Istvan Szabo launches anti-piracy policy as President of FERA

By Laszlo Kriston

    Istvan Szabo, 70, has launched his presidency of the European film and television director's federation, FERA (Federation Europeenne des Realisateurs de l'Audiovisuel, www.ferainfo.org) by calling for strict European Union and national laws to crack down piracy rampant within the EU states, while also recognizing that the digital technology offers vast opportunities for filmmakers. The veteran Hungarian film director was recently appointed presidency at the Federation's assembly in Dublin.

    The EU's existing anti-piracy bill, passed in March, 2004, concerns itself with piracy in general, from counterfeit brand products to illegal computer software share, with film piracy being among them. In 2007, more than 2.5 billion movie files were downloaded through the internet, the Brussels-based Motion Picture Association (MPA) claimed in its recent findings. According to the 2005 estimates of MPAA (www.mpaa.org), a lobby group that represents the interests of the American film industry, the global film industry loses some $6.1 billion annually to worldwide piracy. By 2007, however, total losses amounted to $18.2 billion.

    Among legal experts and analysts there is no clear consensus whether P2P file sharing constitutes an act of piracy or legal private copying.

    Founded in 1980 in Venice, FERA gathers 32 member associations and national unions in 28 countries across Europe. Szabo was nominated for president by two Hungarian organizations. He replaces Liv Ullmann. Former presidents include Peter Fleischmann, Ettore Scola, Krzysztof Zanussi, Juan Antonio Bardem, and John Boorman.

    Oscar-recipient for Mephisto and Cannes-prize winner for Colonel Redl, Szabo was a founding vice president of the European Film Academy, along with then-president Ingmar Bergman and co-vice president Wim Wenders. He has served on its board ever since and coined the name of the Felix Prize (now European Film Awards), in memory of his master, film director Felix Mariassy.