Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Kuala Lumpur Digital Content Anti-Piracy Summit. My name is Louis Boswell and I am the CEO of the Asia Video Industry Association. We are the industry association that supports the growth and development of the professional video industry across Asia, supporting regulatory frameworks that allow our industry to survive and hopefully prosper in what are fascinating yet undoubtedly challenging times as technology turns traditional business models on their head.
With regard to the growth and the development of the video industry there is one existential threat that stands above all others: Video piracy, which is the subject of everything we will talk about today.
Let me start by talking about terminology. Piracy harks back to ships attacking and boarding other ships, killing the crew and stealing their goods. Piracy wasn’t nice. But today in the context of video piracy, the problem has become so ubiquitous – recent research shows one in four connected Malaysians owns an illicit streaming device to pirate video content – that the term piracy has lost its sting. So many people pirate that it’s no longer a dirty word. So let’s use a different word. It’s theft. There is no difference between walking into a shop and stealing a chocolate bar and streaming a stolen video service in your home. The only difference today is that for the stolen video, there is no shopkeeper, no security camera and the perpetrators very mistakenly view it as a victimless crime. Our goal is to move to a world where we eradicate the unfettered supply of stolen content.
And this is not theft by petty criminals. This is organised crime on a major scale, by syndicates who are making many many millions of dollars from expropriating other people’s content and in many cases using that money as part of an illegal business empire that supports other illegal internet based activities such as crime and pornography.
To date we have all looked at each other, shrugged and said that it is too difficult to deal with. That is nonsense. The problem has reached a size and scale that we have to say enough is enough. This form of theft is not a victimless crime. It is not just affecting big established video companies. It is affecting every aspect of the video ecosystem from the independent production companies, the start-ups that are dying or never being born to technology and service providers that are a part of the industry. Malaysia is a creative hub. I have had the privilege of working with FINAS on multiple occasions to foster and nurture independent film and documentary makers. There is content and innovation in Malaysia at all levels of the industry today that is being mauled by content theft.
Piracy in one shape or form has been with us for years and evolves as technology evolves. VHS copies gave way to VCDs which gave way to DVDs and today we live in a world where we have done away with the physical product altogether. The theft has become easier and less visible.
Yes laws and statutes may lag behind technology, but there is a huge amount that can be done while we debate the updating of IP and copyright laws.
I don’t want today to be merely a discussion forum. I don’t want to sit around and bemoan how content theft is decimating the creative industry in Malaysia and elsewhere. I want to call it out for what it is and suggest a course of action for reducing and one day eradicating the problem.
Anyone with an internet connection can access stolen content. But we don’t want enforcers to go after these individuals; we want to turn them into customers. So we have to stop stolen content being made available to consumers. And the way to do this is to put into place an effective dynamic administrative site blocking regime, one that has clear safeguards to ensure that it is only sites that infringe IP that are targeted, but one that is versatile, effective and can immediately respond when egregious piracy sites are identified.
As an industry we believe very strongly in innovation and we believe in an open internet. But we believe in the positive power of the internet to be responsible and ethical. The internet is not and cannot be a free for all. We act when there are sites that promote the most pernicious content – child pornography, terrorism, religious slander and things that endanger national security. We need to move to a world where we also act when people’s property is being stolen. Not to do so harms the entire entertainment ecosystem and we see innovative content distributors being destroyed by vicious competition from the content thieves. And because of this the party that ultimately is most harmed is the consumer themself.
And let’s be very clear. This problem will be solved. We are living through an era where we have not yet caught up with technology but we will. Theft on this scale is simply unsustainable, and country after country will put measures into place to curb this. It is happening already. There is a golden opportunity for Malaysia to be at the forefront of doing what is fair and proper. I know Malaysia will but there is now nothing to wait for. The time for change and for action is now.