Bollywood to tackle online piracy menace

MUMBAI: Pirated movies on the Internet are the latest nightmare for distributors and financiers.

With over 30 million users at any point of time, the Internet has emerged as the new pirate domain, making a film available for download within hours of its release at a minimal or often no fee.

The recent release Black Friday has been available online for download for the past one year, apart from being available at pirate vendors on streets and near railway stations.

Mira Nair’s Water, slated for release on 9 March in India, has also been up for download on the Internet for a while now. Recent films like Dhoom:2, Jaan-E-Mann, Baabul, Bhagam Bhag, Anwar, Traffic Signal, Salaam-e-Ishq and Guru are all available online at no cost.

According to industry estimates, the piracy industry has grown by 260 per cent in 2006 alone. Counter-action of film piracy has been rendered more difficult due to file sharing websites that have sprung up overnight, making tracking what is available a mammoth task.

Says T-Series chairman and managing director Bhushan Kumar, “We are fighting back in a big way; we are trying to find out some law to restrict these sites from telecasting our films. Ultimately it is a copyright infringement; though the surfers upload it, it is the site that earns revenue out of it.”

Shemaroo vice president Hiren Gada adds, “There needs to be a different form of policing, in terms of punitive action. The punishment needs to be different for the violators and pirates in the digital domain. There needs to be proactive effort from the government and the film industry towards internet piracy, as well as stringent laws to combat it.”

Profits in the piracy business stand at around 800 per cent, say sources, margins that increase as the cost of producing additional CDs or online content lessens. Cheaper pirated versions of films’ DVDs and VCDs are easily available, further cutting into the industry’s margins, because the pirated version is available free of cost online much before the original VCD/DVDs are released. 

File sharing softwares like Napster and Kazaa were taken down after complaints and legal notices of copyright infringement some years ago, but film piracy continues unabated. Smart gimmicks to combat piracy, like launching original DVD/VCDs a week after the theatrical release, as the case in Baabul have helped to an extent.

Mukta Arts is planning a similar strategy for its forthcoming venture, Good Boy Bad Boy. On the other hand, USVO’s Watermark or Smart-marks are being placed in Bollywood films to put a stop to movie piracy. These watermarks help providing the much needed proof in the court, against the individuals charged with the crime of copyright infringement, say industry sources.

Percept Picture Company chief operating officer Preet Bedi says, “We are taking major steps to stop the piracy of the films. A few of them have been picked up from market and legal advice is being taken regarding copyright violation. The problem is that some of these sites are so difficult to control that it becomes difficult to try and pin them down.”