U.K. Piracy Fight Aims at Educating a Younger Demographic

Summit Entertainment
"The Hurt Locker"

The Industry Trust says there's been a "big spike" in pirated consumption among 11 and 12-year-olds.

LONDON – The fight against piracy in the U.K. has become more about persuasion and less about punishment and trying to change behavior. And it's having to target an even younger demographic.

That's the message from the Industry Trust, the U.K. film and TV industry body backed by everyone from the U.S. studios to retailers and TV banners, set up to look after copyright issues and fight piracy.

At a piracy and distribution workshop hosted by the Industry Trust during this year's BFI London Film Festival, a high profile panel of industry reps and commentators discussed the role web search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, play in pushing consumers towards pirated material, the need to educate a generation of movie and TV consumers and the hope that changing habits will reduce piracy.

According to figures presented by the Trust, 40 percent of those infringing copyright are not even aware that the sites they are being led to via search engines are illegal.

Kicking off the discussion and debate, Industry Trust for IP Awareness director general Liz Bales said that over the last few years the industry body has seen a "big spike" in pirated consumption among the 11- to 12-year-old demographic.

Bales said the days of trying to scare people off from illegal downloads or buying pirated goods is less relevant as a generation grows up in a digital online age.

"What we are trying to do now is to inspire people to consume it [content] through legal providers. It's all about directing them where to go and create that kind of behavior."

Bales noted that in her eight years of overseeing the Industry Trust fight, piracy was a matter of "habitual behavior" and that concentrating on changing consumer habit via gentle persuasion rather than scare tactics was almost certainly more appropriate, especially among younger demographics.

She also noted that while often genre-led, titles such as Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was one of the most heavily pirated releases in 2009 because it wasn't as widely distributed as the public's appetite wanted.

The panel also discussed the role of web search engine powerhouses, with Google at the heart of the debate.

"We hope the changes they made to the algorithm will begin to take effect and make an impact," Bales said.

There was also frustration in the room that the much-vaunted Digital Economy Act, a piece of British legislation that is currently languishing in the Treasury government department and has several legal sanctions and measures to combat copyright infringement in the digital age, remains shelved as the coalition government shows no appetite to enact it and make it part of the British legal landscape.

But the soft approach to educating children was highlighted with the debut of a short film made for the upcoming National Youth Film Festival for schools and youth groups to point them in the right direction.

It shows two Muppet-like characters talking as the older one watches Fast and Furious 6 on a laptop "that he's streaming".

The smaller, younger puppet suggests that it might be an idea to pay for the film because without the money, there would be no "awesome" special effects and bits of flying debris.

He also suggests that the "seven quid" ($11) that the older puppet thinks would make no difference might pay for at least one of Vin Diesel's socks.

The humorous exchange aims to highlight that if people stop paying for content, then the content will no longer be made.