Have you ever craved online entertainment such as movies and TV shows? Isn’t it make you happy when you get access to these free of cost? I mean who doesn’t love free content but do you realize that accessing such content and downloading it for free is an offence punishable under the law? It may sound shocking to you but it is a crime termed digital piracy. Digital piracy is considered as unauthorized circulation of digital content copied from the source, it can be music files, sensitive videos, movies, or TV shows. One of the best examples of digital piracy most common in India is a recording of a movie released on its original screen and being quickly available on unauthentic platforms or websites. It is often known by different names whether its online piracy, internet piracy, or digital piracy this unlawful act not only harms creativity but also infringes the copyright of the owner for content such as music, games, software, e-book movies, and TV shows; streaming of such content without authorization also comes under digital piracy. The most common sources of pirated content are
- Streaming websites
- Cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Media fire
- Torrent sites
- Auction sites 
India ranks 3rd globally among the top five countries in terms of digital piracy. Indian entertainment industry which earns a whopping 2.6 billion every year suffers the most due to digital piracy, that being the humongous loss, still why this is happening? Why do people engage in such activities? One of the reasons is it simple and easily accessible, further, no major costs attached to it motivate its spread twofold. The present perception among consumers is that why spend money on things that are available for free? What they don’t realize is that digital piracy is ruining the entertainment business and also harming independent creators who are already struggling to make a career.
WHY DIGITAL PIRACY IS BECOMING A SERIOUS DILEMMA?
Digital piracy is becoming a rampant problem in India with movies and music being the top sources of entertainment consumed by the viewers. Unauthorized downloading of a movie before its official release is the most common form of digital piracy prevailing in India for more than a decade so why piracy is rising in India in contemporary times at such a rapid pace? The easiest answer would be the incapacity of the consumers to pay certain fees for watching such content and another reason is the rising consumption of the internet which is readily available at a cheaper cost.
According to a joint report by Akamai and MUSO, the global consumption of pirated content spiked significantly between January 2021 to September 2021. Around 6.5 billion visits to pirate websites have been witnessed in India which is the third highest outlasted by the U.S (13.5billion) and Russia (7.2 billion). One of the most prominent reasons for this sudden increase was the pandemic which made us confined to our homes and the induced boredom contributed to such an increase, more, over during the first, wave the demand for premium content increased as travelling was restricted and entertainment houses were closed, this made to resort to pirated content which caused content creators to lose money five times of what they originally made. In the entertainment industry, another significant rise in digital piracy has been witnessed due to the sudden shift in OTT services as theatres all over the country were closed and these platforms can only be accessed by those willing to pay a certain fee.
In the first nine months of 2021 demand for pirated content skyrocketed as people became used to watching premium content sitting at home on platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Hotstar, and those who couldn’t afford resorted to pirated sites like Tamil rockers, 123movies, B4you which are the Major players providing OTT content for free People indeed love enjoying free entertainment services but what they get wrong is that entertainment companies lose customers and a large sum of profits due to copyright infringements thus it becomes a necessity to protect them from piracy.
WHAT DOES THE INDIAN LAW SAY?
All kinds of literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic work in India are governed by the copyright act 1957. The rising cases of digital piracy have made the government more vigilant about the rights of distributors and content creators, and the government also has taken certain measures to prevent the rampant threat of piracy, here comes the role of the copyright act which is one of the major laws which deals in matters of piracy. Copyright act 1957 has been revised by the copyright (Amendment) act 2012 which is being used as a tool against piracy for a long time. Section 65A of the act provides for technological protection (TPM) and safeguards copyright owners from evasion or breach of their product. Violating the provisions of this section can land a person in jail for a term of up to 2 years with a fine.
Furthermore, Section 65B of the act talks about information rights management (IRM) which prevents illegal access to sensitive information, according to the section any infringement of such information is a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment of up to 2 years with a fine. The unauthorized circulation of illicit copies of copyrighted work is protected under the Informational Technology Act, 2000. According to section 66 of the Act engaging in such activities is punishable with imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine of up to 2 lakhs.
For instance, most recently, the owner of a streaming app named “Thop TV” was arrested by the cyber cell of Maharashtra police under the IT Act, 2000 for illicit streaming of unauthorized content and illegal distribution of the contents from Viacom 18 and OTT platform named Voot. The menace of digital piracy is becoming a critical issue; thus, the government should take additional measures and must impose a strict penalty on those involved in piracy to protect the interests of copyright owners.
HOW DOES IT IMPACT CREATIVITY?
Many people tend to believe that digital piracy is a victimless crime but what they get wrong is that millions of independent artists suffer when their content gets leaked and illegally distributed. Just imagine a moviemaker who had spent multiple years writing a script for a movie and another year in casting and producing such a film, now when the film finally hits the theatres and starts making a suitable amount of money, it soon comes to notice that the movie has been leaked and distributed for free over the web. Now what will happen is that the moviemaker will lose money and the profits associated with it and due to financial loss, he won’t be able to produce a new one, so other than copyright laws there would be no legal remedy for him. Another consequence of digital piracy can be cybersecurity as hackers can spread viruses, Trojans, and malware through pirated content that can be used by them to launch an attack or steal confidential data.
HOW IT CAN BE PREVENTED?
Even after having anti-piracy laws regulated by the states illegal pirates still manage to access unauthorized content making the artists and creators vulnerable, thus, what should be done is that both government and creators must operate in coordination to curb such malpractices for example in case content gets leaked or starts streaming on malicious websites then the states can block the network or server through which such content is being circulated. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people access pirated content is the cost. Every person who wishes to stream a song or movie is required to pay a certain amount of fee for using such services, thus those unable to afford the fee resort to unethical methods for streaming such content, so to curb this menace content creators should provide affordable access to such digital content which can be an effective solution for piracy. Another effective way digital piracy can be prevented is by formulating strict laws, even though there are numerous anti-piracy laws like the copyright act, and the informational technology act but still such problems persist in our country, these strict measures can include heavy fines, cancellation of licenses, and blocking of servers. Digital piracy can also be curbed by transforming cyber cells into more vigilant and well-equipped departments so that they can act as a watchdog for pirated content.
Many people tend to believe that digital piracy is not a heinous crime. However, it is a serious punishable offence that harms millions of independent artists and creators every year. Because of that, the creators not only lose a huge amount of money but also self-confidence. Even after numerous anti-piracy laws, the problem persists. Educating people and creating awareness can be a strong tool against digital piracy. Apart from this government should also impose strict measures such as restricting servers, and upgrading cyber cells. Moreover, curbing this issue is not only the responsibility of the states but also the society, the only way to stop digital piracy is to not access unauthorized content and report such malicious activities. But if you still think that it is a victimless crime then you are wrong since digital piracy is killing the entertainment world and it is not only the duty of a government to prevent such practice but also the society. The present situation is very grim and so one can’t tell if piracy will get stronger or weaker, it is true that it can’t be stopped completely but with joint efforts, the damage can be minimized.
Author(s) Name: Adnan Ahmad (Integral University, Lucknow)
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