be prevented and punished equally. Without that core commercial underpinning the outlook for our industry - the digital entertainment industry - is grim indeed.

Whilst there is endless talk about the NBN there is yet to be any formal acknowledgement that the legislative and enforcement frameworks are disastrously outmoded and defective to sustain any relevance in confronting a modern high speed digital delivery world.

Without immediate and wholesale makeover we are condemning our nation to relentless criminal rip-off and plunder of original IP on an unprecedented scale which will make the current 65 percent rate of consumption being of stolen material look like a pathetically modest nun's picnic.

Published August 23/ 2012

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Kim Williams AM, CEO News Ltd
(Photo - Kit De Guymer
Source: Gold Coast Bulletin)


Amarcord


The Godfather


The Great Dictator


Ten Canoes







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