Aussies hot over getting burned

Major campaign educates public on piracy

SYDNEY -- Two of Australia's biggest boxoffice hits in 2006, "Happy Feet" and "Kenny," form the centerpiece of the new Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft anti-piracy campaign unveiled Tuesday at the Australian International Movie Convention.

The day also saw a keynote from MPA chief Dan Glickman, who used his address to reiterate the trade group's focus on piracy and engaging consumers better with technology.

The big-ticket campaign launched by "Happy Feet" producer George Miller and "Kenny" writer-director Clayton Jacobson targets the 23% of the Australian population that is estimated to have taken part in movie piracy in 2005, with the majority of those making or watching illegal copies of films.

The consumer education campaign features burning movie posters of "Happy Feet," "Kenny" and local 2005 hit "Wolf Creek" with the tagline "What are you really burning?" It is designed to "change Australian attitudes and behaviours to piracy," AFACT executive director Adrienne Pecotic said.

The campaign will run in cinemas, on DVD, in home video rental and retail stores and in the print media for at least 12 months.

According to AFACT, more than 47 million illegal DVDs were distributed in Australia in 2005, almost equal in number to the 52 million legitimate DVDs sold that year. Another 11 million films were estimated to have been illegally downloaded.

Overall, copyright theft in Australia has been estimated to cost the Australian industry more than AUS$230 million ($190 million) a year in lost revenue.

"With broadband speeds getting faster and its social appeal growing, piracy activity is set to increase rather than slow down or stop," Pecotic said.

"We need to be aware of the consequences of our actions," Miller said in launching the campaign. "We are asking people to really think a little about what it means to burn or download a pirate film or buy one off the street. If you take a moment to think about it, you may not do it."

A companion campaign targeting schools is in the works and will receive a trial in the fourth quarter before being rolled out nationally in 2008.

Last year, AFACT stepped up its enforcement campaigns, following a tightening of Australia's copyright rules, which strengthened criminal sanctions against illegal DVD copying and other piracy measures. Those sanctions have resulted in several jail sentences for pirates this year.

Glickman is meeting with Australian legislators and law enforcement authorities this week to discuss Australia's measures in this area, the effectiveness of which is expected to be revealed toward the end of the year with the results of a global research study.

"With piracy, we are taking two steps forward and one step back," Glickman said in an interview.

But alongside the many anti-piracy education campaigns being run internationally, the MPA is stepping up efforts on enforcement. "We are working with governments around the world to get serious penalties in place that can deter this activity," he said.

At the same time, Glickman said that the MPA has "invested heavily in technology."

"The more that we can give consumers an extraordinary experience at the legitimate boxoffice ... then the better our chances of making a real difference on this issue together," he said. "Consumers are telling us that we have to protect our product in the most consumer friendly ways."

DVDs, digital downloads or any other product "have to be hassle-free to use, reasonably priced and allow people flexibility in the way they use them," he added.

Those challenges aside, Glickman said the movie industry is healthy and that Australia remains one of the strongest territories for MPA member studios.

Boxoffice growth of 6% last year gave the industry the second-highest Australian total on record and outstripped the U.S. domestic growth of 5%, Glickman said, adding that this year's figures are "running neck and neck" with last year's.