Culture: Pirates have stolen my film

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The Independent Culture

What is the most ambitious public project ever undertaken? Creating the National Health Service? Putting a man on the moon? Building the Channel Tunnel? All of these are child's play compared with a joint initiative that has just been unveiled by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPA) and the UK Film Council. It is their aim to make London completely free of film piracy by 2012.

Of course, they cannot possibly hope to achieve this. According to Callum McDougall, the executive producer of the most recent Bond movie, Quantum of Solace (pictured), copyright theft cost the British film industry £486m in lost revenues last year. Yet precisely because it drains such a huge amount of money out of the industry, something needs to be done about it.

"If we don't get it under control, piracy is going to kill the film industry," says John Woodward, the chief executive of the UK Film Council.

Part of the problem is that people who buy bootleg DVDs don't think of it as wrong. On the contrary, there is still something "cool" about it, as though they are part of some hip, underground sub-culture.

In fact, the Eastern European girl offering you a pirate copy of The Dark Knight in your local pub is, more often than not, a member of a criminal gang that is also involved in people-trafficking and money-laundering. If the existence of apartheid was sufficient to stop people buying Cape oranges, they ought to be equally circumspect about purchasing bootleg DVDs.

I know from personal experience just how prevalent film piracy is. Earlier this year, I co-produced a movie called How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and scarcely a day passes without some website offering people the opportunity to download it for free. Like many people involved in the film, I'm a net-profit participant, which means I'm counting on it doing well on DVD. But why would anyone buy it when it's available on the internet for nothing?

The UK Film Council and MPA's joint initiative may be ludicrously ambitious, but it deserves our support. Otherwise, the money that ought to be keeping afloat the British film industry will be diverted into the pockets of the sort of people we ought to be making films about.