Here are the FACTs

Following the loss of key backers, FACT has unveiled its new, broader direction in the world of intellectual property. Kieron Sharp explains

What is happening at FACT?

This year, we lost the six major Hollywood studios and the Motion Picture Association as members. This change was down to the groups wanting to move their investigations and enforcement actions in-house. I also think they were reviewing budgets across the whole area of content protection and decided to change direction.

Despite the loss of their support being problematic for us, we also felt that it was a great opportunity to really push FACT in a new direction and into areas that we haven’t worked in before. As a result, we decided to extend FACT’s reach beyond film, TV and sport to more businesses requiring support in protecting their content, brand and IP.

We’ve a lot of experience and great skills here at FACT, combined with many years of public success. We’ve been heavily involved in the media throughout the years, not just with criminal prosecutions, and we’ve been in the spotlight because we’re very good at what we do. I think that people know of FACT, they know what we can achieve and they’re coming to us to see what we can do for them.

How will extending FACT’s remit beyond film, TV and sport benefit IP owners you haven’t worked with before?

Over the years FACT has become well known for dealing with piracy and counterfeiting. Our run of success, particularly through the criminal courts, has made us attractive to other industries that have always desired to have their own FACT. Often, they’ve come to us and asked us to work with them, but we’ve been unable to do so due to our commitments elsewhere.

Has there been a lot of demand from other IP owners?

I would say that there have been a sufficient number of enquiries to make us think that this is a significant direction to take FACT in, particularly with what we already do. Of course, there were a lot of people who knew we worked with the film industry so they didn’t ask.

We’re getting interest and enquiries at the moment about what we’re going to do and what we’re doing, so we’ll see how it pans out from there.

Was there any scope when you were working with the film industry to move outside of that bubble? Or were you locked in?

We were locked in. The model was that we were funded by member subscriptions and the members were those of the film and TV industry that invested in FACT every year—they wanted us to work solely for them.

We did have some outside opportunities: one was the Premier League, which has been a member of FACT for years.

The Premier League does not sit directly in the film and TV industries but has issues that are very much related.

FACT did look at other related industries, such as music, video games, software and books—the obvious areas where we might be able to work. But there were too many hurdles to overcome.

What new areas does FACT plan to move into and how will it adjust its infrastructure to aid that transition?

One of the key aspects of FACT is our intelligence-led investigations.

The whole ethos of FACT for the last 10 years has been to record every piece of information we receive.

From there, we work on the data, analyse it, and then use that as the basis of our investigation.

The intelligence informs our decision-making and thereby allows us to talk directly to our members, customers and clients about what is the right way forward.

Our intelligence system is the hub of what we do—nobody else has it.

They all manage intelligence in their own way, but not with a proper intelligence system with researchers and analysts.

It’s our key infrastructure. It enables us to be much more proactive and now it’s leading us into new areas. We’ve also just launched a new website to engage with new clients and existing members.

The website has much more information on our services and how we can help provide solutions to common IP problems. Now we have dedicated sections for businesses and consumers. We’ve laid out all the common IP issues and how our services can help with those.

In the consumer section, we have information on how to access digital content legally and safely, what to do if you’ve mistakenly bought a counterfeit, or how to spot a counterfeit.

What sort of new partnerships do you see developing with these changes?

Some of our new partnerships are still not quite public, but we’re looking into a whole host of businesses still within the audio-visual sector, as well as brands and businesses outside this industry. We’re here if these industries or any other organisation that requires IP protection needs us.

FACT is opening itself up to anyone, and the ability to grow FACT in other areas will enhance and improve the service we give our current members.

What does FACT do on the advocacy front? For example, does FACT support the new 10-year sentence for digital pirates in the UK?

We were one of the main proponents of moving the sentence from two years to 10—we were definitely one of the biggest evidence providers. We’ve always been heavily involved in advocacy over the years and we will continue to do so, usually in partnership with industry associations as opposed to solely on our own.

There are a number of issues around Europe right now with the Digital Single Market, and we are working jointly with the Alliance for Intellectual Property in that area.

We look at IP rights industry-wide, and we contribute where we feel we can make a difference.

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