Hong Kong and the mainland need a "robust" copyright law to better protect intellectual property (IP) in their film industry as the Internet has made IP infringement much easier, said Michael C. Ellis, president and managing director for the Asia-Pacific region at the Motion Picture Association.
It was easier for the Hong Kong and mainland governments to combat piracy at previous times when the problem was limited to the physical world, he said.
"But in the digital age, it has become more difficult to deal with," Ellis told China Daily in an exclusive interview, ahead of the Asia Leadership Roundtable forum.
"Both Hong Kong and the mainland need a robust copyright law to address online issues, not only for how people protect their content, but how they can legally release them as well."
Ellis said he is encouraged by the fact that both the Hong Kong and mainland governments have realized the value of IP and are taking steps to provide better protection.
"The government has a key role to play in educating people and sending out a strong message about the value of IP," he said, but pointed out that it is not enough for the government to take action alone.
"Local industry also has the responsibility to work with the government in addressing the IP problem."
Ellis suggested that legal action be taken when infringement happens inside a country and called for stronger international collaboration in the area. "Piracy is a problem not only in China, but around the world. However, international coordination is insufficient at the present time," he noted.
"Governments should first look at how they could address the problem internally. But at the same time, they need to see how they could deal with the problem that comes from overseas."
Despite the challenges, Ellis said he is "incredibly optimistic" about the future of the film industry in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has an "incredible" history in film-making and has expertise in getting a film to reach the international market, particularly the Asian market, which has seen bigger box-office growth compared with the US or Europe, he said.
The city also boasts good infrastructure and a very skilled workforce able to work not only on Hong Kong films but also mainland productions, he added.
"Hong Kong will remain a key location to make movies and a key location for the infrastructure to support moviemaking. It will also be a great incubator of ideas for how you get your product to the international market, especially the Asian market," he predicted.