Digital future for the entertainment industry: Global Opportunities and Challenges

Digital future for the entertainment industry: Global Opportunities and Challenges

Nirav Bhatt is an LLM candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

On Thursday, March 4, IP Osgoode hosted a talk by Frances Seghers, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Government Affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment.  Her talk was a guest lecture in Barry Sookman’s intellectual property law class. Frances began the lecture by explaining a little bit about the work that she does and then moved on to a discussion of international copyright.

Frances stressed that Canada was running behind in copyright protection as it did not implement and ratify the WIPO Copyright Treaty to which most of the other developed nations are signatories, leaving Canada out as the only developed country. Frances said that to create a major studio motion picture, there are hundreds of people involved, which includes those working on the sets (for whom it was often normal to go for months between jobs). Also, when revenues start to come in for a movie, there are various costs which need to be recovered and only two-tenths recoup their costs out of the money that is earned from the theatres.

Later in the discussion, a short documentary portraying the efforts behind the making of the movie “Angels and Demons” was shown. Frances said that due to certain issues the movie couldn’t be filmed in the Vatican, so the makers had constructed the sets of Vatican in a land area of thirty five acres. It took ten months to make the sets of the movie in Inglewood, California. The labour involved many sculptors, artists and painters, costumes, hair and make up artists to make it look extravagant. There was lots of work and investment which involved time, effort and money.

In such circumstances, Frances emphasized the need for effective copyright laws.  She noted the importance of changing business models as well.  For example, when you purchase a movie in Blu-Ray format, the package now often comes with two discs (including one that allows you copy it to your computer).  There are online websites like Hulu.  One current project involving fifty one major companies and five of the six major studios involves having back end service providers through which consumers can register all their devices (including their family members’ devices).

The talk was followed by a question and answer session, where dozens of hands went up in the audience.  This is a topic that is being a hotly debated from the perspective of Canadian copyright law and its effect on the business between Canada and its largest trading partners.  

A video recording of this guest lecture is archived on the IP Osgoode website here.