Cannes: Are Periscope and Meerkat Threats to the Fest?

Cannes France - H 2015
AP Images

Cannes France - H 2015

Live streaming apps could mean Cannes' exclusive world premieres will be online as soon as they hit the Croisette.

Security in Cannes is even tighter than usual this year but there's a new form of criminal the festival may have no defense against. New live-streaming apps, like Periscope, Meerkat and YouNow, which allow users to share live video directly from their cell phones, could disrupt the festival's exclusive world premieres.

That the technology can become a tool for pirates was shown at the recent Pacquiao/Mayweather heavyweight fight, when several people attending the event live streamed the match for thousands to watch, for free, online. 

“It's a whole new brand of terrifying,” says Mark Gill, president of Millennium Films, on the piracy potential of Periscope & Co.

Cannes does have measures in place to thwart pirates, including infrared cameras installed in the theaters and plain clothes security, dressed in tuxes during the red carpet events, scattered among the guests. But it's questionable whether they will be enough to prevent someone from discreetly streaming a world premiere. Cannes security measures, for example, don't include confiscating cell phones or tablets, as is common practice for many U.S. premieres.

Festival attendees are asked to switch off their phones before screenings but Cannes regulars know the Palais ushers don't enforce the rule. Journalists, critics and executives can regularly be seen texting, and even taking whispered calls. 

Isabelle Gainche, head of marketing for the Palais, said security guards are loath to disturb a premiere and are highly selective about when they decide to interfere and remove someone from a screening.

Asked to comment on attendees using Periscope to illegal stream Cannes films, a spokesman for Twitter, which owns Periscope, reiterated its boilerplate statement that the “unauthorized broadcast of content protected by copyright is against Periscope's content policy” and that “we will respond to valid takedown requests.” Critics, however, point out that by the time a takedown request has been filed and assessed, the offending live stream is already over.

Many in the industry have questioned Twitter's commitment to fighting piracy after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted after the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight that the night's “real winner” was periscope. 

“That shows you what he really thinks about piracy infringement,” said Gill.

Periscope and Meerkat have been actively courting Hollywood, trying to get celebrities to use their services and channels to add live streaming to their regular programming, plans that could be disrupted if live stream piracy becomes a major problem,. Already HBO has filed takedown notices connected to live streaming of episodes of Game of Thrones.

For the moment at least, Cannes and the film industry can comfort themselves with the knowledge that the quality of live streams on Meerkat, Periscope and the rest is so low using them to watch a feature length film could prove too excruciating for any but the most devoted pirates.