Content Cafe

Industry

Insights from Industry Insiders: Belinda Lui, President & Managing Director, Motion Picture Association Asia Pacific

by Content Cafe — April 23, 2021

Each month we hear from industry insiders in Australia and abroad to get their take on content piracy. Is content protection improving? How do we stop piracy? How does Australia compare to the rest of the world? These are some of the questions we'll be exploring with leaders across the content industry.

Welcome Belinda, please introduce yourself.

My name is Belinda Lui and I am the President & Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association for the Asia Pacific region. I lead the association’s Asia-Pacific team to promote and protect the commercial and creative interests of the region’s screen communities in the digital age. My role puts me at the heart of important policy developments that affect the ability for content creators, owners and distributors to grow their creative enterprise and in turn deliver quality content for audiences around the world.

Does piracy affect your business or that of your stakeholders?  How?

Advances in technology and internet infrastructure underpin our ability to create and distribute content, and they expand new markets for copyrighted content. But they also present opportunities for pirates to steal that content and distribute it globally without the authority of the rightsholder. Piracy robs creators of due compensation, making it harder for them to recoup the significant investment that goes into the production of the film and shows we love.

Piracy entirely undermines the business model for video content, which relies on the legitimate transaction of goods and services with paying customers to in turn fund investment in new creative ideas, and the subsequent development of new films and television shows. The threat can be gauged in terms of financial losses of studios and streaming services, risk to the livelihoods of those involved in the ecosystem, and by the many anecdotal cases involving filmmakers whose work is shared without their permission on piracy websites. Piracy greatly reduces the capacity to monetise the content, which ultimately is a harm to the consumer.

Piracy operators are profiting on the backs of creators and the MPA is committed to protecting the legal marketplace for video content, which employs 2.5 million people in the U.S. and millions of around the world.

What do you think is the most significant impact of piracy on the creative industry?

Developing a career, and building a viable and sustainable business is hard enough in the creative industry without the significant threat of piracy. Among the most significant impact on the industry is how it increases the risk to investors and de-incentivises creators.

Supporting creators by working to reduce large-scale, for-profit theft of content by pirate sites, and fighting efforts to weaken important copyright laws, is core to the MPA’s mission.

Encouragingly, the legal marketplace for creative content has grown exponentially in recent years, with media companies investing heavily in new digital distribution models. There are hundreds of legal services worldwide for consumers to watch movies and television programs online in a manner which they prefer.

What is the biggest challenge in the fight against piracy?

In the digital ecosystem, pirates continue to find new ways of making money from other people’s valuable content. In 2017, the MPA formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which has since grown into the leading, global coalition dedicated to reducing digital piracy and protecting the legal marketplace for creative content. While enforcement focused organizations, like ACE, have made progress stopping major piracy operations across the globe, the more difficult task is educating new generations of content lovers to value the creative process and choose to access content only via legitimate channels.

Those countries that adopt school curriculum and public education campaigns which help young people understand copyright and how best to value creative output, and which have robust copyright laws fit for the digital era and effective online enforcement measures, stand the best chance of reducing demand for pirated content and improving the broader digital ecosystem.

This is where organizations like Creative Content Australia, or Creative First in India, can step in to make a difference for the long term. Your work is vital to building a better future for the global creative community.

Has piracy become a global problem that needs a global solution?

Piracy absolutely requires a comprehensive understanding of the policies, regulations and terrain of the different regions around the world. ACE’s primary goal is to reduce piracy though effective enforcement strategies targeting the operators of illegal sites and services and outreach to those intermediaries who enable them, thereby encouraging the use of legal entertainment services around the globe. With 35 members from around the world, including all the MPA members, as well as Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, SF Studios, Village Roadshow and Star India, ACE supports the legal marketplace for audio-visual content and address the challenges posed by digital piracy. Specifically, the coalition is focused on the threats of persistent illegal site operators, illegal IPTV services, including piracy devices, apps, and add-ons, and voluntary initiatives with participants across the Internet ecosystem to reduce the theft of our members’ content.

How do you think Australia is measuring up in tackling piracy?

It is fortunate that Australia takes piracy seriously. The Government established site blocking laws which have proven to greatly reduce access to major international piracy websites. In one case study, piracy websites blocked by the court experienced a decline of 53.4%[1]. The industry has coordinated effectively by establishing Creative Content Australia, which plays an important role raising awareness about piracy through research, consumer campaigns and educational modules.

Do you have any personal experiences or anecdotes about piracy?

I started my career as a litigation lawyer, working on IP enforcement. I remember sitting in blacked out vans with law enforcement officers, staking out piracy targets, and then executing investigations on behalf of the companies I represented. That was more than 20 years ago. Some pirates are now much more sophisticated and organized, however the premise of piracy and its harms remains largely the same.

What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment?

There is no shortage of excellent and diverse content nowadays. The standard of writing and production is very high. However, I will admit that I have spent various lockdowns and quarantines rediscovering classic films and TV shows with my teenage children.

What excites you about the future of your industry sector?

With my technology background, I’m excited to see the convergence of technology and entertainment. We are going through a period of enormous change, accelerated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The industry in the Asia Pacific has embraced the growth of streaming services, which are providing a huge range of quality content for diverse audiences across the region, and stimulating local industry production. This provides many entry points for established and emerging filmmakers to share their stories with the world.

[1] Incopro, December 2017

Before you go check out last month’s interviews with Kate Marks  and  Simon Brown

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