Camera, Action, Copyright

June 2007


“It is not only about economics, it is about dreaming.” - Dr. Ajay Dua, Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Picking up the World IP Day theme, WIPO Magazine in this edition looks at creativity and copyright in the film industry. Here we set the scene for the three articles that follow, which include interviews with leading figures in the Indian and Nigerian film world, and a report on a new anti film piracy initiative which is making headlines in Malaysia.

As stars and hot-shot directors set the paparazzi spinning this month at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, the film industry appears as the very essence of glamor. The same could never be said of copyright. But beneath the glitz and the box office hits, a solid foundation of copyright and related rights is what allows movie-makers to earn a return on their investment, and enables the film industry to thrive.

And thrive it does. In India, the Rs. 85 billion (US$2 billion) film industry is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 16 percent for the next 5 years1. In the U.S., the motion picture and television industry provided jobs for more than 1.3 million people in 20052. South Korean blockbusters with ticket sales of over 10 million3 have fueled the explosion of “Kim Chic” popular culture in the region. Film production in Morocco and Iran is flourishing. The list goes on…

Films are highly collaborative works. In developing a film from original concept to final cut a filmmaker invests in the works of numerous other creators - scriptwriters, song writers and score composers, computer animation artists, set and costume designers, - and of course performers. Contractual agreements which define the ownership and use of the multiple creative inputs are necessary to protect the interests of all concerned, to avoid costly disputes, to facilitate financing and distribution, and to defend against illegal copying. 


There lies the rub. Dizzying advances in digital technology are proving both boon and bane to the film industry. While video did not kill the movies, as the film studios of the 1980s feared it would, (see Fifty Years of the Video Cassette Recorder, WIPO Magazine 2006/06), the massive scale of digital piracy today is widely perceived as the greatest single threat to those whose livelihoods depend on the industry. Technical protection mechanisms, such as digital rights management (DRM), have not proven a panacea, and industry groups in developed and developing countries alike are petitioning for tightened copyright legislation and for more effective enforcement mechanisms.  

One novel approach to enforcement, which the Malaysian government is pursuing in cooperation with the Motion Picture Association, is featured in our article, Hounding Out Piracy (page 10). Meanwhile, governments and industry associations continue to develop publicity campaigns, deploying different sorts of messages aimed at deterring consumers from buying pirated DVDs. The latest, multi-million pound anti-piracy initiative by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness Trust in the U.K., where almost one in three people are said to watch illegal content, marks a departure from previous messages that concentrated on enforcement and the criminal nature of those involved in piracy. Instead, the campaign aims to stigmatize the consumption of pirated goods by poking fun at “Knock-off Nigels” - the kind of individuals who avoid buying a round of drinks at the pub, give their girlfriend a fake watch, and buy pirate DVDs. 

Stakeholders speak

WIPO’s own public outreach activities in this area seek to let the creators and stakeholders speak for themselves. In the interviews that follow, an Indian film producer and a leading figure in the Nigerian film industry reinforce the message that, while IP helps encourage creativity, inadequate enforcement only discourages creators and undermines the economic potential of creative industries.

Related articles from previous issues of  WIPO Magazine:

  • Putting Africa on the Animation Map: The Story of Pictoon, Senegal,  September/October 2005
  •  Shakespeare Meets Bollywood in Delhi’s IP Drama, November/December 2005
  •  Argentina’s Flourishing Film Industry, May/June 2005


1. FICCI – PricewaterhouseCoopers Annual Report on Indian Entertainment and Media Industry 2007
2. MPAA 2006 Report, The Economic Impact of the Motion Picture and Television Production Industry on the United States
3. Korean Film Council, Summary of the Korean film industry in 2006

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.