Dear Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,
First, I want to express my sincere gratitude to our friends from Slovakia for the exemplary organisation and the smooth running of the 76th Festival of UNICA here in Piešťany.
Especially, my thanks go to our faithful friend Zuzana Skoludova, who took it into her head years ago, after the 2007 UNICA, to hold our Congress once again in her land this year.
The year that we have just experienced was in truth not easy and far from being straightforward.
After the fireworks show by our Austrian friends last year in Fieberbrunn to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our organisation, we were quickly disillusioned. Barely a month later we were dealing with a complaint from a federation about an author whose film, in addition to a silver medal, had been awarded a special Spielberg Award prize offered by the local organisers. It was in fact said, that this movie was copied almost one hundred percent from the DVD box set of a 2004 international television production: plagiarism of the worst kind. After the moment of disbelief, proclamations of innocence, evidence and counter-evidence were produced by both sides. After extensive research by the committee, it was found that the charges were in fact totally well-founded.
The author once found guilty and after he had confessed, was sanctioned by his federation by a temporary membership suspension in addition to other penalties such as removal of all prizes and awards won by the film. Likewise he had to return the awards from the UNICA festival in 2013. Furthermore he presented his formal apology to the producers and writers of the TV series and in doing so he avoided a criminal prosecution by them accompanied by a claim for damages.
UNICA for its part, in its capacity as responsible organiser of the annual festival, extended its deepest regrets to the authors of the television series and is committed to do everything possible to avoid such an incident in the future and to examine, if necessary, how far it can apply its own appropriate sanctions.
A first step in this direction was already taken for the festival in 2014 in Slovakia, since on the registration form films had to have the signature of the head of the national body beside that of the author's statement that they were in possession of all the rights for the film.
In the same context we examined the question of what degree of professionalism our festival can tolerate, because it is beyond doubt that the films entered by some few federations are, strictly speaking, purely professional productions with substantial material and financial resources, but without being declared as a film in the categories of film school or young professional. This thorny issue requires a clear answer in the near future otherwise we will face we will face additional problems.
At the present time we hardly have any means to combat such or similar scourges effectively. We have to assume that the member associations representing their country in non-commercial film, do not send professional movies to UNICA. For now, we have no choice but to trust the information that is given on the entry forms. In addition, the relevant organisations are usually not represented by a delegate here, so it is difficult to discuss the situation with a responsible person.