It is baffling that we should invest so much in making films yet have no inclination to do whatever it takes to keep them safe from pirates. Is this a lost cause?
While there are many factors that are holding back the growth of our industry, piracy is one of the biggest reasons for loss of revenue. Recently, writer Ritesh Shah was in our office and in a very upbeat mood. And why not? His work is being appreciated and his latest release Pink is doing very well at the ticket counter.
During the course of our conversation with him, Shah shared some vital details about Pink. He told us that he had been working on the film for the last three years and the product that released a week ago was the sixth screenplay draft. Isn’t it amazing that a man dedicates his three years to deliver a solid product like Pink?
However, the very day the film released in cinemas, pirated DVDs were also being sold cheaply in markets near cinema halls. How sad is that? Someone had committed three years of his life to make something and how easily it becomes available in the black market. Filmmaking is no mean feat; it is a long and arduous process that involves hundreds of people for each film. Yet, it can be pirated in the blink of an eye.
There was a time in the Indian film industry where different filmmakers would make different movies. There was an era when A-grade, B-grade and C-grade categories of movies existed, and then there was parallel cinema. And movies of all grades would get a theatrical release because that was the only way for the audience to watch the kind of movies they wanted to watch.
Considering ticket prices today, who would want to fork out that much and go to the cinema to watch a small-budget or a B-grade movie? They prefer to watch it on their phones (it is easily available thanks to Internet piracy) or buy pirated DVDs.
Movie-goers prefer to spend money only when there are big names attached to a movie; otherwise they have other options where they spend much less and watch the film at their own convenience. And we have piracy to thank for this. This is definitely holding back the film business and also the growth of our industry.
What do you think Ritesh Shah would feel when he sees cheap, pirated versions of his film available in the market or on the Internet? And why just him? It is devastating for everyone associated with a film.
Is there a solution? It’s a question that’s been raised several times before? On the one hand, we are seeing fewer and fewer moviegoers coming to watch Hindi movies. Yet, the cinema-going audience is growing in the South. And the reason? It is not easy for pirated DVDs to be sold down South. In fact, it is very rare to find a pirated version of a South film online.
We should not take this lightly and should learn a lesson from it. We make movies and go all out to promote them, only to find that it has leaked the day it released. This is what happened recently with movies like Udta Punjab and Great Grand Masti. We pour our heart into making movies but we cannot keep our films safe.
Let us remember that it is NEVER too late. If we get together, we can do it. Why should it be so hard to devote some time to come together, come up with solutions and make sure there’s NO scope for piracy?
In this section of our seventh anniversary issue, we have discussed the devastating effect of piracy on our films. Let’s hope and pray that, some day, we will find a cure for this menace. Read on:
The problem of piracy has always been a major concern for our industry. However, it has become a bigger worry ever since content moved from physical DVDs to the digital space. A couple of years ago, there were about 300 to 400 pirated sites that were illegally uploading films online for download. But now, with vastly improved connectivity and internet penetration, we are dealing with 1,200 to 1,300 sites that make pirated films available, not within a day but within three hours.
It is very difficult to exercise control over BitTorrent sites as they have mushroomed at a very fast pace on the Web. In such a scenario, all one can do is get a John Doe order issued, list all the sites commonly used to download pirated movies and direct Internet Service Providers to block access to these sites. All of this does come at a rather huge cost, though. You have to go to court to secure the order, and you have to do this for every film you release. While the John Doe order lists specific sites only, proxy sites can get around this restriction.
Some countries have proactive anti-piracy enforcements in place. America and Germany send notices out instantly; they are commendably active on this front because they treat piracy as a serious crime. Yet, there are countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, where the rules are not stringent and inevitably, films are pirated from ISP addresses belonging to companies operating in these countries.
All this is likely to only get worse as Internet speeds and connectivity increases across the length and breadth of the country.
Film piracy has always been a big revenue stealer and it is sad that it is still so rampant in one of the highest tax-paying industries in the country. Recently, pirated versions of two major films that were scheduled to release in cinemas were available online even before their theatrical release. One can buy pirated DVDs of films from roadside vendors, demonstrating just how nonchalantly film pirates operate in full view of law enforcers.
The anti-piracy campaign has taken active steps in the past and in recent times. But only serous jail time and massive monetary fines for offenders will instill fear in them.
1.Water-tight security measures in single screens, where most instances of the master print of the pirated version are shot
2.The recent initiative by the CBFC appealing to filmmakers to submit DCPs of films for certification is good progress. Unfortunately, it has been facing some resistance due to the cost involved.
3.The recent blanket ban and closure of Torrent sites has been a big step in reigning in piracy as it was one of the most convenient ways for people to watch pirated content
4.The ‘intermediary suit’ launched by the law, according to which all Internet Service Providers were asked to ensure that any pirated film was not supplied to be circulated using their networks, will also give a major boost to anti-piracy movement in India
Ultra Media has been in the business of acquisition and syndication of content on a global basis for the past 35 years. We have always ensured that all our transactions, contracts and legal documents are watertight in all legal aspects, starting with the title deed of the previous owner.
A complete due diligence is undertaken throughout the process. To discourage piracy, Ultra also upgrades content quality through restoration and colour grading of old films. This is especially done for old films, because this will motivate people to buy new, upgraded and better quality content rather than opting for old, scratchy, poor quality, pirated content.
Ultra has also taken legal action against offenders who have pirated our content in the past and will continue to do so.