MPAA Chief Touts Euro Partnerships, Blasts Digital Single Market Plans, Piracy – Berlin

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Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin touched down in Berlin to highlight the partnerships between U.S. film studios and European partners and blasted plans for a digital single market and the creeping rise of piracy.

Rivkin made the comments at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival during a meeting with the German Producers Alliance, which has more than 250 members, as they celebrated their 10th anniversary.

He highlighted Wes Anderson’s quirky stop-motion animated feature Isle of Dogs as an example of a truly international project.  “The story was inspired by Japanese society…written and directed by an American…and filmed in the UK. Cultures and perspectives came together to create something profound and it was co-produced by the famed Studio Babelsberg. Where else can you find global cooperation that leads to such unique creations?  The ability to work together is one of the great strengths of our sector.”

The former U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco also addressed the European Commission’s plans to introduce a Digital Single Market, which would remove digital barriers, and prevent “unjustified” geo-blocking, making it harder for film and TV firms to sell movies and series across different markets. He called this the “most pressing issues facing our industry today” and said that production companies relied on territorial presales to finance productions, calling “exclusivity” the “lifeblood of our industry”.

“As the European Commission considered the Digital Single Market, we stood side by side to uphold the funding model that is vital to cross-border collaboration in Europe. The direct involvement of producers, creators, and artists across Europe made the difference in our advocacy. The Producers Alliance was so critical to this effort, in Brussels and across the continent, and I thank you for your partnership. We are a digital industry. The Digital Single Market should be our market, and it should be built to help creativity thrive. This includes the need for territorial exclusivity.

In December, politicians in Strasbourg voted 344 to 265 against the European Commission’s ‘Country of Origin’ proposals, a key plank of the EC’s single market plans. However, Rivkin added, “While we have made important progress on this crucial issue, we have much more to do. If policy frameworks do not protect our innovations, we could lose so much of the creativity made right here in Europe.”

Rivkin, who previously served as CEO of The Muppets producer The Jim Henson Company and Yo Gabba Gabba! Producer Wildbrain, also took a swipe at the growing problem of international piracy, highlighting that there were over 20B visits to streaming piracy sites last year. He called it an “existential threat” to the industry and highlighted the launch of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment in June 2017. “This global collaboration has already seen important victories against illicit streaming devices like Tickbox in the United States, and the elimination of apps that enable access to pirated content, here in Europe and in other parts of the world.”

The speech at Berlin was part of a three-day tour of Germany. He added, “The Berlinale is an inspiring celebration of humanity and the bonds we forge through film. It brings cultures and peoples together, and allows artists to share their stories with diverse audiences. I have seen firsthand the power of film and television to build understanding across borders during my time both as an Ambassador to France and at the U.S. State Department. And I see that power right here at the Berlinale.”

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