David Puttnam Says Links to Illegal Download Sites Should Be Deleted

The Hobbit Ian McKeller Gandalf in Tree - H 2012
Warner Bros.

The Hobbit Ian McKeller Gandalf in Tree - H 2012

U.K. Film Distributors' Association president calls for tough measures to fight off IP theft and protect rights holders.

LONDON – U.K. Film Distributors' Association (FDA) president David Puttnam advocated a muscular approach to website enforcement against online piracy to help protect distributors and rights owners alike.

Puttnam, a former Columbia Pictures chief and movie producer with Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields on his resume who sits in the House of Lords as a voting lawmaker, said signposting "legitimate search options far more clearly" would be a step forward.

"A vital step for the technology sector is to signpost legitimate search options far more clearly and to delete links to sites that promote illegally sourced content," Puttnam said in a speech scheduled to be delivered Tuesday in the British capital to a gathered audience of movie industry reps.

He also said the continued support and public investment in British film distribution during London Olympic year is essential so the sector doesn’t falter in the coming months.

He said such investment would allow "UK cinema admissions and box-office to continue to flourish."

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In a speech on the day of the publication of the FDA Yearbook 2012, Puttnam called for a new public information campaign, once the various government-backed reviews of aspects of copyright have run their course.

The aim would be to illustrate the role of copyright in enabling the creative industries to develop, attract jobs and investment as well as to deliver valuable experiences to audiences.

Puttnam noted that intellectual property is one of the areas in which the U.K. flourishes with more than 10 percent of national exports being derived from the creative industries.

"The U.K. still needs to do everything it can to ensure that we have a state aid regime that continues to support British film culture and the audiences for British film, just as it has done over the last few years," he said, signaling a wariness to European Union murmurings that could result in moving away from a system of licensing rights based on national borders, to one based on the single market.

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"The key to the digital future – or rather, the present – lies in forging new models, creating and sustaining new relationships with audiences," Puttnam said.

In a wide-ranging speech Puttnam also called on the British Film Institute to prioritise boosting its funding for film distribution.

It came just 24 hours after the BFI announced the hire former Universal Pictures International executive Ben Roberts as the director of its $33 million annual movie fund, a role that has been expanded to cover distribution strategy as well as production.

The FA has also cut together a compilation cinema trailer highlighting British achievement coming to theaters in 2012.

The montage of clips from 39 current and forthcoming film releases includes Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, with Keira Knightley and Jude Law and The Hobbit, which counts Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen in the cast.

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FDA partnered with the government’s department for culture, media & sport to add the trailer to the government's GREAT campaign, designed to promote Britain's creativity, culture, heritage, entrepreneurs, technology and sport, and welcome the world to Britain during Olympic year.

Some choice stats from the FDA Yearbook 2012 include that the number of films released in the UK topped 580 while U.K. distributors invested more than £330 million ($522.6 million) to launch and sustain movie releases, including a £196 million ($310.4 million) media advertising spend in 2011, up £25 million ($39.6 million) on 2010.

And with 1 percent of the world population, the U.K. delivers 7 percent of the world cinema box-office and a fifth of the European box-office.

3D continues to account for a significant share of the box-office (21 percent) with a total of £235.8 million ($373.4 million) grossed by 45 feature film releases during 2011.