FRAPA’s centrepiece event at mipformats in early April is based on the tried-and-tested principle that seeing is believing.
The Cannes workshop — How To Resolve Your Format Dispute — takes the form of a ‘mock’ mediation, drawing aside the veil of secrecy that cloaks format-dispute resolutions by acting out an arbitration process based on a real-life case.
The cast of actor-executives is led by FRAPA co-founder and reality pioneer David Lyle, who will play the part of host and ‘mediator in chief’, assisted by lawyer Sarah Theurich of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Arbitration and Mediation Center, the UN agency that is co-hosting the workshop. Playing disgruntled party number one will be GRUNDY Light Entertainment’s Jens Bujar and media lawyer Jonathan Coad of Lewis Silkin LLP. Arguing the case for the other side will be US producer Lincoln Hiatt of Genetic Entertainment and GRUNDY legal eagle Brigitte Joppich.
The workshop aims to highlight the value of mediation as a cost-effective and damage-limiting alternative to court litigation, which invariably disrupts schedules, budgets and business relationships. As Lyle put it: “There are three things about the law: it takes a long time, it’s expensive and nobody knows the outcome — except that one party will absolutely win and the other will absolutely lose. Another huge negative about the legal system is that once you’re in it, you’re a pawn at the mercy of a much bigger institution. You lose all control over your situation.”
Mediation, by contrast, “empowers both parties at all stages, is shorter and far less costly, and usually produces a commercial result in that both parties are satisfied and can continue to work together”.
Theurich points out that mediation also ticks a number of other boxes, including neutrality (parties can chose a mediator from third country, as well as a neutral venue), expertise (parties can opt for a mediator with specific knowledge of format disputes), confidentiality and the preservation of professional relationships and reputation.
The success of mediation does, however, rely on a willingness to co-operate. Both parties need to agree to the procedure — clearly unlikely if one side has acted in bad faith and is hoping to conceal the fact. Another drawback is that, when successful, mediation takes the form of a contract between the duelling parties. Such agreements are generally confidential and therefore do not create a public precedent.
But these are quibbles compared to the professional and personal disruption that inevitably accompanies a lawsuit. “Mediation helps to bring parties together to achieve a flexible and mutually satisfactory solution,” Theurich said.
Lyle added: “FRAPA is about the protection of formats. In the past, we’ve always aligned ourselves with the legal system, with good and bad results. The message we’re sending out at mipformats is that there is now a real alternative to the law — and one that, more often than not, leads to a clearer, fairer outcome.”
• How To Resolve Your Format Dispute starts at 15.10 in the Grand Auditorium of the Palais des Festivals.