Charlie Rivkin Remarks for Cannes Film Festival 2023 ARCOM-CNC Piracy Event
Plage du Gray d’Albion, May 20, 2023
“Engagements et actions pour défendre la création et lutter contre le piratage”
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin
Merci, Dominique, pour cette chaleureuse introduction. Et merci à toute l’équipe du CNC pour le travail que vous faites pour promouvoir l’art cinématographique et l’industrie audiovisuelle en France. Permettez-moi également de remercier Denis Rapone et l’ARCOM de m’avoir invité à l’événement important d’aujourd’hui.
Mesdames et Messieurs, bon après-midi. Comme Dominique l’a mentionné, je suis Charles Rivkin, PDG de la Motion Picture Association, et c’est toujours un plaisir pour moi de revenir à Cannes. Depuis 76 ans, Cannes est un des festivals du cinéma les plus emblématiques du monde. Cette année, une fois de plus, les créateurs émergents sont là, apportant des nouvelles idées passionnantes au grand écran. Et les créateurs établis reviennent pour partager leurs visions innovantes sur l’avenir du cinéma.
I’m excited to see such a rich and diverse range of filmmakers at Cannes this year. We’re hearing from moviemaking legends like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Catherine Breillat, Wim Wenders, and Hirokazu Koreeda. And newcomers Ramata-Toulaye Sy and Kaouther Ben Hania are competing for the Palme D’Or.
As Mr. Scorsese once famously said, “movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision. They take us to other places. They open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime. We need to keep them alive.”
He’s right – we need to keep cinema alive. The responsibility falls on all of us here today, and cinema-lovers everywhere. And I’m proud to lead an association that, for more than 100 years, has worked to do just that – in large part by protecting films – and TV shows from the constantly evolving threat of piracy.
Like any other multibillion-dollar enterprise, piracy is global, it’s digital, and it’s well organized. But what concerns me most is that fact that illegal websites and streaming subscription services, financed by notorious organized crime rings and run by operators all around the world, pose an existential threat to cinema and to our industry. It’s a bold claim, I know. But I make it with confidence because I have seen what we are up against.
Once upon a time, illegal streaming websites were clunky and slow and difficult for non-expert users to navigate. Those days are gone. Today, they are sophisticated in terms of their setup and their user interface. Many illegal streaming services come with subscriptions priced competitively with legitimate services, offering Live and catch-up TV, pre-release, and post-release films (and television shows), live sports content – the full array. And it’s often beautifully presented, with state-of-the-art navigation.
The people behind many these operations, however, are real-life mobsters. Their piracy is often folded into other illegal activities like gambling, money laundering, tax evasion, narcotics and human trafficking, and prostitution.
They’re sophisticated and nimble and are “stream-ripping” content with extraordinary speed and quality, and then making it immediately available to the entire world. Many are career criminals, so they are elusive too, with extensive operations spread across many countries … hosting servers in one country, and distribution networks in another … sometimes with rogue intermediaries in additional countries.
It is clear that allowing the business of piracy to go unchecked harms both local and international audiovisual works and legitimate businesses. It destroys jobs, undermines investment, reduces government revenues and stifles creativity.
And as we know, digital piracy recognizes no national border. Pirate operators in North Africa, for example, reach massive audiences and threaten local businesses right here in France. Halfway around the world, we’re targeting piracy sites being run out of Vietnam that profit off consumers in the United States.
This global threat demands a global response … That’s where the MPA comes into the story.
And so today, I’d like to update you all on the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, or ACE. This is the name of the global anti-piracy coalition the MPA launched in 2017. Over the past six years, I’m proud to say ACE’s membership has exploded, from its original eight members to 53 today – media and entertainment companies from every major market in the world, including Canal+ and France Télévisions right here in France.
Every new member strengthens and expands our network. Each one of them gives ACE powerful new tools and partners that make us more effective and better equipped to tackle this looming menace.
The MPA also remains an active member of ALPA, led by my friend Nicolas Seydoux, which does essential work on site blocking and other critical issues in France. I am grateful for ALPA’s innovative work to extend site blocking to pirate cyberlockers, which act as content warehouses for illegal streaming services. ACE works in close coordination with ALPA to complement their work on the international side, by shutting down illegal services that target the French market from outside the country.
Together, we collaborate with France’s audiovisual and digital regulator, ARCOM, which is instrumental to our mission. ARCOM’s pioneering work to ensure real-time action against piracy of live events, like football matches and concerts, is starting to have an impact in the market. We hope that, even as ARCOM continues to refine its efforts, the French government will strongly encourage other EU jurisdictions to adopt stronger anti-piracy policies and infrastructure to deal with many critical challenges.
Our team is made up of more than 100 top-of-the-line professionals. They specialize in everything from high-tech surveillance and investigating to cybersecurity. They work with international organizations like Interpol and Europol – and a vast network of local law enforcement – around the world … This unprecedented network has the sophistication, the capabilities, and the resources to take on the full supply chain of pirated content.
And today, I can report that ACE, working with these partners and others, is having a real-world impact – in France, across Europe and around the globe.
Late last year, for example, we worked with Canal+ to shut down Tirexo and Zone-Telechargement. Those were two of the largest piracy services operated out of North Africa, with combined traffic reaching more than 31 million monthly visits, mainly from France and French-speaking countries.
Working again with Canal+, we shut down France’s second-most popular illegal streaming and direct download site, Extreme-down.
More recently, we worked with law enforcement partners to shut down the three biggest piracy rings in the Middle East-North Africa region and Arabic-speaking countries globally – EgyBest, MyCima and Shahed4U. I should note, Shahed4U alone had 155 million monthly visits.
We worked with Constantin Film in Germany to shut down Streamzz, an illegal file-hosting service that logged more than 7 million monthly visits across the United States and Europe. Over in Spain, we recently shut down two popular sites, HD-Spain and Pixelados.
And just this week, we announced the successful take-down of Spain’s largest piracy site, Atomo-HD, which drew almost 10 million monthly visits from across Europe and the United States.
Before we put them out of business, these illegal sites had offered their subscribers massive libraries of TV series and movies stolen from ACE members. Those libraries are now closed.
Still, despite our successes, we have no illusions about the scope and the severity of the ongoing threat that piracy poses.
We are watching several disturbing new trends emerge, as these criminals find new ways to exploit their users.
For example, pirate applications for illegal streaming subscription services often ask consumers to provide credit card details and pair their IPTV boxes with other devices, such as a smartphone or laptop. That makes the second device vulnerable to hackers through malicious advertising and malware.
Even more alarming – anyone can buy the software to do all this stuff online from third parties – Europol refers to those enabling businesses as “piracy as a service” and “malware as a service.” These tools, I’m sorry to say, are lowering the barriers to entry for aspiring online criminals.
More broadly, we know that, for ACE to have a meaningful impact, many things must continue to fall into place. This includes working with governments around the world to expand our pirate site-blocking efforts. And educating consumers to better understand how piracy harms them directly.
On that last point, we have supported several wide-scale public education campaigns here in Europe that help us achieve our shared goals.
The message in these campaigns is clear: making movies requires the work of millions of people, from the acclaimed directors and actors to crew members working behind the camera. To respect these people and show how much we value their work, we must reject the piracy enterprises that threaten their livelihood.
Consumers, of course, watch more than movies and TV series. They also watch live sports, which is one of the fastest-growing areas of digital piracy.
That’s why ACE created a live-sports tier last year – to address this threat. And just last week, as you may have heard, we proudly welcomed DAZN, one of the world’s leading live-sports streaming services, as ACE’s 53rd member.
At the same time, we launched the ACE Sports Piracy Task Force, to expand ACE’s efforts to disrupt sports piracy operations and shut them down.
We are already making some progress on this front – last November, ACE shut down a huge Morocco-based operation, just days before the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, the biggest global sports event of 2022.
I think you get the picture. Like the Academy Award-winning film, ACE works hard to be everything, everywhere, all at once!
Speaking of blockbuster hits, just two days ago at Cannes, we got to see the world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – the fifth and final film in the iconic Indiana Jones franchise.
The screening – and the lengthy ovation afterward – made me think, of course, about George Lucas, creator of the franchise and one of this film’s executive producers, who has been warning us all to take piracy seriously for years.
A visionary filmmaker, he once “begged for cooperation” among everyone in the creative community, including tech and media companies, to stop piracy.
“There are unintended consequences of piracy,” he warned. “If piracy is not stopped, the rainforest of the entertainment ecosystem will collapse.”
Je suis entièrement d’accord! Et c’est cette réalité, exprimée avec tant d’éloquence par George Lucas, qui pousse mon équipe, chaque jour, à construire un monde meilleur pour les cinéastes – un monde qui encourage l’avenir de la créativité, et même la vie des créateurs, en protégeant les films fantastiques qu’ils produisent aujourd’hui.
And now it’s my pleasure to hand the stage back over to Dominique. Let me just say once again, on behalf of the Motion Picture Association, what a pleasure it is to work with you and your team at the CNC.