Tuesday, June 22, 2021
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Pirates of the ‘Content’

Leaked versions of films available over the internet just before their release for movies like Zero Dark Thirty, Manjhi – the mountain man, and the recent most Udta Punjab, piracy seems to have become a ritual.

Piracy is the unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is sold at lower prices in the ‘grey’ market. The ease of access to technology has made piracy mercilessly rampant, over the years. India has the Indian Copyright Act of 1957 which protects literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, cinematograph films and sound recordings and combat online copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Video piracy takes place when a film is produced in the form of a videocassette without proper authorization from the right holder. Often, film producers sell video rights to another party, generally after six weeks of release in theatres, which makes video cassettes for selling. Optical Discs piracy of Indian films happens allegedly in the international markets. The prints sent for overseas screening of the film are pirated and infringed to other countries.

In 2015 Bit Torrent reported that the ‘Game of Thrones’ series was the most pirated TV show of the year. It was downloaded over 14 million times. Game of Thrones costs 6 million per episode. A DVD Box-set of Game of Thrones Season 5 (2015) costs around INR 2678, which clearly means HBO, lost out on an estimated $324 million from one season itself.

In the age of internet, over $40 billion are splurged every year on online advertising. It is this cash that funds millions of copyright-infringing websites that feed piping hot pirated stuff to the burgeoning online audience. The traffic these sites enjoy over 327 million unique users search for pirated content, helps generate over 14 billion page views for pirate websites. Torrent websites that use peer-to-peer distribution system account for more than half of the share at over 7.4 billion page views and video-streaming sites boast of generating another 4.2 billion page views.

With the dot com boom and the subsequent mushrooming of torrent sites it’s estimated to do more damage than ever before. Services that offer significant value at a fraction of the cost are the need of an hour. The future of the industry is hanging in a delicate balance, because the future of entertainment is definitely online. What matters now is whether it is via legitimate means or otherwise.

The reason that a large number of products are pirated in India is the sheer market for it. People would rather buy a ₹50 DVD of a movie for the whole family instead of spending hundreds in the theatres, some can’t actually afford the theatre trips, but that’s beside the point. The reason why people watch pirated stuff is the convenience. One can literally download the movie within two days and watch it in comfort at home. This is the mentality on which pirates thrive. Obviously, when the demand is high, business must be booming. India doesn’t have a good streaming platform like Netflix which could allow same day release of the movie online.

Clearly, since there is no concrete solution to the problem of piracy, the entertainment industry is moving to a model where they earn most of their profits in the first few days of the release of their content.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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