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Enforcement of Anti-piracy Laws by the Indian Entertainment Industry

Posted by Prasad Krishna at Jan 22, 2010 12:25 PM |
This brief note by Siddharth Chadha seeks to map out the key actors in enforcement of copyright laws. These bodies not only investigate cases of infringement and piracy relating to the entertainment industry, but tie up with the police and IP law firms to pursue actions against the offenders through raids (many of them illegal) and court cases. Siddharth notes that the discourse on informal networks and circuits of distribution of cultural goods remains hijacked with efforts to contain piracy as the only rhetoric which safeguards the business interests of big, mostly multinational, media corporations.

International Intellectual Property Alliance

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is an international lobby group of US media industries with close ties to the United States Trade Representative. It has in its reports consistently expressed dissatisfaction with Indian efforts to deal with piracy.  IIPA works in close cooperation the other US lobby groups like the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the BSA (Business Software Alliance). The IIPA reports, which place India in a 'danger zone', significantly influence regional and international discourses on piracy.  Interestingly, the IIPA in India has been very successful in regionalizing and nationalizing a global discourse. Thus, in the past few years, local industry associations in India in cinema, music and software have independently run highly emotional campaigns against piracy, reminiscent of IIPA's own campaigns. 

Motion Pictures Association

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) through its international counterpart, Motion Pictures Association (MPA), has been unofficially operational in India for the last 15 years. Its member companies are Walt Disney, Paramount, Sony Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros. The MPA's work in India was mostly non-obtrusive till 1994 when MPA Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore, started being represented by the high profile legal firm Lall & Sethi Advocates.

They have collectively worked on forming enforcement teams for coordinated raids in Mumbai and Delhi since 1995. Earlier this year, MPA announced its first India office to be set up in Mumbai, called the Motion Picture Distributor's Association India (Pvt.) Limited (MPDA), under the directorship of Rajiv Dalal.  Mr. Dalal had previously directed strategic initiatives from the MPAA's Los Angeles office.  The MPDA will engage itself in working jointly with local Indian film industries and the Indian government to promote the protection of motion pictures and television rights. 

According to the organization's own assertion, in 2006 the MPA's Asia-Pacific operation investigated more than 30,000 cases of piracy and assisted law enforcement officials in conducting nearly 12,400 raids. These activities resulted in the seizure of more than 35 million illegal optical discs, 50 factory optical disc production lines and 4,482 optical disc burners, as well as the initiation of more than 11,000 legal actions.

Indian Music Industry

The world's second-oldest music companies' association, Indian Music Industry (IMI), was first established as Indian Phonographic Industry in 1936. It was re-formed in its present avatar in 1994, as a non-commercial and non-profit organization affiliated to the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and is registered as a society in West Bengal. IMI members includes major record companies like Saregama, HMV, Universal Music (India), Tips, Venus, Sony BMG (India), Crescendo, Virgin Records, Magnasound, Milestone, Times Music and several other prominent national and regional labels that represent over 75 per cent of the output in corporate recordings.

It was one of the first organizations in the country to start the trend of hiring ex-police officers to lead anti-piracy operations. In 1996, IMI hired Julio Ribeiro (a former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai; Director General of Police, Punjab; and Indian Ambassador to Romania) to head its anti-piracy operations. Their anti-piracy work is split into three specific regions, North and North Eastern, Western and Southern and East, each zone headed by a former senior police officer. IMI operates through offices in Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and several other cities and towns across India, focusing on surveillance, law enforcement, and gathering intelligence through an 80 member team hired to tackle piracy. During 2001 to 2004, IMI registered over 5500 cases, seized over 10 lakh music cassettes, and around 25 lakh CDs.

Business Software Alliance

Headquartered in Washington DC, the Business Software Alliance has a regional office in Delhi, and has been instrumental in conducting anti-piracy operations across the country. According to the BSA, India ranks 20 in global software piracy rankings, with a rate of 73 per cent while the Asia Pacific average is 53 per cent. China ranks second with a rate of 92 per cent and annual losses of $3,823 million while Pakistan ranks nine with 83 per cent piracy rate. They have engaged the general public in providing them with information on pirated software through an anti-piracy initiative – The Rewards Programme. Launched in 2005, reward amount up to Rs.50, 000, would be provided for information leading to successful legal action against companies using unlicensed software. The reward program was aimed to encourage people to support the fight against piracy and to report software piracy to the NASSCOM-BSA Anti-Piracy Software Hotline.

In 2006, BSA and NASSCOM got a shot in their arms by winning the largest settlement amount for a copyright case in India, with Netlinx India Pvt. Ltd. The case had emerged after a civil raid was conducted at the premises of Netlinx in December 2000, leading to inspection and impounding of 40 PCs, carrying illegal unlicensed software. The settlement includes damages of US$ 30,000, complete legalization of software used by them, removal of all unlicensed/pirated software and submission to an unannounced audit of computer systems during next 12 months.

Industry Enforcers

Bollywood Film and Music companies, such as T-Series and Yashraj Films, have established anti-piracy arms to combat piracy in specific markets. T-Series has been in the industry for over 15 years, as a brand of Gulshan Kumar founded Super Cassettes Industries Limited, and has often been at the forefront for conducting raids along with police officials to check piracy of its copyrighted content. In its latest announcement earlier this year, T-Series launched an anti-piracy campaign against those stealing digital content. The announcement came after they filed a complaint on June 1 with a police station in Mangalore against Classic Video shop for infringement of its copyright works like Billu, Ghajini, Aap Ka Suroor, Apne, Fashion and Karz that had been illegally downloaded and copied onto multiple discs, card readers and pen-drives.

Yashraj Films, a leading film studio, has long been a part of enforcement activities against piracy, both in the Indian market and internationally. Most recently, it was a key member in the formation of the United Producers and Distributors Forum, which also included chairman Mahesh Bhatt, Ramesh Sippy, Ronnie Screwalla of UTV, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Eros International. This organization is now trying to enforce anti-piracy laws by conducting raids across the country with the help of another ex-cop from Mumbai, A.A. Khan. Yashraj Films has also established anti-piracy offices in the United Kingdom and the United States to curb piracy in those markets, as overseas returns of its films, watched by the desi diaspora is one of its largest revenue earning sources. The website of Yashraj Films lists news reports from across US and Europe of instances of crackdown on pirates. 

In the context of intellectual property in the creative industries, these anti-piracy agents have successfully created the halo of illegality around the subject of piracy. The discourse on informal networks and circuits of distribution of cultural goods remains hijacked with efforts to contain piracy as the only rhetoric which safeguards the business interests of big media companies and multinational corporations.

 

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