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The Piracy Conundrum

The Statesman
By Professor  
Nitish Raj

Bollywood of late is increasingly becoming a target of the piracy mafia. Recently two Bollywood movies, ‘A Gentleman’ and ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’, were leaked online; the latter even before its release.

Merely confining these events to the realm of piracy will be a very rudimentary understanding of the issue. In addition to the basal of piracy there are many other things involved here including psychology and economics. These aspects are concerned with the reasons why people chose pirated products over original ones.

In this age of superfast internet where one can download movies in a High Definition print online generally, why would they spend money to go and watch a movie or wait for months to buy its expensive DVD. The word piracy can be understood in two ways viz. its traditional historic meaning of loot in a ship and the second one is related with copyright infringement. Here we are concerned with the latter one.

There are mainly five types of internet piracy namely movie piracy, game piracy, ebook piracy, software piracy and music piracy. Contrary to the popular belief piracy is not a victimless crime as it is thought to be by many people. It is estimated that Bollywood movies gross around $2 billion whereas the piracy mafia makes 35 per cent more i.e. $2.7 billion. Piracy has taken 64 per cent of the total revenue of the film industry.

Every year around 5.72 lakh jobs are lost in the movie industry while 1.3 lakh jobs are lost in the music industry. Across the globe 1.2 million jobs are lost while around a billion Euro is lost due to piracy.

The actual loss due to piracy might be even more due to lack of data as many people hesitate to reveal whether they indulge in buying pirated material. In a significant study conducted by the Motion Picture Association, it was found that Indians are the largest visitors to Indian torrent websites and largest to the main four torrent websites of the world.

According to this study Indians make up eight per cent of the visitors to the top ten cyber lockers in the world. The study also said Indians constituted the fourth largest downloaders of pirated movies.

There are both civil and criminal laws to deal with the menace of piracy. Section 63 B of the Copyright Act, 1957 makes it a criminal offence and allows police to arrest and raid the suspects even without a warrant. Under section 69 of the Copyright Act, all people involved in the affairs of the company accused of piracy are liable for a fine and imprisonment.

One can also pursue a civil remedy through section 55 of the Copyright Act and seek monetary damages. Many people also approach courts to seek an injunction. In civil cases generally Ashok Kumar orders (Indian equivalent of John Doe orders) are sought.

In these orders the identity of defendant is unknown and the courts order the Internet Service Providers to block the websites which are suspected of exhibiting pirated content There is plethora of state level laws also against piracy which even permit the preventive detention of the accused. The Copyright Act of 2012 provides two new provisions to deal with this issue.

The first provision is used for punishing people who intentionally evade a technological measure for protecting any right given by the Copyright Act with a maximum imprisonment of two years and a fine. The second provision punishes people who change or delete the rights management information without any permission for an imprisonment up to two years. Piracy has so embedded our lives that the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was unintentionally seen watching the movie ‘PK’ on his laptop.

There is also a factor these days that pirated products are available in the market even before the original ones which encourages excited customers to buy the pirated ones. Innovation in technology can be an effective method to tackle the menace of piracy. Broadcasting movies on DTH is a new trend.

For example, Kamal Haasan’s ‘Viswaroopam’ was also simultaneously released on DTH platforms much to the objection of owners of multiplexes and cinema halls. Releasing movies on mobile based apps, You Tube and selling its data storage at a cheaper price e.g. Mosar Baer Discs can be huge incentive for people to move away from piracy.

The state can block torrent sites and other websites from where one can download pirated movies as it loses its money from taxes from the sale, distribution and exhibition of movies.

In order to really tackle this problem, it needs self-abnegation from the side of consumers to automatically bring the piracy market down.

(The writer is a student at the Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat)