175B083 Mahesh P S 21 February 2021
The act of illegally acquiring, copying, reproducing and then distributing film media, without having any legal right or license to do so, is considered movie piracy. The most common occurrence of this is the distribution of these movies on websites. Traffic for these sites tends to spike whenever a new blockbuster movie releases as a pirated version will very likely be hosting these movies in a downloadable format on their servers.
Software piracy describes the act of illegally acquiring, copying, reproducing, and distributing software without a license to do so. Software piracy has become much more rampant in this generation of technology, as most software has converted into a one-user license i.e. it can only be redeemed once by one user for his use alone. Distributing this software, such as sharing with a friend, or via the internet, is illegal.
Online piracy is still a new arena in the world of piracy as compared to its offline older brother, and it has only grown more intricate with advancements in technology. Any piece of digital content, be it movies, music or games, are now accessible online through the BitTorrent client service, which strings together several pieces of the data from a swarm of users, then downloads and compiles them onto the user’s computer. It’s simple, efficient, widely used, and difficult to crack down on.
Movie piracy has become a more controlled art in recent times, from shaky recordings on camcorders to dedicated sites, apps, and add-ons to physical hardware, piracy has grown more subtle yet more dangerous as a practice. In the UK, over a third of people who are above the age of 16 pirate movies.
The method of pirating movies and uploading them online has also grown more intricate and difficult to track. Pirates often make use of BitTorrent to upload their files and store them online. The data travels to the user who requests the file is supplied with the file through the contribution of a huge group of seeders i.e. pirates who upload the files in bits and pieces. However, with the recent crackdown on online piracy, and links for pirated files being shut down, pirates save files offline, and these same games and movies are then sold via optical discs at grey markets.
Surprising as it may be, there is no definitive international law that governs piracy as a whole, at least for the digital equivalent of piracy. Under international law, the statute of piracy only covers ‘physical’ piracy, i.e. the actual looting and plundering of goods and valuables via ship-borne thieves.
Copyright is one tool to prevent the intellectual property of a person from being pirated. It is the legal right granted to a creator of any intellectual property to be able to reproduce and redistribute his work, at his discretion. Although back then, and even today, copyright doesn’t exactly prevent piracy, it does protect the legal interests of the party negatively affected and prescribe legal consequences for the perpetrator, in the event that copyright infringement(piracy) does occur.
Copyright holders routinely invoke legal and technological measures to prevent and penalize copyright infringement.
An act of piracy that involves recording a movie or a video, especially without prior authority from the creator or purchased license to do so. The most notable method of movie piracy is known as camcorder piracy, in which a camcorder or a small recording device is often snuck into a theatre, and the entire movie, recorded onto the camcorder, is distributed online via the internet, either on pirated sites for free or sold on gray markets.
Websites that host pirated content are one of the most popular sources to acquire pirated content, as most of these sites offer the content for free, which sees them experience a lot of network traffic due to their popularity, and the sheer number of users accessing their domains to get their hands on the latest pirated songs, games or movies.
While several governments have encouraged ISPs(internet service providers) to block these sites by default on their services, these sites are still regularly visited through the use of VPNs(Virtual Private Networks). Some of the most popular sites to pirate movies are –
The Copyright Act, 1957 handles protection of copyrighted material via classification of the same into two categories of rights, those being –
India is one of the few countries that has multiple dominant box office film industries, in Bollywood, Hollywood, and Tollywood. As such, piracy is a much more dominant force considering there is a lot more material to pirate which the local audience would be interested in. Internet users often use VPNs to visit torrent sites which host songs, games, movies and the like. Local vendors at technological hubs often carry compact discs with pirated movies and games, which are sold at cheap prices. Modding video game hardware to play pirated discs is also a booming industry in India.
Considering the viewership of cinema in India with the three major cinema industries, the traffic of sites that host pirated content is also considerably higher in the country. While the above-mentioned torrent sites, which are the most used across the world, are relatively popular in India, people often tend to visit piracy sites that host Bollywood or Tollywood content exclusively. Some of these sites are –
The Union of India recently issued an amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to clearly define the punishment which can be faced by pirates who, without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, use any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film. It is not necessary for the film to be fully recorded, or even distributed via the internet. If the perpetrator attempts to record the movie while inside the theatre, he is guilty under the act.
The punishment for this is generally imprisonment, a fine, or both. This punishment can also extend to those who download said pirated movies.
Since the crime of piracy is not limited to only the movie industry, the punishment specified above isn’t the only one dealt to pirates. It varies with the industry in which they are committing an act of piracy. The most notable forms of punishment are covered in the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Information Technology Act, 2000. The punishments specified are as follows-
While the legal consequences associated serve to act as an effective deterrent against piracy, they are not nearly enough to act as a solid preventive measure, considering actual prosecutions against digital pirates are few and far in between. This is because most intellectual property owners tend to just get a cease-and-desist(termination) order against sites which host pirated content, which are just orders to take down the download links for the content.
Therefore, there are, while loosely-defined, some effective ways to prevent piracy, i.e. deter users themselves from seeking out and downloading pirated content. These are as follows –
Camcorder piracy refers to the method of piracy used in pirating movies. This involves the pirate recording the entirety of the movie while in the theatre using a camcorder. These movies are generally referred to as ‘Cam print’ movies. Keep in mind, camcorder piracy is not limited solely to the use of camcorders. Any device capable of recording video qualifies under camcorder piracy.
Despite the quality of these pirated movies being very poor, with constant shaking, foreign audio, and low video pixels, these movies are downloaded in large quantities, largely due to the timing of their upload, which is usually a couple of days after the release of the movie. A lot of these movies are often repacked into optical drives for sale in black markets via local vendors.
This causes major damage to the movie industry considering the more the movie is pirated, the lesser net earnings are made by the box office. A lot of studios never even get back their original investment in the production of the movie. If the loss through piracy is bad enough, it can lead to a loss of jobs due to low earnings, and the black market sales of such pirated products can also help sponsor organised crime. Therefore it can have a hugely adverse impact on the economy in general.
As per the amended Cinematograph Act, 1952, the recording of movies in the theatre by any recording device, in order to produce a pirated ‘cam print’ of the movie, is illegal and punishable by law. The act of recording by itself is punishable in law, the rest of the process to successfully pirate the movie is irrelevant in deciding the guilt of the pirate.
Pirates who record movies via camcorder can face legal consequences, the provisions for which are described under the Act. The punishment for the same is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine payable up to Rs. 10 lakh.
When talking about one of the biggest blows that piracy has dealt to the film industry, the most notable attack is one carried out right before the release of the star-studded action film, ‘The Expendables 3’. According to this Forbes article, the movie was acquired illegally by pirates and the entire thing was leaked online for download. Statistics estimate the viewership of the pirated movie to be close to 70 million viewers.
This sets a dangerous precedent for the economic success of these movies, especially today when movies can be downloaded and streamed on almost every device out there, be it phones, tablets, laptops, desktops or even video game consoles. This leads to a larger viewership of pirated content. More views equal more deduction from the profit margin of the producers of the movie.
And this reduced profit margin does not mean less income for the producers only, it also affects the other employees working in the entertainment industry. This includes composers, set designers, electricians
The losses which the studios incur as a result of piracy are no small amount. The losses climb up to 7-8 digits, wherein losses are measured in the millions. The large amount of people accessing pirated content is also a contributory factor in these losses.
Taking the above case regarding ‘The Expendables 3’ as an example, it has been estimated that the movie lost about $100 million in revenue due to the pirated leak of the movie before release, and the views during the release of the film.
India’s box office, as of August 2018, is worth almost $21 billion. However, in terms of piracy, it is also a leading juggernaut. It is ranked among the top five countries with the maximum P2P(connection type for torrent downloads) downloads. Through this, it has lost around $2.8 billion of its annual revenue. (Source: Ipleaders)
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