Indian Film Industry & it’s Struggle with Piracy: Lawyers Advice
“We live in a world measured by piracy because piracy means access” as said by Kalyan C. Kankananla. Piracy has become as easy as buying vegetables from the vendor, all one has to do is tap on the download link on internet and boom you can watch any movie/web show/serials on your phone/laptop. A person’s possession whether it is his created work or his personal belongings or his ultimate creation, the last thing anyone would want is it to be stolen or copied by someone.
Piracy as defined by black law’s dictionary, means illicit printing or reproduction of any original and copyrighted book or print or any kind of plagiarism from it. Copyright Piracy has turned into a serious crime worldwide as it not only affects the creativeness of the society which denies the creators to collect their dues but it also causes economic loss to all those who invest their money for bringing out the original and copyrighted version of the work in various forms for use by end-users.
India constitutes one of the largest markets for audio and video cassettes and for films produced which have multiple box office dominations varying from Bollywood to Tollywood to Hollywood. Piracy of movies means an act of illegally acquiring the movie then copying it and reproducing it and then finally distributing it without any kind of license to do so. The most common mode is the distribution on internet through various websites. The traffic on such sites increase when a pirated version of a blockbuster movie is uploaded in a downloadable format.
In Warner Bros. Entertainment & Ors vs. Mr. Santosh V.G (CS (OS) No. 1682 of 2006) where the Plaintiffs sued the Defendant for a permanent injunction and for claiming damages. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant has infringed their copyrights of their film by hiring and offering to hire the infringing copies of the movie in India. However, Court rejected the plea of the Plaintiff for permanent injunction as Defendant claimed that the Plaintiffs were not the owners of the copyrighted work in question. However, the Court passed an Ad-interim injunction asking the Defendant to stop hiring until the matter has been disposed.
In another case of UTV Software communications ltd & Ors vs. 1337X. To & Ors (CS (COMM) 724 of 2017), where the Plaintiff has filed eight suits primarily seeking injunctions restraining infringement of copyright by Defendants on account of communicating to public the work of the Plaintiff without authorization. Also seeking permanent injunction against the Defendant from hosting, communicating, making available the work in question on the website and the Court also ordered Internet service providers (“ISPs”) to block access to the websites of the Defendants as mentioned in the plea.
When one talks about real time examples of piracy here are few examples relating to how piracy affects Bollywood. In 2012, a Malayalam movie named “Bachelor Party” was in news because it was billed as the first-of its kind initiative in the country where the Anti-Piracy cell of Kerala Cell Police registered cases against 1,010 people for illegally downloading and uploading movie on internet. Mr. Sajthan, who owns a movie channel, had purchased the distribution rights of the movie and is the one who filed the complaint against the site “Tamil Rockers” and other 16 IP addresses from where the film had been uploaded and shared illegally on the net. The movie had been illegally viewed in overseas territory and as well as Indian Territory.
Another case that came to light was for a movie named “Piku” whose producers moved the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court passed Ad-interim injunction restraining websites and cable operators from sharing or providing or broadcasting any part thereof of the movie online without seeking permission from the producers/distributors. The court directed internet providers like Mahanagar telephone nigam ltd, Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea, others operators to block access of the infringing websites that were mentioned in the complaint.
The most controversial case of the movie “Udta Punjab” where the producers of the movie had to fight a lot of legal battles before the movie was allowed to be shown on the screens. The initial controversy was that the Central Board of Film Certification (“CBFC”) proposed a total of 89 cuts in the movies stating that the movie showed Punjab in bad light and it also questions the sovereignty of India. The Bombay High Court ruled against CBFC and passed the judgement with only 1 cut approved. However, days before the release a Delhi resident uploaded the censor version of the movie online. He was arrested on the charges of illegally uploading Bollywood movie and relevant section of Information Technology Act, 2000 and Copyright Act, 1957 before its first official release. The investigators found out the censor copy was stolen and uploaded online on a website by a user id called “robby007”.
In spite piracy being a global crime, there aren’t any definitive National or International law that governs the concept of piracy as whole. The acts that cover piracy are for “Physical Piracy” i.e looting and plundering of goods and valuables. However, to handle copyright and copyright infringement related disputes in India, it is the Copyright Act, 1957 which is the mother of all copyright related laws. Under section 13 of the act, copyright protection is given to literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings. There are two sets of rights under the Act, “Economic Rights” which says that the owners of intellectual properties are given exclusive rights which they exercise when it comes to reproduction and distribution of the work and they also have a share in profit of any sales made by the licensed party. The other set being “Moral Rights” which under section 57 enables the creator of the Intellectual Property to claim ownership and prevent others from claiming it. The latter half of the section enables the creator to restrict any distortion, mutilation or altercation of his work or any action which may damage his reputation.
In absence of piracy laws, there are few ways as to how one can save their work. One of the most effective ways of protecting is by removing the incentive option for consumers who look for pirated content online. Effectively this can be done by offering good quality product and good user experience at a decent price. Viewers usually want sympathetic interfaces like an experience of watching movie in theatre, good picture quality with no buffering. The more industry can offer this at realistic cost the lesser people will lean towards pirated versions.
The goal should be to highlight it to the public that piracy is crime and its illegal and stricter rules should made for people uploading and viewing piracy content.
The era of content being unprotected has long gone. Content owners are aware of the important of protecting their investment and Intellectual Property and chose to only enter in license deals with operators. There has been shift from Conditional Access System to software based digital rights management which helps better in protecting the work. But still there is no technology that gives you 100% security. The best practice would be to involve multi-disciplinary approach that combines both anti-piracy measures and government detection.
Monitoring the work is the key to success whether automated like AI monitoring of video streams or human led by keeping a track of ISPs that documents pirated versions, for the current situation, a hybrid approach would be productive. Once a breach has been detected, action should be taken immediately. With correct set of anti-piracy services, operators can identify the consumers who are watching it illegally and force them to shift to legitimate services. The key here is the speed.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Manasvi Shah