Anti-piracy war: good measures, yet lacking coordination

NEW DELHI:The inadequacies in the war against piracy and counterfeit became evident at the Ficci seminar on the issue when the Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy, H K Dua clarified that an inter-ministerial group to combat piracy has been formed two months ago, though the chairperson of the government‘s Core Group, film actress Shabana Azmi was unaware of it till then.

Delivering her key note address, Azmi had expressed sadness that the Core Group‘s recommendations - especially that of setting up the inter-ministerial group - had been made months ago but nothing has been heard of that.

A little later, addressing the audience, Dua said it has in fact been set up and work was going on, though he admitted: "Work has started, but it remains incomplete."


Central to a proposed action plan presented by Azmi was involving children, which has paid off very well in tackling issues like global warming and fight against plastics. Azmi said that during a school presentation against piracy, she had symbolically crushed hundreds of fake DVDs under a bulldozer she drove herself.

"Children loved that, but unfortunately, when the same students were asked to write an essay on the subject, they responded very poorly," Azmi despaired.

She explained that the children could not be faulted because neither teachers nor parents adequately understood the issue, and said that the need was to underline the word counterfeit as an act of theft and as vile an act as any other criminal offence.

Azmi made an emotional approach that would work if children understood that parents buying counterfeit material were encouraging thieves, and called for a widespread campaign on these lines.


Azmi was candid, however, to mention that though creative artists like her, music makers, lyricists and filmmakers and producers are the hardest hit by counterfeit, yet, Bollywood was guilty of never making a concerted and sustained campaign on the issue.

Azmi revealed also that among the other measures suggested by the Core Group were setting up a complete digital cinema environment, and that the Group had demanded tax holidays and 100 per cent depreciation for the digital cinema industry.

It may be recalled that Ficci itself had in its prebudget wish list had stressed creating digital cinema environment and demanded several benign tax measures for that, but after the budget proposals, slammed them as "There is nothing in it for us".

Thus far goes the finance ministries commitment to protect Indian media industry against piracy, for nothing has been done so far in remodelling tax structures to incorporate the demands of the industry.

Azmi said that another recommendation of the Group was that copyright laws must embrace digital download access, so that people could access legitimate content at affordable prices.

Dua did not clarify the government position on these other two issues.

However, he said that while there was once a situation when India did not have adequate legal teeth to tackle the problem of piracy, this is not the case today.

Listing the various recent legislations and amendments to older ones tackling piracy, Dua said: "There are adequate laws but not adequate action."

He stressed that the action has to be at the states level, where the illegal activities take place, and regretted that even now, state police forces treat piracy complaints as a civil matter and comes last in their prioritisation, after maintaining law and order and dealing with crime.

Piracy is not taken as a serious offence by the police, though it is killing off legitimate industries and hurting people employed in them.

"This is murder, but economic murder, theft, but not of property, but something even deeper, the source of property," he said, adding that if a mere 10 per cent of piracy in the IT sector could be reduced, it would save the country five billion dollars and protect 1,15,000 jobs.

He spoke also of the indirect and not so visible implications of piracy. "Once black money is generated, it has to be sued somewhere, so there is more counterfeiting and the link of all sorts of illegal activities add up to funding for terrorism as well.

Dua said that the major charter of the inter-ministerial group has been enforcement at the state level.

Dua also revealed that though US and other countries are accusing India, China, etc., of pirating their IPR products, the government had pointed out to the US trade representative during her recent visit to India that Indian films were getting pirated in the US too, and they need to do something about it.

There was a demand that dedicated cells to tackle piracy issues must be set up within the police forces in the states because the regular forces are too stretched to handle this specialised criminal offence.

Dua clarified on this issue that the inter-ministerial group had stressed an Intellectual Property Cell in every state, to be headed by the IP secretary concerned, and added that programmes for of judicial officials and police personnel have been started already.

Speaking for Ficci, V K Topa said that workshops for judges have already been held at Kolkata, Delhi and Bhopal and there is another one coming up in June in Bangalore.

Ficci is also working with Kolkata High Court to probe the possibilities of setting up special anti-piracy courts which could fast-track the judicial process and hand out swift and exemplary punishments to offenders.

In his vote of thanks, V J Lazarus of India Music Industry said that the government has been extraordinary in its support for the movement, and it is now time for industry to do whatever it could to make the war a complete victory.


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