The movie Pirates of the Caribbean was a world-renown box office smash. It told the story of a gang of rascals and thieves who, amongst other things, steal from and evade the East India Company. Together, the series hauled almost $4 billion dollars in the international box office.

$4 billion is also the haul, in dollars, that real-life digital pirates are estimated to have stolen from the Indian entertainment industry in 2008. This blog post will briefly discuss at how Indian law deals with copyright, the scope of the impact of digital piracy on the Indian entertainment industry, and current efforts to combat digital piracy in India.

The Law And Online Piracy In India

Piracy is the illegal duplication and distribution of works protected by copyright. In an online context, that’s usually music, movies, and software. Under India’s Copyright Act of 1957, it’s illegal to pirate any literary and artistic work. These days, many of those works include digital rights management software, or DRM – electronic tools to protect against pirates. The Copyright Act was amended in 2012 to make it illegal to go around or outright remove DRM from protected works.

The Economic Impacts Of Piracy

Piracy has taken a huge bite out of India’s film and television industry. A 2008 study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) estimated that piracy had leeched a staggering sum of some $4 billion dollars from entertainment in India – almost 40% of the industry’s total revenue. Moreover, according to the FICCI study, piracy siphoned more than revenue. Entertainment companies were left so drained by pirates that they were forced to cut jobs – leaving some 800,000 Indians headed to the unemployment line. That’s a huge hit for companies and employees to take. Music and gaming companies were the hardest hit by piracy; music companies were highlighted in the report as losing 64% of their total revenue, with gaming not far behind. Findings for the film industry were equally stark: the firm Ernst & Young, which handled the report, estimated that 60% of the movies watched in India were pirated.

Fighting Back Against Piracy In India

Piracy has not gone completely unpunished in India. Indian police have arrested alleged pirates in Delhi, Mumbai, and Channai. In Kerala, a thousand people were locked away for allegedly pirating the movie Bachelor Party. The Delhi High Court has also issued restraining orders against websites for allegedly streaming the movie Piku in violation of copyright.

The 2012 addition of DRM language to India’s Copyright Protection Act is a step in the right direction towards clamping down on digital thieves. Piracy, however, isn’t just a national problem. It’s an international one. Indian courts can do little to stop sites which are hosting Bollywood movies on servers located outside of India’s borders – they can only punish those in India who download and distribute those movies. And they still lack robust legal tools for dealing with torrents, where illegal content is hosted not by one user but by thousands. At this stage, the tools available to push back against piracy in India are in their infancy at best. Further legislation and stronger cybercrime units are still needed.