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Italian Producer De Laurentiis Threatens $16 Billion Lawsuit for Inaction Against Piracy

Aurelio De Laurentiis - P 2012
Aurelio De Laurentiis

The member of one of Italy's most high-profile cinema families aims to recover some of the industry’s losses and force the state to take a stronger stand.

ROME --- Italian producer Aurelio De Laurentiis has proposed a €12.5 billion ($16 billion) class action lawsuit against the Italian state for lost revenue he says movie producers have sustained because the state has done too little to combat privacy.

The remarks from De Laurentiis -- a member of one of Italy's most high-profile cinema families -- were made during a film industry symposium co-hosted by Riccardo Tozzi, president of ANICA, Italy’s audiovisual association. The symposium revealed that despite signs of life earlier in the year and increases in production so far in 2013, that cinema attendance in Italy over the first quarter of the year fell by nearly 5 percent compared to the same period in 2012, after contracting in each of the last two years. 

Tozzi said part of the blame for the Italian cinema sector’s woes stemmed from privacy. That prompted De Laurentiis to call for the class action suit, aimed at recovering some of the industry’s losses and forcing the state to take a stronger stand against piracy.

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“The problem of piracy is very important, and I say we should ask for €12.5 billion in order to obtain at least €2.5 billion, the amount we lose each year because of piracy,” De Laurentiis said.

De Laurentiis called on other film producers, ANICA, and the Ministry of Culture to join him in the suit. There were no immediate takers.

Tozzi suggested a different tact: making it easier for people to legally download films, for a fee. “We should balance the threat of illegal downloads with a legal supply of films,” he said. “It can be too difficult to download films legally, so there’s no good alternative” to piracy.

According to attorney Argia Bignami, an intellectual property expert, it is true that Italy does less than some other countries to combat the illegal downloads of films and television programs, taking a stronger stance in Italy means striking the balance between different concerns.

“There are piracy concerns and privacy concerns that can be at odds with each other,” Bignami said.

De Laurentiis, 63, is part of one of Italy’s best-known film-making families. His father and uncle were Luigi De Laurentiis and Dino De Laurentiis, respectively, two of the main forces behind the Golden Age of Italian cinema that lasted from the 1940s into the 1970s: production credits include Federico Fellini’s La Strada, Europa ’51 from Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Viconti’s Lo Straniero (The Stranger), and Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice) from Giuseppe De Santis, as well as Hollywood hits including Sidney Lumet’s Serpico and the 1976 version of King Kong from John Guillermin.

Aurelio De Laurentiis’ son is up-and-coming producer Luigi De Laurentiis, Jr., and his cousin is Italian-American chef and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis. Aurelio De Laurentiis is himself president of the Naples-based production company Filmauro, whose credits include the three-film Manuale d’amore (Love Manual) hit comedy franchise, whose third installment featured Robert De Niro as an introverted professor. 

Twitter: @EricJLyman