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Zeel tastes success in satellite TV signals’ theft & piracy; mastermind arrested

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MUMBAI: In a major relief for Zee Entertainment Enterprises (Zeel), Delhi Police acting on FIR No. 243/2014 after carrying out a detailed initial investigations raided premises in Kalyanpur area of Lucknow on 22 May, 2015 and found illegal tapping and unauthorised uploading of live-content of all popular Indian television channels like Zee TV, Star Plus, Colors and Sony TV amongst other on pirated websites.

During the raid, more than two dozen workers were caught red-handed, digitally stealing live feed of Indian pay TV channels using more than 50 DTH and cable TV set-top boxes. These persons were extracting TV feeds, removing watermarks and uploading them on their sites such as www.Desitvforum.net. The websites are being accessed by millions of viewers abroad in USA, Canada, Europe, UK and Netherlands. Thousands of dollars are being illegally earned by the pirates, which in turn is causing a huge amount of loss to broadcasters. In addition, there has also been rampant violation of foreign exchange regulations and money laundering.

The Delhi Police arrested the mastermind of this piracy racket, Md. Asif Siddiqui. Various equipment including computers and other accessories, used in carrying out the piracy and signal theft were also seized.

Investigations in the matter are continuing and more such raids and arrests are likely to follow based on the interrogation of the accused.

Zeel had lodged an FIR no 243/2014 u/s IPC 379/420/465/107/109/120B, u/s 63 Copyright Act 1957 and u/s 66/66C of IT Act 2000 with Delhi Police in Chanakyapuri Police Station for unauthorised streaming of the episodes of various Zee channel programs within 10 to 12 minutes of their actual broadcast. The modus operandi was that in addition to tapping and stealing live feed of various channels from DTH and cable set top boxes, the accused persons within these 10-12 minutes, were recording video, editing identifiable information, adding their logo and uploading it to several servers simultaneously.

This is the first occasion when an internet-pirate has been caught red-handed in India. Normally identifying individual persons and their physical locations behind their pirated sites is very difficult. It took more than a yearlong investigation and digital evidence gathering by Zee’s in-house IT security team to collect irrefutable evidence to identify humans behind the mask of these websites, which were hosted from Sweden.

With the proliferation of Internet enabled devices, the Indian broadcasting industry has been bleeding badly. According to an open-source web-based analytics, this particular group had more than 10 lakh daily viewers and has been earning thousands of dollars every day. The targeted customers were mainly from US, Canada, Europe etc.

With the rapid advent of technology enabling the dissemination of content across digital platforms and web, there are enormous revenue opportunities for broadcasters and other content owners. The Indian channels, which are available in more than 100 countries around the world, are extremely popular amongst the South-Asian diaspora. However, piracy, stealing of signals and their unauthorised transmission and streaming on web has been a major stumbling block in revenue monetization. In fact, broadcasters are losing huge revenue to these pirates.

Unfortunately the provisions of existing laws such as Copyright Act, IT Act 2000 have not proved to be effective in curbing these kinds of new-age crimes as piracy is categorised as a “bailable” offence. In order to effectively deal with the menace of copyright piracy the copyright infringement should be made “non-bailable.”

Similarly, whether signal theft could be regarded as theft of “property” as contemplated under section 379 of IPC also needs to be clarified. The need of the hour is to review these laws and introduce more stringent provisions to deal with such offences so that these provisions may act as an effective deterrent.

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