Piracy continues to cripple entertainment industry

By Reshma Pramila Minz, Lall Lahiri & Salhotra

The Indian entertainment industry, which had enjoyed several years of rapid growth, has been almost crippled in recent years by the menace of piracy and counterfeiting. Piracy, which affects music, movies and software, is considered to have a major economic impact.

Cost of piracy

Statistics on media piracy suggest that the number of people who steal and then illegally copy material is growing steadily. Piracy costs the industry billions of dollars and denies the rightful owner of the product both the money and advantage they deserve. A study by Ernst & Young India estimates that as much as ₹160 billion (US$3.5 billion) is lost each year to piracy.

What is remarkable is that only 4-7% of the DVDs sold in India are originals. So, while an estimated 600 million pirated DVDs (with multiple movies within a DVD) are snapped up annually by India’s movie watchers, only 20 million original DVDs are sold. Meanwhile in the US almost 40% of the DVDs sold are originals.

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No specific laws for piracy

India does not have any specific laws for internet piracy and only copyright infringement laws apply. So, the onus of acting against piracy lies with the industry and its people. They also need to put pressure on the government to put in place laws to stop this form of crime.

Reshma Pramila Minz,Associate,Lall Lahiri & Salhotra
Reshma Pramila Minz
Lall Lahiri & Salhotra

In the meanwhile organizations like the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Indian Music Industry (IMI) in association with the Business Software Alliance (BSA) are working on forming enforcement teams to track down the offenders in the fields of cinema, music and software.

Various steps are being taken to curb piracy. These steps include raids conducted on street vendors, internet and online piracy, camcorder piracy in movie theaters, arrests being made and thousands of pirated DVDs being seized. Cyber experts have been assisting with tracking the IP addresses that are involved in piracy. These cyber consultants are being hired to track and take down the websites hosting illegal movies.

Bollywood hits back

Prominent individuals associated with the media and entertainment industry, including the actor Aamir Khan, have now rolled up their sleeves to fight this menace. Khan’s movie Peepli Live deployed its own anti-piracy efforts. The movie was released on 13 August 2010, but was available for download on the same day on a website www.ictorrent.com.

Soon after, a team from a software firm detected it and issued a take-down notice. Though the website complied within 24 hours, close to around 300 such links sprang up across cyberspace. Round the clock cyber patrolling by a team of 25 odd members led to the eradication of 247 of these links, including some which led to streaming video sites like YouTube. They found that three main servers had been used to create these links.

Such agencies detect websites offering links or downloads and alert their server hosts to the illegal activity. They issue a notice to the website owner and if they do not comply, the site is either suspended or dismissed.

Making it legal

Apart from the strict corrective measures mentioned above, Savio D’Souza, secretary general of Indian Music Industry (IMI), however, suggests a different approach to piracy. In an interview with the Times of India he mentioned that the IMI is working on a program model where a pirate can walk into an IMI office in the country, and get a legitimate license to sell music and DVDs. According to him penalization as a deterrent will not work considering the large size of the country and the numerous shops selling pirated products.

The management of the digital content through digital rights management (DRM) is also leading to a decline in piracy. DRM involves the application of certain technical and legal mechanisms that allow copyright owners to control the access to their works, determine the types of permissible uses and the ultimate distribution of their works in the digital world in an authorized manner.

More needed

Piracy is being handled actively and effectively, but a more proactive approach is needed. Increased enforcement with strong penalties should be formulated to deter miscreants from indulging in piracy.

So the next time you plan to watch a new movie on a pirated DVD, just remember that not only are you helping a trader break the law, but you’re also contributing to a much larger problem. Everything and anything can be pirated and that puts a big responsibility on consumers to make sure they know what they buy into.

Reshma Pramila Minz is an associate with Lall Lahiri & Salhotra. She focuses on all aspects of trademark opposition proceedings and trademarks watch. Lall Lahiri & Salhotra is an IP boutique based in Gurgaon.


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