MPA launches anti-DVD piracy campaign in India

MUMBAI: The crusade for putting the law a step ahead of technology arrives in India.

The Motional Picture Association of America launched the last leg of its regional anti-piracy programme - the DVD Rewards Campaign, in India on Wednesday. At an ostentatiously glamorous function in Mumbai where the MPA roped in celebrities like actor Vivek Oberoi, filmmakers Bobby Bedi and Rakeysh 'Aks' Mehra and Indian Motion Picture Producers Association president Smita Thackeray, the industry swore to weed out DVD piracy, or at least make an earnest attempt to stem it.

MPA's Asia Pacific anti-piracy operations regional director Michael Ellis reeled out figures to substantiate the war against DVDs, as against the lowly VCDs, which are still the currency in Indian entertainment. The number of pirated DVDs seized in Asia has shot up from zero in 1998 to 6.1 million in 2002, contributing significantly to the overall video piracy losses that rack up to $ 642 million, he claimed. Nearly 87 per cent of the MPA's worldwide seizures in 2002 were made in the Asia Pacific region, reason enough for the body to focus on countries like Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, and of course India, and put an end to the piracy of optical discs. India, which is on the MPA's priority watch list, contributed a loss of $ 75 million via piracy, the levels in the country having gone up from 55 to 60 per cent in the last one year.

While the assembled gathering diplomatically skirted the issue of how exactly the prints are leaked to the allegedly proliferating duplicate DVD business in the country, Ellis vehemently urged the consumer to 'Say No to Piracy', a campaign that does not just involve end consumer awareness, but also a hotline - 011 51643707, on which one could report pirate operations and stand to win handsome financial rewards if the information leads directly to successful raids on factories or plants manufacturing pirate DVDs. MPA's India legal counsel Chander Lall says the MPA has put aside an amount of $ 150,000 for the entire rewards programme in the eight countries in the Asia Pacific.

A campaign mascot 'Mr Anti Piracy' representing the campaign was unveiled by Oberoi, who declared on the occasion that "piracy was a wake up call, an opportunity for us as a fraternity to unite and stand as one." Ellis claimed that India has at least 15 optical disc manufacturing plants with at least three of them equipped with the technology to make DVDs, and an estimated production capacity of 85 million discs per year.

While the MPA in association with the IMPPA has thus far raided video parlours and cable ops' premises in the South, it has also recently got a civil injunction from the Delhi High Court against unauthorized rental of VCDs and DVDs, Ellis said.

Despite a promise, however, no government representative turned up at the progrmame launch, prompting Thackeray to declare her displeasure over police inaction in curbing piracy. "While the stipulated penalty is imprisonment for three years and a fine of upto Rs 3 lakh (Rs 300,000), most of those arrested are let off on bail after a couple of days," she alleged, demanding more teeth to the laws that dealt with piracy.

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