Finally, software solutions to checkmate online film pirates are on the horizon. But are filmmakers their own worst enemies?
Forty percent. That’s mega, mega bucks in the film industry. Yet, 40 per cent of annual box office revenue is lost to the sale of pirated CDs. As for Internet piracy, revenue siphoned off from this source has gone up considerably even though Internet penetration in India is still relatively low.
But technology may finally be catching up with slippery online thieves. Enter Aiplex Software, a Bangalore-based company which claims it can put the cuffs on online pirates. The company provides anti-piracy solutions for both film and music, protecting copyright content which is prone to spreading like a virus across the Web. And, it seems, it’s working, as the company’s client roster already includes a handful of Indian filmmakers like Yash Raj Films and UTV.
Girish Kumar, Managing Director, Aiplex Software explains, “Internet piracy is on the rise in a lot of small cities as there is very little security against camcorder piracy. We have a strong back-end team that identifies IP address to trace the source of infringement.”
While a pirated CD typically takes 24 hours to reach the market, a pirated film can be uploaded in seconds. The three major forms of Internet piracy use Torrent downloaders, link share and online sharing. Aiplex claims to have the best and most commonly used Torrent software that automatically searches for relevant key words at frequent intervals. The company claims its technology has superior accuracy and can also pinpoint the location from where a file has been uploaded.
Even more alarming is that online piracy, if not controlled, could result in 300 illegal weblinks which can escalate to 3,000 links in just 48 hours. And mind you, we’re talking about a small- to medium-budget film. If a film like 3 Idiots falls to online pirates, it could easily result in up to 5 lakh downloads a day, which can further increase to almost a crore.
Here are some hard facts. Aiplex removed 11,417 piracy links for My Name Is Khan, 11,318 for 3 Idiots, 4,181 for Paa and 5,759 for Rann. Ask Kumar to explain their modus operandi and he replies: “We start work almost a week before a film’s release and bombard search engines and other potential websites where online piracy takes place with countless fake links. This is a strong deterrent to people who try to get their hands on pirated versions of copyrighted material.”
He adds, “We approach service providers with authenticated links of pirated products being uploaded and appeal to them to remove the content by sending them a legal copyright infringement notice for violation of copyright.”
Eventually, their support team moves in for further damage control by sending legal notices to service providers and blocking accounts for infringing of copyright laws. Kumar claims his company has clocked a 98, 95 and 96 per cent success rate for films like My Name Is Khan, 3 Idiots and Prince, respectively.
The damage is even greater if the film is a medium-budget production. Producer Aarti Shetty of Walkwater Films, for instance, was in a challenging predicament when Tere Bin Laden was to release. “Since the film featured Pakistani actor Ali Zafar, it was much talked-about in Pakistan. Also, since the film was banned in Pakistan due to ‘sensitive portions’, the film aroused even more curiosity. The pickings were rich for online pirates,” Shetty explains.
But here’s the clincher. Kumar says using an anti-piracy alike Aiplex Software costs Rs 2–3 lakh but “it’s ironic that though the charges are low, film producers are reluctant to opt for this solution”. “Some filmmakers are not even aware of the perils of online piracy. They do not understand that curbing it can save a lot of revenue, which can be pocketed by producers. Instead, that money is illegally and freely flowing into the pockets of pirates,” he remarks.