In the kiosks
Issaad Younis, the CEO of Arabia Cinema, says a host of factors contribute to the industry’s crisis, not least of which was stealing films and Internet piracy. She said films were frequently stolen from cinemas a few days after screening.
In one case, Ms Younis says, a film was stolen and aired on the web the day it was first screened. “It was downloaded 500,000 times in no more than 24 hours.”
Facebook is among the piracy venues, since users put links to download films. “Although we manage to recognise the pirates,” Ms Younis says, “We are unable to catch them given the absence of cooperation on the part of all the parties concerned, public and private alike. A recently-screened film is now available in kiosks, and even State-owned petrol stations.” She says the government falls short of assuming its role regarding the combat of the illegal trading of films.
She hopes Egyptians will stand up to piracy, and says that the government should follow in the footsteps of their British counterparts and raise people’s awareness of the harm of piracy on the future of the Egyptian film industry.
Ink on paper
Hussein Amin, professor of journalism at the American University in Cairo. says that in Egypt piracy of films and audio-visual works in general accounts for more than 40 per cent of the works on the market. When it comes to Microsoft products the proportion rises to 63 per cent. Dr Amin regrets that the anti-piracy law remains just ink on paper. “Intellectual property infringements should be combated and violators should be tried. Arab countries have to cooperate in protecting intellectual property and artists’ rights. Because piracy eats into the profits, it contributes to the financial crisis facing the film industry,” he says.
Eyad Labib, the CEO of Brainwaves, stresses that film piracy poses a major threat to the industry. “Producers have become much more hesitant before taking a decision to produce a film, since piracy places their earnings in jeopardy,” he says. “Similar to the situation in advanced countries, rules should be set in Egypt to limit piracy and enhance our status among the world’s cinema producers.”
Mr Labib calls for putting watermarks on all visual works and enhancing security measures in places where stealing films is frequent.
Yet piracy is not the only—even if a major—obstacle shackling the Egyptian film industry. According to Ms Younis, backward and ultra-conservative ideas pose a major obstacle to creativity, and impose a plethora of restrictions on filmmakers. “The media should allow room for expressing different ideas, including those breaking with mainstream culture,” she says. “Diversity of ideas is pivotal if Egyptian cinema and TV production are to improve. Film makers should be free to make works that express various perceptions and thoughts, without being branded as immoral or deviant.”