Callum McDougall on DVD piracy

Yo ho ho, and a bottle of… - no, not that sort of piracy.

Callum McDougall, executive producer of the recent (frustratingly non-sci-fi) James Bond blockbuster Quantum of Solace last week warned that the British film industry is at risk if the sale of knock-off DVDs continues growing at current levels.

"In the UK, we are often referred to as a cottage industry - and I just think this is a total misconception," said McDougall. "Three out of the four Indiana Jones films and 20 out of 22 of the James Bond films were made in the UK with British studios, facilities, crew and talent." 33,500 people were directly employed in 2006 and a further 60,000 jobs were supported by the wider UK film industry - which contributed over £4.3 billion to the UK income and over £1.1 billion to the Exchequer. Which is nice. So what's bothering him? The negative impact of people purchasing fake DVDs or downloading films, that's what.

He was talking at the Industry Trust for IP Awareness' Annual General Meeting. He continued: "Films like Bond fund training schemes for film technicians of the future, and working on films themselves provides a great training ground for budding directors and cinematographers... [but] if there's no money there for films to be made, it's like a house of cards, it all comes tumbling down."

He was supported by Liz Bales, Director General of the Industry Trust, who highlighted the progress made in tackling the problem with the Knock-Off Nigel campaign. However, the sale of counterfeit DVDs is still a problem.

She said: "Elements of the British audio visual industry have experienced continued success in 2008 with both DVD sales and cinema admissions up… But one in three people were involved in a form of copyright theft last year." It was also stated that one in three people (the same one?!) don't know what copyright is at all, and so the Copyright Clinic site was launched. It's an interactive video library, featuring short clips that address common questions about copyright, from how to copyright your ideas to whether uploading is legal. Take a look and tell us what you think.

The Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness was established in 2004 to look at copyright theft in the UK. Today it has 30 members including Film and TV distributors, cinemas, DVD retailers and home entertainment rental companies. It works with the industry's anti-piracy body, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) to help prevent copyright crimes. Knocked off DVDs are among various copyright crimes that are increasingly considered a threat to the UK economy as a whole, we're told, due to the effect on the creative industries. Here are some facts from these guys:

  • Few blockbusters cover their production costs at the box office, so DVD sales become crucial. Buying a counterfeit DVD means the people that make the films don't get paid the royalties that form their income.
  • There is a misconception that it costs pennies to create a DVD, because the cost to simply press the disc doesn't take account of the cost of making the content - which frequently requires a multi-million pound investment. The average cost of producing a studio film is more than $65.8million and this needs to be recouped somehow.
  • Film theft is said to amount to nearly £500m of losses for the film industry in 2007 - so they're less likely to gamble on high-risk creative projects in future. 1,000 jobs across the retail, rental and production sector were reportedly lost to film theft in 2007.
  • The PR is working, apparently: 67% of people consider buying knock-off films as 'cheapskate' and 'downmarket' – "it is fast becoming socially unacceptable," we're told.
  • Physical knock-off DVDs are usually poor quality as 90% come from a camcorded source.

So there you go. Any thoughts on this? Perhaps you work in the film industry and have a strong opinion on these figures or on the work of FACT? Feel free to share in the comment thread below.