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'Make piracy an economic offence, good cos 'badvertise' too'

MUMBAI: Protection and enforcement of copyright continues to remain a challenge for the Media and Entertainment industry. According to estimates, rogue or pirate sites earned 35 per cent more revenues than the Indian Film Industry in 2016.

The need of the hour is to form enforcement models and effective strategies to counter the underground pirate economy. Taking the war against online piracy in India one notch higher, A session called ‘Decoding the pirate economy in interconnected world: from Noise to Action’ on online copyright infringement that has facilitated the emergence of pirate economy, was held at FICCI Frames on the first day of the three day conference on the Media and Entertainment industry.

The panel moderated by MPA India MD Uday Singh was attended by DIPP joint secretary Rajiv Aggarwal, IAS, Inspector General of Maharashtra Police (Cyber) Brijesh Singh, Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce Anti Video Piracy Cell chairman Raj Kumar Akella, Star India legal VP Surender Mann, Strategic IP Information CEO Bharat Dube, Viacom18 group general counsel Sujeet Jain, and The Film and Television Producers Guild of India CEO Kulmeet Makkar.

According to Singh, the Indian film industry’s attitude about the seven days window to make money at box office should change and one should look at piracy as a threat in a longer run. Public and private partnership is needed to deal with intellectual property violations. Hence, to curb online piracy in India, Maharashtra state is all set to get Maharashtra Intellectual Property Crime Unit, which may be called MIPCU.

Though, Dube believes that advertising revenue is the primary driver for the content theft industry. The best way to deter advertising revenue from going to pirate networks would be to build comprehensive risk management frameworks in ad agencies, ad networks and advertisers to address this risk proactively. ISPs need to proactively build block lists and adhere to site blocking orders issued by the courts to limit access to pirate sites.

"The problem is also with mindset where people do not see immorality or illegality in pirating movies," he added.

In one of his studies, Dube tracked 1,143 popular pirate sites in India and found that 73 per cent of the sites were ad-supported and had the potential of generating millions of dollars for pirates. It is estimated that large pirate networks can generate between $2-4 million while medium and smaller sites can generate up to $2 million annually. The low levels of industry awareness have resulted in advertisements of legitimate businesses appearing on pirate sites. This study found 425 legitimate advertisers advertising on pirate sites.

Pirate networks also attract advertising from several High-Risk Advertisers such as, adult dating, pornography, malware, gambling and other unregulated products. This study found 361 advertisers in the high-risk category.

"Piracy should be made an economic offence. Search engines should take responsibilities and advertising on illegal websites should stop. We have coined a word called ‘Badvertising’ for advertisements on such websites," added Dube.

Resonating with Dube's thoughts, Jain also stated that the search engines have to behave more responsibly an that the bad advertising on rogue websites has to reduce. “Trinity of legislative, executive and judicial authorities need to fight piracy together. We need court orders to block websites completely to curb online piracy,” said Jain. He also pointed out that piracy should be classified as an economical issue for which measures are essential to improve civic sense. According to the IT act, there are intermediary guidelines which have a greater role to play. The responsibility on intermediaries has to increase to win this war against online piracy.

Sharing similar thoughts, Mann happily agreed to help and support Maharashtra government against online piracy. Jain too accepted the opportunity to become a unit with the Maharashtra state to curb piracy.

Makkar expressed their support for MIPCU and hope to see the end of piracy in India very soon. He also stated the importance of an awarenesss program. "We are working on some campaigns to spread awareness about the odds that come with piracy across cinema halls, TV channels, etc. "

Akella also resonated with the idea of collaborating industry and the state government. "India needs to take responsibility. Piracy is just not the loss of revenues. It affects us in a much larger way," concluded Akella.

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