Centre for Internet & Society

Piracy continues to be a huge concern among filmmakers but it can also be a marketing strategy for small-budget films.

The article by Surupasree Sarmmah was published in Deccan Herald on January 23, 2019. Akriti Bopanna was quoted.

Despite a slew of measures taken by filmmakers, pirated versions of recently released films like ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’, ‘Viswasam’, ‘KGF’ and ‘Why Cheat India’ were leaked online on websites like TamilRockers. Piracy has been a huge concern for all movie industries in India, national and regional, but experts say that not much can be done when a film is leaked online.

Neville J Kattakayam, author of the book ‘The All Seeing Digital Eyes: A Guide To Privacy, Security and Literacy’, says, “The maximum one can do is to control the servers in a particular jurisdiction. But there are servers in unlikely places — like somewhere out in the sea. These places don’t fall under any jurisdiction, national or international. It becomes impossible to control the servers then.”

Talking about the process of piracy, he explains that once a content is leaked, it mirages into different servers across to the world; not just online but offline too. “There are mirror sites having the same content that are immediately born. Accessibility wise, it’s all out there; there is nothing that one can completely restrict,” he says.

Neville feels that it is largely in the hands of the producers to restrict access to their material until the movie is released. With people usually preferring good quality prints, theatrical replicas are not favoured much, he told Metrolife.

“From what I have heard, the piracy usually happens when the copy is being sent to the censor board. Some intermediate source, who really wants to kill a movie, leaks it from there. That is the real challenge,” says Neville.

Hemanth M Rao, a director, says that when a movie is leaked online, the effort, time and money put in is at stake. “You feel robbed. Most people would want to go to the theatres to watch a film but with incidents of piracy on the rise, the life span of a movie is shortened,” he says.

However, he adds that the audience is beginning to understand the impact piracy has on the movie industry, especially at a time when there is intense competition between regional language industries.

He has a word of praise for the Kannada Film Industry, which he feels is safeguarding interests of the artistes.

“We have a close tie-up with the city police. We monitor where all a film is playing after its release. In case we come to know about any illegal activities, we intimate the police who act swiftly. This way, the access is cut down.”

“Another thing that upsets me is the habit of going live on Facebook while one is at the theatre. I don’t understand what pleasure people get out of it,” he says.

According to a new draft rule, being contemplated by the IT Ministry, host websites will be liable for any illegal content uploaded on their platform. Currently, a website is liable only for unlawful actions; like uploading copyrighted content without permission.

“The Government can block access to the original host of the pirated content if needed however the traction and virality these kinds of content get make it very difficult to contain their spread. It ends up being a blanket ban on sites such as torrent sites where all the content is not illegal yet the site is blocked as a whole,” says Akriti Bopanna, Policy Officer, Centre for Internet and Society.

The time taken for legal recourse doesn’t help either. Though filmmakers can approach the court for a ban on the website or server, the time taken for a legal remedy is way too long. By that time, the same link would have appeared in two or three other websites, says Akriti. “A leaked movie can be easily downloaded and sent to someone instantly.”

She feels that a more effective method than banning a website or a server would be to educate people.

“Not many know about copyright infringement, it is important to spread awareness from the grassroots level. Though we have messages on piracy shown at the start of every movie, these need to be more creative and fun so they will stay in the audience’s minds. Maybe the industry, as a whole, can do this as a community initiative,” she opines.

Small players don’t care much about piracy

Small-budget movies take piracy as a marketing strategy. They feel that once people watch the movie and write reviews, the film will get an overall boost — allowing them to sell more tickets in theatres.

However, major players spend crores on their movies and depend on ticket sales to get back the amount.

Difficult to claim copyright from different websites

Prominent production companies are targeting streaming websites who have uploaded their movies, citing copyright issues. However, floating websites like citytorrents and TamilRockers keep changing their domain name and it becomes impossible to counter them.

-Neville J Kattakayam

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