Film piracy: Industry and state initiatives to combat it

By Pooja Dodd and Manisha Singh Nair, LexOrbis

Would you steal a car? A fancy phone? Or maybe somebody’s wallet? No? Then why steal a movie? A film is the property of its copyright holder and deserves the same protection as any other property.

Extent of the problem

In the past decade, film piracy become a problem of mammoth proportions. Films are being pirated and mass circulated even before their release at the box office. The studios, producers and financiers who have millions riding on these film projects are seeing their investments come to a naught. The piracy menace has become every film-maker’s worst nightmare.

Pooja Dodd
Pooja Dodd

Technological advancement has helped push piracy to new heights. Film piracy in India is no longer just physical duplication of content. Making content available to share and download is now an even bigger threat. The internet company Envisional found that online piracy of film and television content in India was mainly through file-sharing networks. Video-streaming sites are also popular.

According to the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2013, the size of the Indian cinema industry was estimated to be ₹112.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) in 2012 and was projected to grow to ₹193.3 billion by 2017. According to India’s Motion Picture Distributors Association (MPDA), India ranks as the fourth largest downloader of films, after the US, UK and Canada.

Piracy and counterfeiting cost the Indian entertainment industry some ₹162.4 billion or almost 40% of potential annual revenues, as well as around 820,000 jobs, according to the first Bollywood-Hollywood collaborative study, released in 2008.

Anti-piracy initiatives

Reeling under the threat of piracy, industry bigwigs are creating novel strategies to beat it. For example, since content duplication requires a physical film reel, Yash Raj Films released Dhoom 3 in digital format only. The prints were also watermarked and fingerprinted so they could easily be traced back. These moves curbed piracy to a large extent.

Agencies in many states have also woken up to the damage done to the film industry by unchecked copyright violations. Some states have enacted special provisions to strictly enforce laws related to piracy and copyright protection.

The video piracy cell of the Tamil Nadu Police was created in 1995 in an attempt to combat video piracy and copyright violations. The cell has 12 units which operate out of cities including Coimbatore, Vellore, Trichy and Madurai.

Likewise, in 2005 the Andhra Pradesh Chamber of Commerce created an anti-video piracy cell consisting of retired police officers to save Telugu films from the menace of piracy. This cell maintains a website where complaints can be lodged and checks the internet at regular intervals to spot piracy and take action against offenders. According to the cell’s website, as of 31 December 2010, the cell had registered cases against 5,201 people for video piracy and assisted police in arresting them.

Manisha Singh
Manisha Singh

On 26 April this year, to mark World Intellectual Property Day, the MPDA along with the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce and several multiplex chains, launched an online quiz for the staff of multiplexes titled “Be a Movie Cop”. This was an initiative to raise awareness with regard to the threats and challenges of camcorder piracy in cinemas, which is a common route for leak of new releases.

The Malayalam film industry was in a bad state due to piracy prior to the creation of the anti-piracy cell of the Kerala Police in 2011. The cell conducts awareness programmes through television, radio and the internet and thus far has detected 77 cases of piracy throughout Kerala.

The Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act includes stringent penalties for those found to be indulging in piracy. An anti-piracy cell is has been created within the Maharashtra state government to oversee enforcement related to the act.

In October 2010, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource Development set up an anti-piracy coordination cell which acts as a centralized body to manage and synchronize the steps taken by the central government and the industry to restrain piracy.

India’s fast growing cinema industry has influenced the development of the global film industry in a remarkable way. In its 100 years of its existence, Indian cinema has not only survived in the global arena, but is gaining larger audiences worldwide due to its distinct style and variety. However, respect for copyright is central to encouraging creativity in films and to the growth of the industry. While enacting laws that protect copyright is vital, enforcing the rule of law is of prime importance. With the government roping in NGOs and leading industry bodies to create awareness about copyright and piracy of films, and the laws to combat it, the battle against piracy is being waged on a war footing.

Pooja Dodd and Manisha Singh Nair are partners at LexOrbis.


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