Friend MTS-Castle Media to tackle Bollywood's digital piracy using unique watermark tech

MUMBAI: Piracy is a serious challenge to the entertainment industry in India. In fact, according to the Motion Pictures Distributors Association of India (MPDA), India country is infamous for having one of the highest rate of video piracy in the world. Lack of stringent IP protection laws to counter exponential growth of online piracy has made matters worse. In 2008 alone, the industry lost close to USD 4 billion (Rs 27,000 crore) to piracy, going by Ernst & Young estimates. By 2016, the figure may have doubled by conservative extrapolation.

Birmingham-based content protection service Friend MTS sees a business opportunity in bringing back this large sum of non-monetised revenue back to the content-owners in India. Friend MTS is leading a delegation to India that will investigate the escalating problem of digital piracy.

“As pioneers in the creation and provision of content protection services, already used by many of the world’s Pay-TV operators, rights holders and broadcasters, we want to engage with the country’s movie producers and work with them to effectively fight the increasing threat to the revenue of premium channels and rights holders,” said Friend MTS’ global sales & marketing EVP Paul Hastings.

Friend MTS has already established the company’s base in Chennai, with Rahul Nehra overseeing its India operations. He works with India’s film studios, broadcasters and content owners to help protect them from unauthorised redistribution of their live and premium on-demand content.

Film producers and content rights owners such as Kollywood's Venkat Prabhu is excited "at the prospects of having FMTS track and contain on-line piracy" and are hopeful this will give them a significant upside in local and global revenues. Tamil Film Producers Council secretary T Siva, a film producer at Amma Creation, said, “The industry welcomes these initiatives on digital anti-piracy." Friend MTS had already helped secure Bollywood movies like Baahubali and Pink against piracy.

India is the biggest film producer in the world making between 1500 and 2000 movies each year, including the cult Bollywood movies.

“By teaming up with our local partner, Rahul Nehra, a well-known face in the Indian broadcast, satellite, content and OTT markets, and growth consultants from Frost Sullivan, the event and our delegation will be an unprecedented forum for discussing India’s spiraling digital piracy problems and how together we can work to stop it,” Hastings shared.

To help the international player understand the complex Indian media ecosystem, it has made an alliance with Castle Media. To guide its penetration in the southern market, it is relying on Novacom. Friend MTS’s flagship service titled ‘Studio’ is designed to identify instances of pirated movies on the internet, and is being used by some of the largest content-owners in the world.

In 2012 India was added to an ‘International Piracy Watch List’ by a U.S. government panel looking to highlight countries not taking sufficient action to address high rates of digital piracy. According to a 2013 article in WIPO Magazine (the journal of the World Intellectual Property Organization), the Indian film industry loses around US$3.34 billion and some 60,000 jobs every year because of piracy.

Identifying each copyright violator by generating unique watermark within the content for each user is what Hastings calls is the technology’s USP. “It uses a sophisticated but lightweight fingerprinting technology, coupled with our global monitoring platform and network forensics, to identify and enforce against websites and apps that are being used deliver illegal content,” he added.

In India Friend MTS is already operational for a leading broadcaster, and in talks with pay TV platforms, OTT service providers, and content makers, to ensure it catches up to its vibrant international clientele. “We deliver digital anti-piracy services for a wide range of customers including content owners such as Viacom and Paramount, sports rights holders such as the English Premier League, Serie A (Italian Football League), UFC, WWE, the International Olympic Committee and leading Hollywood studios. We also protect tier one pay-TV operators such as Sky, BT, nc+ (Poland) and OTE (Greece) delivered via satellite, cable and OTT,” Hastings added in parting.

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