Cannes 2012: Italian Government Eyes Piracy Legislation Similar to French Law

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CANNES -- Lorenzo Ornaghi, Italy's minister of cultural heritage and activities, said here Tuesday that he would like to make the country's production tax credit system permanent and that Italy is "going to try and pass a law on digital piracy that will be similar to the French one."

Ornaghi said he met with new French Culture Minister Aurelie Fillippetti earlier in the morning and discussed possible cooperations. Talking about piracy, he said "the French approach seems to be the most effective, most efficient."

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy created the so-called Hadopi government agency to oversee the fight against piracy using a three-strikes approach. Under the regulation, after three piracy warnings, web users are supposed to be taken offline. Hadopi data presented this year said that 6 percent of Internet users in France received a warning for pirating content, but 95 percent of those stopped infringing. Ninety-eight percent of those receiving a third warning stopped piracy.

On the topic of tax incentives for productions, Ornaghi said: "As long as this government is in power, we want to keep using the tax credit system. A long-term perspective would be of great help."

He made the comments at a press conference with Italian political and film industry representatives in Cannes. They announced that Italy will promote cinema as an engine of all things "Made in Italy," under a new promotion called "Italia in luce" (Italy in Lights) to make the country's film industry more competitive on a global scale.

With the help of €4 million-€5 million ($5.1 million-$6.4 million), the representatives said they want to form a deeper public-private partnership to focus on better distributing and promoting Italian films and, through them, Italy's culture and lifestyle in Europe and the rest of the world. They also said they will look at economic incentives for distributors buying Italian films.

The initiative involves film promotion and support agency Istituto Luce Cinecitta, the National Association of the Cinema, Audiovisual and Multimedia Industry (ANICA), as well as four government ministries: the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Economic Development and the Tourism Department.

Asked about the country's tax incentives for local and foreign productions that currently run through 2013, ANICA president Riccardo Tozzi said they are "one of the most advanced instruments in Europe," adding that his organization's "objective is to make it permanent as it is now." He even suggested an early renewal, "so that the film industry will be able to plan investments. … This has been working rather well for one year. Why shouldn't it keep working?"

He argued that political help was needed, especially since "the TV system is a sick system" in Italy, and there is the risk that TV investment by networks will be cut." Warning of a potential decline in the market share of Italian films in the country, Tozzi said: "We need the support of politics. Otherwise our system will collapse. Otherwise we will not be able to make it. … We're ready to roll up our sleeves and promote the good things we've done so far."

Amid the budget challenges and general euro crisis and a weak economy, Italy's film industry had a tough battle when it pushed for the extension of the current system beyond the previous expiration date.

The Italian representatives on Tuesday also vowed to create economic incentives and services for international distributors of Italian films. Amounts and conditions of allocation will be determined later.

Ornaghi also got a question on the recent controversy surrounding the Rome and Turin film festivals after the former announced dates that will bring it within a few days of the latter this year before new schedules are adopted in 2013.

"I can only try to convince people that it is better to have an interval between the two festivals," the minister reiterated, highlighting that he didn't mean that as siding with Turin. "I think we need a good cooperation. Individual interests should be set aside. There should be a more general interest, and that's the Italian cinema system as a whole."
 
About the Italian film industry in general, he said one positive signal was that the market share of Italian movies in the country stands at about 40 percent, with 150 films produced in 2011, up from 142 in 2010.

Also speaking at the press conference were Rodrigo Cipriani, president of the Istituto Luce Cinecitta; Maurizio Melani, director general for the promotion of Italy at the Ministry of Foreign Affair; and Roberto Luongo, director of international promotion at the Italian Trade Commission.

Melani highlighted that film is "not only a cultural but also an economic activity" and an important vehicle to promote Italy.

In the U.S., Italian film will soon be promoted as art from an avant-garde country rooted in a millenniums-old culture, he said. "Our goal is promoting our productions and attracting productions to Italy."

Luongo highlighted that to attract foreign productions, "saying we are good in cinema isn't good enough. Awards alone and saying Italy is beautiful isn't the right lever. We need to convince people that filmmaking in Italy is easy."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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