Magazine article Variety

Confab Challenges Status Quo

Magazine article Variety

Confab Challenges Status Quo

Article excerpt

The launch of Netflix has prompted French industryites and lawmakers to think harder about solutions to modernize the country's digital landscape. So it's no coincidence that the annual Rencontres Cinématographiques de Düon, a threeday confab Oct. 16-18 hosted by ARP (the guild of authors, directors and producers), will debate long-gestating yet pressing issues, such as piracy, tax regulations, investment quotas and the sacrosanct window release schedule.

A couple of years ago, Francois Hollander government appointed Pascal Lescure to lead a vast industry mission to amend Hadopi, the anti-piracy law implemented by former president Nicolas Sarkozy. But since releasing his report in May, nothing has been done with regards to piracy.

While Hadopi hasn't been scrapped, its one sanction, which suspended offenders' Internet subscriptions after three warnings, was removed in July.

"Piracy is (thriving) in France and the fact that the government has not been punishing it more severely for the last two years is definitely feeding the beast," says Vincent Grimond, president and co-founder of Wild Bunch, which owns FilmoTV, France's first SVOD service.

Meanwhile, local VOD outfits have been plagued by the proliferation of Popcorn Time, a free, open-source app available for Windows, Mac and Linux, that lets users stream the latest movies in high resolution. It has been deemed illegal pretty much everywhere in the world, including France, and has had to move its servers a couple of times.

"Popcorn Time is a business killer for everyone involved in VOD," Grimond says. "It's got a terrific catalog, subtitles in nearly every language and it's untraceable."

The strict window release schedule is another obstacle to fighting piracy in France. Movies can't get on VOD services earlier than four to six months after the theatrical release, and have to wait 36 months to roll on SVOD. Discussions to bring the SVOD window down to 22 months have stalled due to the fierce opposition of exhibitors and TV groups such as Canal Plus that invest in films and are therefore entitled to a window of exclusivity 10 months after the theatrical release.

"These VOD windows are the Guantanamo of movies," says Pascal Rogard, managing director of the Society of Authors, Composers and Directors. Rogard says he has submitted to the government a proposal to allow Canal Plus to show movies six months after their theatrical rollout. …

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