Charles Rivkin Remarks for Austrian EU Presidency Conference
Remarks As Prepared For Delivery
Thank you for that introduction, Sebastian.
I’m honored and delighted to address all of you today and let me take a moment to thank Minister Gernot Bluemel, and Director General Alexander Schallenberg, for organizing this crucial event amid their demanding duties on behalf of the EU Presidency.
Before I begin, I would like to say, I cherish any opportunity to return to Europe, a place that has been so influential in almost every chapter of my life and remains in my heart every day.
As a child, I lived in Luxembourg when my father served as US Ambassador. And as a highschool student, I came to France to study the language and culture.
I lived with a host family in Brittany, and I travelled across the French heartland – which they call La France Profonde – where I had the chance to meet real people and experience the culture firsthand.
Years later, I was proud to serve as US Ambassador in France, where I made a point of visiting all 22 regions that existed in the country at that time.
Four and a half years later, when I was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, I headed a bureau that played a key role in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.
This gave me the opportunity to spend time in virtually every European country and to appreciate their individual cultures.
As Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, I am not only delighted to return to the creative industry where I spent two decades running production companies, but to visit Europe frequently.
I learn a great deal by engaging with legislators and opinion makers about the rights of creators, or attending film festivals where so many great stories from around the world are showcased.
And of course our members have been part of European production and distribution since the days of silent film.
Not only do we come here to shoot films like A Star is Born, Christopher Robin, and Mission Impossible: Fallout; we are equally proud to co-produce and distribute European films. Last year’s award-winning German film Aus Dem Nichts, for example, was co-produced by Warner Bros. and earned Best Actress honors for Diane Kruger at Cannes.
It is a privilege to contribute, through projects like that, to a thriving European film and television ecosystem.
As I flew into Vienna, I thought: where better to discuss the challenges that the creative sectors and society face than the land of Mozart, Schiele, and pioneers of the human psyche like Dr. Sigmund Freud?
In fact, Dr. Freud said two things that, for me, underscore a couple of pertinent points about today’s discussion.
“Everywhere I go,” he said, “I find that a poet has been there before me.”
Whatever aspect of the human psyche he explored, it seems, artists had touched upon similar themes. All of them working to gain deeper insights into the human condition. All of them, ultimately, helping us to better understand human life, and by extension, our societies and our civilization.
The second thing Freud said was: “The first requisite of civilization is justice.”
Where better to talk about civilization and justice than Vienna, which is considered one of the world’s most livable cities? In addition to its rich and vibrant history and culture, Vienna is also defined by its civic atmosphere, an efficient public transport, clean air, well organized city management, affordable housing, and the rule of law in the truest European sense.
It is, in effect, a well-functioning ecosystem – a critically interdependent framework that we think of as civilization.
Today, I want to address one of the most vibrant and interconnected ecosystems in human history. That, of course, is the internet, or more widely, cyberspace.
But as we meet today, the rules of interdependence that bring life and vibrancy and safety to any healthy ecosystem is in serious jeopardy across our online world.
We wake up every day to new revelations about election meddling, terrorist content, counterfeit drugs, child pornography, and a primary concern for my industry and all creative industries – online piracy. And while some of these ills are clearly more dangerous than others, they are all part of a continuum of harm that is threatening to engulf the freedoms that we treasure most about the internet.
If there is one thread common to all these problems, it is a lack of accountability, especially on some of the major online platforms where so many illegal and harmful activities are taking place.
That is why, today, I am calling upon the platforms to do more to mitigate the harms they are enabling – wittingly or unwittingly.
Or perhaps it is more accurate for me to say, here in Europe, that I am joining you in calling for accountability. Because in many ways, Europe has led the way in recognizing the urgency of online accountability.
In the physical world, governments in my country, Europe, and around the world hold companies to higher standards. If the businesses they run, the services they offer, or the products they sell harm us as consumers—even indirectly—they are morally and even legally obligated to address the issue.
There is nothing extraordinary about this: we call it the rule of law.
When I was Ambassador in France, this was brought home powerfully to me, particularly in the context of safeguarding our creative works.
In 2011, U.S. law enforcement authorities learned that a French painting being offered in a New York auction house had previously been stolen.
Working with the French Government, the authorities helped return this painting to its rightful owners: the Malraux Museum in Le Havre, from whom it had been stolen in 1973.
I had the honor of presenting the Degas painting entitled ‘Blanchisseuses souffrant des dents” to Edouard Philippe, who was mayor of Le Havre at the time, and who is now the Prime Minister of France.
This episode was a great example of how – on both sides of the Atlantic – we not only respect creativity, we can work together to protect creativity. But it also brings into focus the disconnect between the rule of law in the physical world and the rule of law online.
In the physical world, we can return a stolen painting to its owners. But online, bad actors continue to plunder, steal and misappropriate at will. They hide behind false identities, disappearing into the safe shadows of anonymity.
The internet has become too integral and powerful in our lives to continue believing that there is – somehow – a moral line separating it from the norms of every other part of our society.
It is time for accountability – something that has been the watchword of my industry for many years.
Long before the era of digital transformation, the MPAA and our studios recognized that we needed our own accountability to our audiences, and we needed to be transparent about the content that is being shown in our movies.
50 years later, the MPAA’s movie rating system continues to provide parents in the United States with clear guidelines and transparent rules to help them evaluate whether or not a movie is suitable for their children.
As consumers’ digital viewing choices have shifted, we have adapted accordingly. We’re less a motion picture association than we are a content creation association.
Our six member-companies are active players in the streaming content market.
The content that we produce is available on more than 450 legal online distribution services worldwide. And we announce innovative new deals all the time.
For example, Disney is launching an exciting new streaming service next year. Comcast is making Amazon Prime Video available on its X1 home entertainment platform. And several of the studios that I represent are backing a new mobile-first video service called NewTV.
But we have not let these advances in technology, or the way that consumers get their entertainment, news and other information, cloud the values that have been close to our hearts for generations …
And that is the well-being and interests of our consumers, on whatever screen hovers before them.
Accountability was as valid in the days of Fred Astaire as it is now, in the time of artificial intelligence.
Our members are increasingly platform companies, but they have gone into the online world with a clear sense of accountability to their audiences. They embrace that accountability as part of what distinguishes them in the marketplace.
That is why we were happy to see that the European Parliament has taken steps to secure the protection of minors in the context of online video platforms.
There were many disagreements about other aspects of that legislation, but I think most of us find it easy to agree on the importance of protecting children.
Much thought is being given, on both sides of the Atlantic, to possible legislative solutions to other issues. Those are important conversations.
But we should also be open to the possibility that some of our problems can be solved without additional legislation.
Some of our problems simply require that we show the kind of commitment to the rule of law you find here in Vienna.
To some extent the litany of problems I mentioned earlier come from the non-implementation and inaccurate application of already existing rule of law frameworks.
For example, in the EU, according to the E-Commerce Directive, everyone who does business online must identify themselves. Every respectable company complies with that.
And yet, despite existing EU norms on the internet, anonymous con artists continue to peddle pornography, pills, scams, fakes, and – yes – pirated films.
We don’t need a new law to fix an existing one. We simply need better implementation.
The more that governments demonstrate zero tolerance for such practices … and the more that online intermediaries support them … the sooner we can start to see a new culture of accountability.
But even as my industry and so many others call for accountability, we are not, in any way, shape or form, asking for censorship.
I find it important to say this because, in the summer and the fall, the European legislators took two key votes that touched upon copyright.
This prompted those voices resisting accountability to cloud the public discourse with disingenuous arguments: that copyright protection equals censorship.
But we were heartened to see that, in the end, a majority of EU legislators did not succumb to that false equivalence.
The legislation surrounding that vote still needs much more work but, for now, we are grateful that the EU Parliament recognizes that copyright is crucial to all creative industries.
When we look past the smokescreen of well-funded Twitter campaigns, we see an even bigger threat and worry for our sector – and that is piracy.
This pervasive and sophisticated black market doesn’t just hurt my industry. It robs everyone in the value chain and poses a security risk to the audiences and consumers we are here to serve.
Across the world, large-scale, sophisticated, illicit enterprises continue to generate significant revenue for their perpetrators.
But they also cost millions of jobs. In Europe alone, piracy threatens the viability of 12 million jobs as well as the network of local, small businesses that service the industry.
Piracy preys on consumers too. According to a study by Risk IQ and the Digital Citizens Alliance, which has been borne out by other research, including from the European Union Intellectual Property Office, one third of pirate sites also contain malware, which is often used for identity theft and other nefarious schemes.
Pirate sites also sell advertisements alongside stolen creative works. Digital Citizens Alliance found that a sample of the most popular pirate sites generated, “an estimated $209 million in aggregate annual revenue from advertising alone.”
Illegal downloading is widespread. In 2017, according to Mark Monitor data, 9.4 billion pirated movies and TV shows were downloaded worldwide using peer-to-peer protocols alone, – and that doesn’t include other sources like streaming and downloading sites.
In Spain, for example, 33 percent of consumers accessed pirated films in 2017, and there were 4 billion illegal content views across all copyrighted content, resulting in lost revenues of more than 1.8 billion euros. And in Italy, 37 percent of internet users have pirated at least once in 2017, and movies are 81 percent of pirated content.
My industry is committed to addressing piracy in all its forms. We have, for example, created a partnership called the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, or ACE.
This brings together 30 leading content companies, including the six MPAA studios, Netflix and Amazon, as well as Constantin Film, Canal Plus and Sky, among many others, all focused on accountability and solutions.
We are particularly honored to call Amazon, one of the biggest and most important of the internet platforms, a partner in this initiative. And we are grateful that they have put proactive programs into place that protect trademarks and help curb counterfeiting.
At the European and Member State level, we are working with allies from the European industry. Today for example, I look forward to meeting with local industry leaders to talk about our shared challenges.
And right across Europe, we are working with local partners to secure court orders and make criminal referrals against major pirate sites and services.
We will continue to speak for creators’ rights and against piracy. And I am proud of how seamlessly film producers from both sides of the Atlantic cooperate.
Our sector has an opportunity to show leadership, learning from each other and working together to clarify the way forward on platform accountability.
The platforms have an opportunity to show leadership of their own by stepping up their side of the fight against illegal activity of all kinds.
For our industry’s advancement to continue apace, and for our stories to continue to inspire and inform global audiences, we need the right framework and support.
We need policies that recognize the power of our stories, reward creators and their business partners, and allow us to produce, distribute, and protect the creative content that audiences love.
Together, we must all continue to speak for the creative sector and the 12 million jobs it provides in Europe.
And we must remind people that creativity inspired ….
Mozart to write more than 600 works of musical wonder.
Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper to discover the polio virus.
Richard Johann Kuhn to win the Nobel for his work in bio chemistry.
Ferdinand Porsche to create the first gasoline-electric hybrid car.
And the Austrian-born Billy Wilder to make heart-warming movies for five decades!
We must point out that creativity doesn’t just entertain, it elevates.
Doesn’t just inform, it illuminates.
Helps us live better and smarter.
Happier, healthier, and safer.
Is the very tool of human civilization.
The very wheel itself.
As such, it must be protected.
If we hold our creators and our dreams valuable, we must also protect them from theft and abuse.
One cannot exist without the other.
That is creativity.
That is civilization.
And that is our future.