UNITY is strength in the IP protection game — and it is this truth that lies behind a new co-operation between FRAPA and PACT, the UK trade association that represents and promotes the commercial interests of independent feature film, television, digital, children’s and animation companies.
“IP is at the heart of our members’ success,” says Dawn McCarthy-Simpson, PACT’s senior policy executive. “So working with other organisations such as FRAPA gives us more confidence that, together, we can reduce the risks for those who are developing TV formats, thus strengthening the protection of formats under law.”
UK producers accounted for 52% of all format hours sold globally in 2010 — a statistic that is reflected in PACT’s 450-strong membership, which includes several of the country’s most successful format shops. “We are finding that more of our members are beginning to invest in their development teams and hire more experienced format execs,” McCarthy-Simpson adds. “I expect this to be a growing area for our industry.”
PACT sees the core of its business as “protecting IP ownership”, but translating that statement into action is far more than a legal challenge. It also involves a change in mindset and modus operandi. “As well as tacking IP theft, policy-makers need to consider ways to take advantage of the opportunities presented by digital technologies to maximise competition and innovation in how content is made available to the public,” McCarthy-Simpson says. “Offering content to consumers quickly and conveniently is important as a way to remove the incentive for the public to engage, knowingly or otherwise, in illegal downloading.”
She adds: “But it’s far more than this: genuine competition in how IP rights are exploited is crucial in positioning the UK as a leading content hub in the digital age, driving innovation in how content is delivered to the public.”
With pressure mounting on UK indies — broadcaster budgets have fallen by around 25% since 2007 — PACT’s work in exploring new opportunities for its members has never been more valuable. These prospects range from the geographical (“We are looking at untapped territories, with the aim of becoming the world leaders in exporting content and formats…”) to the legislative (“It’s important we continue to see the introduction of new industry-acceptable practices and define a code of conduct for fair competition in the digital world…”).
Formats represent another area of opportunity. But, as McCarthy-Simpson points out, the volcanic growth of the global, digitalised formats market comes with risks as well as rewards. “Increased audience penetration, growth in the number of television channels and an increase in channel subscriptions opens up many more opportunities for our industry, but is also becomes harder to protect our IP from illegal use,” she says. “So it’s more important than ever to support the protection of the global format trade by all means possible.”