The Piracy Paradox

Author: Antima Tiwari New Law College, BVDP, Pune

INTRODUCTION

Technology has been taking high turns of advancement in recent times. The increase in the availability of smartphones, internet services, data plans has forced large numbers of the population to use online services. The amount of people using the internet has increased drastically in recent decades. According to the reports, it has been found that about 50.3% in Asia use online platforms.[1]

India is the second-largest online market in the world with 566 million internet users out of which 251 million belong to rural India. 97% of the population in India uses mobile phones.[2] Internet is a great medium for sharing various kinds of media, sources and whatnot. With apps like Tiktok and YouTube coming into play, media consumption has increased over a period of time. Even in the educational department, one can find a number of books, sources and study material online which can also be downloaded for free.

With the availability of a large number of media, educational resources and entertainment sources one is able to enjoy a wide variety of data but at the same time this has increased the risk of infringement of the rights of the owners of the creation. This is what is called “Piracy” in the modern world.

In simple words, the term ‘Piracy’ refers to using someone else’s work, creation, as their own by regenerating, redistributing or selling it without the prior permission of the rightful owner of the work. Piracy is also referred to as copyright infringement. The effect of piracy might not seem to be a severe one but in reality, it does both moral and economic harm. This article will deal with how Piracy is a dangerous crime and how it harms intellectual property rights. Further, the article will also discuss what initiatives have been taken by the government to deal with such kinds of infringement. The end part of the article will deal with how Piracy has increased in the times of COVID-19.

PIRACY: A THREAT TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) encourage innovation, creation, research and help in protecting the same. On the other hand, crimes like piracy impose a severe threat on the very basis of the IPRs. With the advent of unlimited internet access and resources available, the threat has increased so much. Piracy is what is mainly thought of as something which doesn’t harm anyone but a lot of people miss the fact that this crime has various economic repercussions which are often ignored.

Besides, infringing the exclusive rights of the owner, affecting their due profit for their creation, piracy also tends to give a major halt to the economy overall leading to a loss of jobs and revenue. Had it not been pirated it would have created more revenue rather than creating zero revenue as now it will be available for free.

The reason that it is difficult to track such pirated products is because of the availability of different types of sources available online, adding to the inability of the owners of the copyright to keep a track on the same. This also makes it difficult for a layman to distinguish between the original and the copied work available online.

Piracy is committed by people with evil intentions but mostly it is committed by the people who are not even aware that they are committing a crime. On the other hand, people prefer to get what they want without paying a penny and sites like uTorrent make it easier for people to download movies, books and any other media. To further understand the concept of piracy one needs to be aware of the existing types of online piracy, which are namely;

  1. Counterfeiting: This deals with illegal distribution and duplication of the copyrighted work.

  2. End-user piracy: This deals with reproducing software or illegally producing, using something one is not authorized to do.

  3. Internet Piracy: This deals with the illegal download of movies, books and other material which in normal circumstances should have been brought legally.

  4. Client-server Overuse: This deals with the problem where a certain computer program is used by people exceeding its usual limit which is prescribed with any license.

  5. Hard-disk loading: This deals with the illegal copying of copyrighted software on the hard disk of the computers which have newly come into the market.

Unfortunately, the nature of online piracy is anonymous thereby making it difficult for the IP owners to take strict actions against it.

One common example is the very famous Bollywood Industry. The Indian film industry is the largest industry in terms of producing films. Indian cinema has fans from different parts of the world thus, making it more prone to its desperation for the availability of movies online. The Indian film industry is vulnerable to the crime of piracy leading to a loss of around $1 billion and about 600,000 people losing their job annually.[3] As unfortunate as it is, the levels of piracy are way too high in India as DVDs are sold openly, downloading and sharing of illegal media is quite common. The common ways in which the movies are pirated are during its release when someone from within the production does that, or through camcorders, or while the film is being screened at a film festival. The increase in the pirated content is because of the increased level of financial returns that the pirates get in return.

According to digital piracy authority, MUSO, India has seen a considerable spike in the piracy rates especially in the times of COVID-19 with 62% increase in the last week of March.[4]

INITIATIVES TAKEN

The Indian judiciary has played a significant role in understanding the risk piracy has on the IPRs and has therefore taken steps to make it clear that the infringer of the right will be punished. Under the Copyright Act, 1957[5] one has the freedom and right to communicate their work to the public at large and any infringement will be duly punished. The Indian courts have adopted the John Doe Orders[6] also known as the Ashok Kumar Orders whereby, they can punish the anonymous infringers to protect the IP rights of the owners.

The concept of John Doe Orders emerged in the case of Taj Television v. Rajan Mandal (2003),[7] In this case the Delhi high court issued John Doe orders against the cable operators when they had broadcasted a World Cup football tournament in an unauthorized manner. This leads to the acknowledgement of the order leading to a practice where permission is being taken before the broadcasting of any tournament or movie. The Delhi High court in a recent judgment in 2019 had passed an interim injunction against the broadcasting of audio of the ICC Cricket world cup.[8]

The initiatives taken by the state and the central government involve the introduction of the Amendments in the Cinematograph Act, 1952 which has provisions against cam-recording and making it illegal to record any scenes of movies while in theatres. The launch of the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal allows the people to report any cyber-crime if and when noticed. On the ground level, there has been an increase in the spreading of awareness against the crimes of copyright infringement and piracy in general. Anti-piracy campaigns have been launched for the school and university students to make them aware of the same. The police officials who have been working actively in the fields of managing the IP crimes are trained about the anti-piracy activities. Training programs are designed to give them an overview of the same. Videos with slogans such as “SAY NO TO PIRACY” have been circulated and mascots like “IP Nani”; the first IP mascot in India has been created for the awareness of the same.[9]

CONCLUSION

The challenge of piracy is a difficult one to deal with considering the increase in the advancement of technology. The government and the judiciary are constantly working to understand how this crime can be decreased by making new laws and guidelines. Considering the fact that the whole concept of Intellectual Property Rights is emerging in India currently, it will take time for us to be able to handle all the infringements in a better way.

The basic step to curb evils like this is to spread awareness about the same which the government has been constantly doing. Provisions like that of John Doe or Ashok Kumar will help in better handling of the cases and will give a wider perspective to the judiciary. Evils like piracy can be curbed out with the efforts of spreading among the people while simultaneously taking effective measures to fight against the menace of copyright infringement.

[1] <https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm>

[2]  Manisha Singh, Aprajita Nigam and Samrita Sinha, (Mondaq, 12 March, 2020) ( < https://www.mondaq.com/india/copyright/901978/combating-copyright-online-piracy-in-india-government39s-initiatives-and-judicial-enforcement

[3] Arpan Banerjee (SpringersLink, 7 September, 2019) <https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-13-8102-7_8>

[4] Lata Jha (Livemint, 11 May,2020) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/india-sees-big-spike-in-film-piracy-post-covid-19-11589183182123.html>

[5] Copyright Act, 1957.

[6] Nikieta Aggarwal, (Ipleaders, 13 Feb,2017)  <https://blog.ipleaders.in/john-doe-orders/>

[7] Taj Television & Anr v Rajan Mandal & Ors. (Order dated 14.06.2006 passed in IA NO. 5628/2002 in CS (OS) 1072/2002.)

[8] Channel 2 group Corporation v LIVE.MYCRICKETLIVE.NET/ & ORS, [CS (COMM) 326/2019, I.A. 8510/2019 and 8508/2019]

[9] Supra 2

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