Piracy Among Hot Topics Addressed at Australian International Movie Convention

Columbia Pictures
The local premiere of "Captain Phillips" opened the Australian International Movie Convention on Sunday.

According to arts minister George Brandis, copyright law and a review of production incentives are also pressing issues for the film industry.

SYDNEY – Australia’s major film exhibition and distribution confab, the Australian International Movie Convention, opened Monday with a keynote speech from the returning federal arts minister, Sen. George Brandis, that underlined the issues of copyright reform, piracy and ongoing support for both local and runaway production as key to the continued growth of the film sector here.

In his first major address to the industry since his party’s win in the Sept. 7 election, Brandis said that he would “reaffirm the government’s commitment to content industries, keep the thresholds of the offset under review and readdress policy covering copyright and piracy in light of technological advancements.”

Brandis is also the nation's attorney general, who last held the post of arts minister in 2007 and was one of the architects of the package of screen production incentives, which include the producer, location and post digital and visual effects offsets.  

He said that five years after introducing production incentives, they have “proved to be a highly successful stimulant for investment in Australian screen production. It has also served to attract a number of high-budget films to be made in Australia. The producer offset, for films with significant Australian content, has helped raise the finance for 115 Australian feature films since I introduced it in 2007. This equates to over $452 million Australian ($429 million) in support, which has over time increased the viability of screen businesses.”

However, recent times have not been without challenges, he said, “given the high value of the Australian dollar and an expanding number of tax breaks being offered in other countries and in many states in the United States.”

“During the election campaign I undertook to keep the thresholds of the offset under review and I reaffirm that commitment today,” he said.

And answering the content industry’s call for a new set of copyright laws “that work in the digital age,” he said that industry, as well as government, had to act effectively on the issue of piracy.

“In times of turbulent change, industry cannot rely solely on government to fix all the problems that arise,” he said. “Protection of copyright materials isn’t simply a matter of law or government intervention; it is importantly a matter of practice. You know better than I of the agility that modern successful businesses need, and I am pleased to say that you have been able to demonstrate.

“Australia already has a robust legal framework for the protection of copyright, but despite an extensive menu of criminal offenses applicable under copyright law, still the problems of piracy and unauthorized use remain,” Brandis said.  

“I understand that content industries are facing challenges at the business level. And that means we are all facing challenges at a policy level. The Internet has led to and continues to drive structural adjustments to content industries. New technologies are changing how governments should respond. Australia is not the only country facing these changes.

 “We are all awaiting the Australian Law Commission’s final report on copyright, which is to be provided to the government at the end of next month. The government will consider the commission’s findings and any recommendations carefully. But in considering those recommendations, I will bring to that consideration the views that I have expressed in this speech,” Brandis finished.

The 625 delegates at the convention, held on Queensland's Gold Coast, also will see a session on making Tracks, the upcoming adventure travel film starring Mia Wasikowska, based on the story of Robyn Davidson’s camel trek across Australia, with producer Emile Sherman and Davidson. Tracks had its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival over the weekend.

Distributors are previewing their 2014 films here for exhibitors, and delegates were treated to an advance screening of Tom Hanks-starrer Captain Phillips on Sunday. The annual box office achievement awards will be announced Tuesday.