The following is a message from The British Academy of Film and Television Arts:
BAFTA would like to convey its strongest opposition to the decision reached by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to allow screener copies of pictures in contention for 2003 awards to be distributed only to AMPAS members.

Upon hearing the rumours of this possible compromise decision yesterday (23rd October), the Chairman of the BAFTA Film Committee and Deputy Chair of the Academy, Duncan Kenworthy outlined the Academy’s arguments against such a decision in a letter to Jack Valenti (President of the MPAA). In this, he detailed the arguments against the ruling which the Academy believes to be “discriminatory”, “unwarranted”, “unnecessary” and potentially “catastrophic” for its film awards and members.

BAFTA has always taken copyright piracy very seriously, indeed the new safeguards being suggested by the MPAA for AMPAS members are already standard procedures for BAFTA, and are adhered to by its membership. Moreover, there is not a single case of a BAFTA screener ever having been the source of piracy. Hence, in the letter to Mr Valenti, Mr Kenworthy warned that should screeners be restricted to American Academy members this would be seen as “an extraordinary act of injustice which singles out the British Academy and the British industry for damage, as if copyright piracy exists only outside American shores.”

The Orange British Academy Film Awards are one of the most significant and respected international film events outside of the Academy Awards®, last year’s ceremony was reached by a global audience of over 1 billion.

Such a screener ban affects these awards in the same way as the Academy Awards®, but additionally throws up a further significant calendar issue; Mr Kenworthy again outlined this to the MPAA, commenting: “movies that open in the US just before Christmas, and qualify for our awards, can only reach our wider membership via screeners. A screener ban could result in studios choosing not to qualify films until the following year, pushing the Oscars and BAFTAs out of synch on key movies.”

In addition, if (as Mr Valenti has suggested), the restriction of screeners to signed AMPAS members exclusively is in some way due to the unique international and industry-wide nature of the American Academy, the diverse nature of BAFTA’s membership mirrors both geographically, and by industry discipline that of the American Academy.

BAFTA will continue to lobby for a reversal of this compromise decision with all relevant interested parties.

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