The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association has today given its public support to an open letter backed by a host of leading figures from the film and TV industry, calling on Government to ensure that Internet Service Providers play their part in tackling the problem of illegal online file-sharing.

The letter, published in The Times, reads as follows:

“We are a group of UK film and TV producers, directors and writers who have made some of the UK’s most innovative and distinctive moving pictures and television programming. Our output entertains millions of people, employs tens of thousands in the UK’s creative sector, attracts foreign direct investment, wins awards and creates billions in revenue.

We are very concerned that the successes of the creative industries in the UK are being undermined by the illegal online file-sharing of film and TV content. At a time when so many jobs are being lost in the wider economy, it is especially important that this issue be taken seriously by the Government and that it devotes the resources necessary to enforce the law.

In 2007, an estimated 98 million illegal downloads and streams of films took place in the UK, while it is believed that more than six million people illegally file-share regularly. In relation to illegal downloads of TV programmes, the UK is the world leader, with up to 25 per cent of all online TV piracy taking place in the UK. Popular shows are downloaded illegally hundreds of thousands of times per episode.

We are asking the Government to show its support by ensuring that internet service providers play their part in tackling this huge problem.  

The creative economy — of which film and television is part — comprises 7 per cent of the total economy, and is growing faster than any other sector. This is partly due to the ability of film and TV producers and their sponsors to continue contributing to the economy, creating jobs, generating tax revenue, and securing a return on the investments they make — all of which is now threatened by the widespread availability of illegal, free content.

Internet service providers have the ability to change the behaviour of those customers who illegally distribute content online. They have the power to make significant change and to prevent their infrastructure from being used on a wholesale scale for illegal activity. If they are not prepared to act responsibly, they should be compelled to do so.”

The full text of the letter, and a full list of signatories can be found on The Times website.

Offering the CEA’s full support to this request, Chief Executive Phil Clapp commented:

“Through their work in tackling the illegal recording of films in auditoriums, UK cinema operators are very much in the front line of efforts to combat film theft. They are therefore fully aware of the damage caused by illegal online file-sharing, and the threat that such activity poses to their businesses and the 15,000 people they employ, as well as to the future of the wider film industry.

For that reason they look to the Government to ensure that Internet Service Providers play their full part in tackling this problem.”