El Deseo is a Spanish production company which was founded in 1985 by the Almodóvar brothers who, during the last 30 years have not only produced the films written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, but they have also promoted up and coming Spanish and Latin American filmmakers such as Alex de la Iglesia, Guillermo del Toro, and Mónica Laguna, amongst others. El Deseo has won numerous awards in some of the most recognised international events such as the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival. We hear their story, and the challenge they had in protecting against piracy.
At what point did you realise that you had a piracy problem?
Pedro Almodóvar is a famous filmmaker whose name is well known both nationally and internationally. Since the mid-1980s his movies have been distributed throughout the world with much admiration from film critics and the public alike. In this international dissemination process, piracy has always been present due to the international public recognition. As technology has developed, the problem has intensified.
What was your first reaction to piracy?
The business mission of El Deseo as a leading production company of nearly all Almodóvar filmography, has two facets. On the one hand, to provide Pedro with all the creative liberty necessary in order to carry out his projects without artistic limitations. And secondly, to protect and preserve his film works as they were created from their origin until reaching the public.
Our first concern in view of the massive emergence of piracy was to preserve Pedro’s moral rights as an author. Our aim was to encourage viewers who consume pirated versions of his films to reject poor quality versions and opt to view them as Pedro and El Deseo had intended them to be viewed.
What impact do you consider piracy has on production companies such as yours?
The economic impact is obvious, and it becomes much more significant in terms of quality if you are a small independent production company. The film industry in our country is very fragile in financial terms, and for this reason production companies who are not linked to TV operators have a far more challenging time in the development of new projects as well as in their subsequent economic exploitation. Piracy in this context is a mortal wound of necessity in the exploitation of content and, therefore, in their amortisation.
What motivated you to search for an external solution to this problem instead of trying to solve it internally?
Trying to solve the problem of piracy “internally” would have been akin to attempting to distinguish the fire of an entire building with a few buckets of water. What you must do, in these cases, is call the firemen and let them do their work; they have the tools and expertise to achieve far greater results.
How did you find out about Smart Media Protection and their services relating to audio-visual content?
Our relationship with Smart Media Protection began four years ago. I recall that Agustín Almodóvar mentioned that Antonio Banderas had recommended to him the services of a company who were very good at eliminating links of pirated copies of films online. I had always been responsible for the anti-piracy aspect in El Deseo and I was very sceptical about the mediocre results that we had previously seen.
In getting to know the Smart Protection team, it seemed that its focus on piracy was diametrically opposed to what we had seen up to that time with other providers. To try it, we contracted the protection of nearly our entire catalogue of films. I would describe the results since then as excellent in every sense. Protecting against piracy clearly paid off.
Were you aware of the magnitude of the problem that you faced?
We had an idea, but we could not clearly “see the dimensions” until we stopped suffering it in first person.
What degree of importance do you consider that the speed of elimination of the pirate URLs has in the fight against cybercriminals?
Experience tells us that the speed in which we eliminate links to these pirate files is key to the protection process. One must accept that pirate copies will always exist and assume that piracy is something impossible to control. In view of this, it is best to attribute the largest amount of resources possible to ensuring that the dissemination of the file is extremely limited. For this reason, it is crucial that the system used to eliminate “URLs” is as automated as possible.
How many incidents were there before contracting the platform and how many exist now?
Smart Media Protection detected a large amount of content online that was identified as audio-visual piracy, and we have validated 281,333 infringements across the entire catalogue of El Deseo.
Smart Media Protection notified all the infringements susceptible of being removed to the corresponding platform. This process resulted in the complete elimination of 99.67% of them up to now. These are the results:
- Search engines: success rate of 99.5% (46,516)
- Social networks: success rate of 83.3% (15.558)
- Download files: success rate: 99.48% (219,259)
How has your relationship with Smart Media Protection evolved since you first contacted the company in 2016?
We have worked with Smart Media Protection since 2016 with very great results. I am sure that we will continue doing so in the future as piracy remains one of the major problems for the correct dissemination and exploitation of our contents.
To what level do you consider audio-visual piracy could reach in the near future?
It is very complicated to predict the future in a sector such as the audio-visual one that depends on the offer of contents as well as the change in the public’s consumption habits. I personally believe that piracy will evolve slower than it has in recent years, considering that today there is a very broad offering of legal platforms with almost unlimited access to content online.
What advice would you give to small production companies and distributors regarding the importance of tackling piracy?
My best advice is to realistically evaluate the loss of revenue associated with piracy, which should provide them with an idea of the huge amount of money they could be set to lose. Compare that to the cost associated with an anti-piracy protection service and we can see that protecting against piracy more than pays for itself.
What would be the impact on the business if you were not protecting against piracy?
We would probably have many restrictions in international distribution. You must consider that Almodóvar’s films are distributed worldwide, after having premiered in Spain. There are international distributors who have expressed their concerns in respect to the problem of audio-visual piracy in our country. When we have explained to them the protection measures that we have contracted and shown them the results that we have achieved from such measures, they have been reassured and we have continued to do business with them.
What do you value most highly of the Smart Media Protection service?
Without doubt, the innovative character of their point of view on the problem and their way of tackling it. I also value the personal relationship with the human team behind it.
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