This article is written by Debatree Banerjee.
What is piracy?
The interpretation of the word “Piracy” have changed over the years. Initially, the term implied the act of looting by ship-borne looters, who attacked other ships and coastal areas. However, in 21st century the term holds different meaning in the context of film industry. The term defines the act of selling, imitation, and distribution of copyrighted films without the authorization by the original author.
India is the world’s largest producer of films with its Bollywood and regional movies. The film industry is one of the country’s fastest growing industry. However, this industry is manifested with the plague of piracy. In 2000s the pirated movies were largely consumed through the sale of CDs and DVDs, and with the increase in accessibility to the world wide web, there has been a stark rise in the consumption of pirated movies through the Internet. Because of the Covid-19 situation, the online film piracy rose as high as 62% in the last week of March, 2020. Even if it seems harmless, the consumption of pirated movies, not only create a cut in revenue collection but also causes employment loss. Indian media loses about US$2.8 billion to piracy. As per the research conducted by US-India Business Council (USIBC), the film industry of India experiences 11% loss in employment because of media piracy.
Factors behind piracy
There are variety of factors which impacts the increase in sale of pirated versions of films. The market need is one of those factors. Sometimes, the consumers does not have ideal access to several movie contents because of geographical or economical barriers which drive them to consume the pirated versions more. The pirated movies are low priced, and are sometimes available for free of cost, which makes it attractive to consumers. The impractical low pricing of the products by the pirates, is possible by avoiding the legitimate costs of production, acquisition and other regulatory obligations. As the costs of production is limited, the pirate industry is concerned more about volume production, earning them favourable profit returns.
Innovation of new technologies such as file compression and storage formats like DVD and Blue Ray made it easier for the pirate industry to manage large volumes of data. Along with it, the accessibility to high speed internet at a low cost has made it easier for the consumers to access such pirated contents more easily.
Brief study on film piracy in India
The regional film industry is the primary source of entertainment in India for the communities in small towns and rural areas due to the lack of urban developments. Thus, the entertainment market is dominated by regional films and foreign films only have a share of 3% in the legal market. However, in the pirated market the share of regional films and foreign films are uniformly balanced.
Because of the high costs of prints, the theatrical release of major films is only available to Tier I and Tier II cities, denying access to such content for the consumers belonging from other parts of the country. In such cases, the audiences get easy access to the contents through the purchase of pirated versions, illegal broadcasting and unauthorized screenings of movies in these remote areas. Sometimes, the political condition of an area also plays a role in the consumption of pirated films. For example, due to political turmoil between India and Pakistan, the Pakistan government declared a ban on Hindi films, increasing the consumption of pirated versions of the films in Pakistan.
In India, there are around 30,000 unauthorized video rental stores in India. Along with it, the local cable channels air pirated content about 60% of the time. These channels reach 65 million households, thus increasing the accessibility of the pirated content.
Sometimes, the contents are available across cities and towns before the actual date of release. This happens because of three primary leakage points:
- The primary mode of piracy for films is attributed to theft of prints taking place in processing labs to theatres or sometimes from the theatres themselves prior to screening. “Tele-Cine” machines are used to convert the prints to digital formats.
- Another mode of piracy is Camera Print Piracy, where an amateur camera is used to film the movie in a theatre. This mode is used mainly for foreign films but is also prevalent for regional films.
- Both the regional and foreign film industries are impacted because of the malpractice of illegal imports. Sometimes, different countries have different release dates for a particular movie, giving the pirates an opportunity to acquire such content from other countries and circulate it in India. Malaysia, Hongkong and Singapore are cited to be the hubs for such illegal imports.
Another process that takes place in the pirate market, is where the key vendors purchase the master copy of the movies, and then replicates them through the stamping process and CD burners, and further sell these pirated prints in major markets. To aggravate it further, most of the consumers copy such disks and upload them on the internet.
Copyright laws for protection against piracy
The Copyright Act, 1957 is the major legal framework that deals with the facets of piracy in India. S. 51 of the Copyright Act lays down the acts which will be considered as infringement of copyrights. According to it, when any person without the authorization of the owner of the copyright uses the work in a way that is prohibited in the act, infringes such right. S. 65 of the Act punishes the person who is in possession of plates used for making infringing copies of a copyrighted work, with imprisonment which may extend to two years. The culprit shall also be liable to a fine. S. 65A punishes any person who circumvents a technological measure protecting work with copyright, with imprisonment of two years and liability to pay a fine. S. 65B protects rights management information by punishing the person who intentionally tampers with such information of any work with copyrights. This section punishes the perpetrator with imprisonment extending upto two years and he is also liable to pay fine. S. 66 of the Copyright Act, provides the Court with the right to confiscate the materials in question, and deliver it to the owner of the copyright. The Court may also make orders as per its own discretion regarding the disposition of infringing copies and plates.
Even though the sections do not specifically talk about online infringement or piracy, they can be interpreted in a way to punish the perpetrators.
Suggestions for the prevention of piracy
Apart from strict laws against copyright infringement supported by judicial infrastructure, the State and the Cinema Industry, must also take other measures to minimize the damage caused by the pirates. They both need to act as facilitators and coordinators, for creating initiatives and formulating policies against piracy.
The State can instruct the Internet Service Providers to block the access of the consumers into the sites hosting pirated content. This will help to reduce the number of pirate users, as the majority of people do not know the technical methods to circumvent such blocked sites.
The Industry can also offer its digital products at a reasonable price and make it more accessible to the majority of the population. It might not stop piracy completely, but it will help to curb down the malpractice by some proportion.
The lack of public awareness regarding the evils of piracy is also a major obstacle in curbing down the pirate industry. The technoid consumers are now not only the consumers but have become the pirates themselves. Consumers are often found in replicating the discs and uploading the contents on the internet. Thus, the public must be made aware of the legality of such activities.
Cinema is not only a source of entertainment but, it is the newest form of art. Such creative arts are economically beneficial for both the creator and the State, pooling a large amount of revenues and profits. However, the practice of piracy is a growing concern in India. Because of this, the film industry not only loses a large amount of annual revenue, but it also cuts down employment generation. Apart from this, it also morally discourages the creators from creating.
Even after the initiation of anti-piracy policies, the pirate industry still exists. The Government needs to make stricter laws to curb down this plague. The Industry needs to supervise the distribution and channeling procedures more minutely to prevent the malpractice of leakage and illegal importation of their contents. The consumers must be made aware regarding the evils of piracy. It is not only the duty of a single body to curb down the practice of piracy, but the society as a whole has to fight against it.
- The Effects of Counterfeiting and Piracy on India’s Entertainment Industry; http://producersguildindia.com/Pdf/Ernst&Young_USIBC%20Piracy%20Study_March%2027.pdf
- India sees big spike in film piracy post covid-19; https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-sees-big-spike-in-film-piracy-post-covid-19-11589183182123.html
- How the govt is cracking down on film piracy; https://www.livemint.com/industry/media/how-the-govt-is-cracking-down-on-film-piracy-1550130158629.html
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