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Monitoring Content Piracy On Real-Time Basis Along With Amendments In Law Need Of The Hour Say Legal Experts

Besides amending the IT Act and Rules, new provisions can also be introduced under Copyright Act for dealing with piracy by distinguishing it from infringement and providing for much more stringent punishments and making such offences non-bailable.

In the last week of May, the Maharashtra Crime Cell arrested a man named Subhanjan Kayet for his involvement in the pirated websites/platform named Thop TV. He was accused of the development of software, technical manipulation, illegal streaming and telecasting of the contents from Viacom18’s channels and its OTT platform – Voot.

Viacom18, the parent entity that owns the OTT platform Voot was working hand and glove with the Maharashtra crime cell to catch the Thop TV founder. The media company has been consistently taking action against the piracy of its content.

Commenting on the collaborative work with Maharashtra Police and  Viacom18, Anil Lale, General Counsel, Viacom18 said, “We are thankful to the Maharashtra Cyber Cell for continuing this action against piracy. It is important to make the message clear that operating or abetting a business of infringement is a serious offence that affects the creative community at large. The perpetrators will be found and brought before the law.” 

Content piracy eating the creative industry

Lale’s concerns are valid. If numbers tell you a story, a joint report published by Akamai and MUSO places India third on the list for most visits to piracy websites. As per the report, as many as 6.5 million internet users had visited piracy websites in 2021.  And when you come to think of it, this number is just the tip of the iceberg considering the umpteen number of channels available to the average consumer to watch or download pirated content. Take for instance, one of Asia's most downloaded apps- Telegram, the open-source app with end-to-end encryption has fast become a hub for consuming and downloading pirated content. 

And how badly does the menace of content piracy affect OTT players alone? Well, not only does it create a shadow market for illegal content consumption, it takes out a large pie of revenue for the OTT players. A 2021 report by Digital TV Research estimated a loss to the tune of $3.08 billion. That’s around 380 crores of creativity down the drain. 

And not only that OTT platforms in India have given the artists, a new lease of life, considering how competitive the entertainment industry is. In such a scenario, not attracting the right number of viewership on the right platforms plays a spoilsport to a certain degree.

Regulating intermediaries is crucial to solving the piracy problem

Ever since 4G arrived in India, content piracy has shown an upward trend. Additionally, pandemic-induced piracy has made watching pirated content a part of the new normal. Before delving into plausible solutions against piracy, it is imperative to understand the complexities around it. 

While on the technical front, creating a foolproof rights management system that hackers cant bypass looks like a tough terrain to trek, evolving the law on a real-time basis to respond to the piracy problem will give us a good head start.

The Information Technology Act of 2000 urges intermediaries to prevent copyright infringement on their platforms. The implementation of the law has lacked teeth. Although the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 try to cover some ground by mandating new compliances for intermediaries to follow, renowned Cyber Law expert Dr Pavan Duggal believes that the government needs to come up with dedicated new legal compliances for intermediaries whose platforms are being used for contravening the copyright and other intellectual property rights of the right owners.

Talking about the changes that can be brought to the Rules, Dr Duggal says that the dispute resolution mechanism as detailed in Rule 3(b) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 today still gives a long period of 15 days for the Grievance Officer to address the grievance of the affected right owners.

"Further, the rules need to be amended so as to provide lesser time for the removal of infringing copies on their platforms. Further, there has to be a reduced time limit of 24-36 hours for the intermediaries to remove the infringement of copyright. in order to provide an expeditious effective remedy to right owners, it is imperative that the intermediaries need to be made criminally liable for infringement of intellectual property rights on their platforms. This could be an effective way for the law to enforce stringent possible solutions to counter digital piracy at the earliest", he adds.

Besides amending the IT Act and Rules, new provisions can also be introduced under Copyright Act for dealing with piracy by distinguishing it from infringement and providing for much more stringent punishments and making such offences non-bailable. 

Lale, who has worked closely with the enforcement agencies to curb piracy emphasises on the creation of a nodal agency to act as a relevant authority that has the powers to maintain the Pirate Website List (“PWL”) and issue directions to ISPs and other intermediaries including App stores to block such websites and applications. “This will help in taking the battle against piracy on to a real-time basis", he says. 

While the above suggestions are welcome, creating mass awareness is also required. For a common man, the notion of intellectual property is generally an abstract one, and given the availability of free content at the click of a button, the act of piracy becomes a matter of personal choice.


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