by Content Café, 24 August 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.
Liz Bales is an experienced CEO with responsibility for a consortium of trade associations promoting the UK and European film sector and a commercial lawyer of ten years’ standing specialising in the acquisition, exploitation and protection of intellectual property.
Recognised for leadership and the creation of bold partnerships and executing targeted initiatives to grow audience engagement, deliver behaviour change and incubate innovation in the physical retail environment.
A significant and successful track record supporting diverse stakeholders on complex challenges with a focus on measurable results and sustainable solutions as well as recognising and navigating change, building consensus and delivering efficiencies.
Passionate and accountable on environmental sustainability and workplace inclusion and diversity.
Welcome Liz, please introduce yourself.
I’m Liz Bales, the Chief Executive of a consortium of UK based trade associations: The British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) and The Digital Entertainment Group International, where we focus on driving engagement in, and consumption of, film and TV in the transactional window locally and globally. Also, The Industry Trust for Intellectual Property, where our focus is on encouraging audiences not to participate in piracy and infringement behaviours.
The Industry Trust specifically tracks and analyses audience behaviours and converts those insights into influential campaigns. Like the work of CCA, we encourage and empower consumers to make their own (hopefully positive) choices around infringement by providing them with the facts in clear and informative ways, and in the relevant places.
Does piracy affect your business or that of your stakeholders? How?
Sadly yes, very much so. Most of our members are directly involved in film and TV distribution. Their revenues, their businesses, and their livelihoods and those of the people they employ depend on their ability to derive revenue from the content they produce or acquire or sell or exhibit.
Unfortunately, the truth is that some consumers actively seek to infringe and avoid paying entertainment creators. But it is also true that piracy is increasingly sophisticated, and consumers can fall into piracy by accident, through the manipulative use of search for example, that funnels an innocent enquiry into authentic seeming but ultimately fake services. There is also increasing evidence of consumers being activity targeted – so directly marketed at and to– by overtly commercial and criminal, infringement networks and services.
What do you think is the most significant impact of piracy on the creative industry?
It jeopardises the future of the creative industries. Piracy drains revenue from everyone involved in the creation of content, it devalues their efforts, and disengages investors.
But it also disrupts, dilutes, and diminishes the consumer experience, undermining the quality of the product, and the skills and career and training of the technicians and artists involved in the sound and the picture and the VFX and the grade. Those are the impacts the industry feels most keenly, and that jeopardise the creation of new shows, stories, and films.
Of course, the most significant impact on the consumer is arguably the harm that is increasingly to be found hand in hand with piracy, whether that’s the threat of malware, or fraud, or ID theft.
What is the biggest challenge in the fight against piracy?
Technological advancement and the constant march of innovation, as well as the growing power of the commercialisation of infringement ‘services’.
And the geography of response: infringement networks are increasingly global yet the regulatory and enforcement tools we have to tackle them are predominantly national. We must be smart and collaborative.
On a positive note, that is exactly what is happening and entities such as the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), are a great example of working together for best impact. We must also find an effective way to debunk consumer perceptions that piracy is socially acceptable and a victimless crime.
How do you think Australia is measuring up in tackling piracy?
We’ve had the pleasure of working and sharing progress with CCA for many years and are consistently impressed with the good work you are doing. It’s so positive to see robust consumer evidence informing the direction of travel, and the level of collaboration across the film sector.
It’s equally positive for Australian consumers to witness and utilise the range of local and global services now available, giving audiences so many ways to find and enjoy brilliant content.
Do you have any personal experiences or anecdotes about piracy?
Oh, it’s the same story as others I’m afraid, discovering friends and family casually pirating without any thought or consideration to the impact on anyone else in the eco-system of entertainment other than the film-star in the film they happen to be watching, or the big brand associated with the film.
On a more positive note, some (not all!) can be persuaded to change their behaviours when presented with a quick but simple view of the bigger picture, and the fact they might also be the victim of fraud… There was also a legendary moment many years ago at the fabulous Kilkenny Comedy Festival where we had to intervene and stop an illegal recording…!
What are you watching and recommending to friends at the moment?
On the big screen, Black Widow was the first film to get the whole family back to the cinema together, and I’m pleased to report that it was a unanimous thumbs up: a great film, a fun outing, and way too much popcorn of course. On the smaller screen Succession Series 1 and 2 were excellent, stuffed full of despicable behaviours, enthrallingly framed. Perfect TV really. I can’t wait for Series 3.
What excites you about the future of your industry sector?
While innovation is a threat it is also a blessing of course, powering the change and creativity that excites us all.
The pandemic was so disruptive and so devastating for so many. I’m hopeful that we are in global recovery, for both our industry and our societies, and with recovery comes the space to evaluate, to demonstrate some fresh thinking, to disrupt some of the old ways and try some new ones. And the storytellers will create again and help us reflect on everything that has happened in the last couple of years and allow us the space to feel and try to understand what we’ve all been through.
I think there will be a sea of new services, we are already seeing a huge investment in production facilities over here because one thing remains: people love content, and our industry is fantastic at making it.
“They may be fictional garage legends and pioneers behind pirate-radio station Kurupt FM, but the stars of People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan, have a few words to say about anti-piracy in the film industry. Claiming “we wouldn’t pirate anything” the West London lads are convincing new spokespeople for the Industry Trust’s latest exclusive trailer in their ongoing anti-piracy campaign, Moments Worth Paying For.”