Govt. moots law to check ent. sector piracy

NEW DELHI: The Indian government is contemplating a law on optical disc to arrest the spiraling entertainment sector-related piracy which is reported to be resulting in losses of over $ 150 million annually.

A series of meetings were held over the last fortnight with participation from the ministries of information & broadcasting (I&B), human resources development (HRD) and law discussing various aspects of this growing problem.

According to Shardul Thacker, a partner in top notch legal firm Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, piracy in the entertainment industry is hurting it tremendously. An estimate is that the film industry alone loses $200,000 per day due to piracy.

In a bid to arrest piracy, the I&B ministry has also written letters to various states last week, requesting them to supply information on piracy on a quarterly basis.

I&B ministry secretary Navin Chawla's letter to the top most bureaucrats in the states says that while efforts are made to curb piracy by ground level law enforcement authorities, "these are not reflected in a consolidated manner."

While pointing out that the ministry has been receiving several complaints related to piracy, Chawla has added that the enforcement of the copyright law lies within the jurisdiction of the state governments which need to be more vigilant in this regard.

"May I, therefore, request you to consider issuing necessary directions to this effect to all district magistrates, superintendents of police in your state," Chawla's letter states.

Though India has laws relating to protection of intellectual property rights, the enforcement of these is lax and often inter-ministry wrangles take the sting out of any anti-piracy operation.

The copyright act 1957 provides for anti-piracy action was amended in the mid-1990s to give effect to the obligations arising from the signing of the GATT and to bring in conformity with the present law in developed nations. The act also provides for penal action and administrative remedies. The cable TV act of 1995 also prohibits transmission of programmes violating copyright by a cable operator. Section 43 of the IT act of 2000 makes one liable to pay damages by way of compensation up to Rs.10 million for unauthorised downloading.

The copyright amendment act of 1994 provides broadcasting reproduction rights. The term broadcasting includes television, radio and internet broadcast. A broadcasting organisation has a special broadcasting right for 25 years. In this period, programmes broadcast cannot be reproduced or aired again without a licence from the organisation.

Piracy rate in India is also on the higher side and, according to a Motion Picture Association of America estimate in 2002, the rate of piracy in India was as high as 60 per cent with the annual losses amounting to $ 75 million.

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