David Puttnam: 'The film industry must embrace digital technology'

From a speech by the film-maker to the Cass Business School at London's City University

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Digital technology offers a huge opportunity for the film industry, but the current trend of treating it as a threat could hasten the demise of parts of the industry.

Digital technology offers a huge opportunity for the film industry, but the current trend of treating it as a threat could hasten the demise of parts of the industry.

The music industry handled the rise in digital technology with a head-in-the-sand approach that has meant there are very few processes in place to deal with the proliferation of the illegal distribution of digital music over the internet. Because of this, the film industry has been very wary about digital technology, meaning it could share a similar fate if appropriate action is not taken.

One of the lessons of digital technology is this; once the genie is out of the bottle, no matter how hard you try, you can't get it to go back in. You can hire the most expensive lawyers, you can create the best anti-copying mechanisms you can lay your hands on, but the choice and flexibility offered by digital technology are simply too attractive to consumers. If people want something badly enough, digital technology enables them to get it - legally or illegally.

The solution is for a sustainable business model to emerge which offers consumers the range of products they want, at a price they find attractive. Illegal copying of files will never be eliminated, but the economic damage inflicted on the industry can surely be drastically curtailed if, and only if, the film industry chooses to face up to the challenge head-on, rather than seeking to bury its head in the sand, as much of the music industry did when first faced with the challenges posed by Napster.

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