Bollywood and Online Piracy

Last year we witnessed the first Indian case of copyright infringement against You Tube which was filed by T-Series. However I’m little surprised as to why there has been only one case against U-Tube so far especially when there have been several instances of copyrighted Bollywood content being uploaded onto You Tube. Americans on the other hand being the litigious society that they are, have been having a field day suing U-Tube for the copyright infringements. The biggest claim is by Viacom, which is claiming $1 billion dollars in damages from You-tube. Apart from You Tube Bollywood has to contend with several thousand other anonymous sites and P2P sharing networks which are undoubtedly distributing pirated movies.

Some production houses however are adopting innovative business models to counter online piracy. Rajshri productions for instance has entered into licensing agreements with content owners and is now hosting several hindi TV serials, movies, movie scenes and music on its website. This website allows for free viewing of the content much like U-tube but charges for downloads – an option which does not exist under U-Tube. The owners of this website seem to have accepted the reality of piracy and have decided to work around it by coming up with new advertisement supported business models. As one of them commented in an interview: “Piracy is a reality. Work around it. In fact, content owners need to be creative and more entrepreneurial in the way content is distributed and monetised.”
In my view however this website counters only one of the many reasons for piracy. Piracy usually occurs because of price differentials between the original content and the pirated content. Such piracy is effectively countered by effective pricing strategies such as those adopted by Moser-Baer. The present website still charges about $5 per download because of which a viewer may still prefer a Rs. 30 pirated CD unless he had a fast internet connection and can view the movie for free. However this website very effectively counters the second reason for piracy which is a market failure due to the complete lack of a distribution network for the copyrighted content i.e. viewers maybe ready to buy copyrighted content but are unable to because the particular content is not being sold to them. I’m guessing that this maybe a problem especially in the overseas market which have a huge market for pirated Bollywood VCDs. As a newreport puts it “Barjatya explains that travelling in Finland in 2006, he realised that while the marketing of his film reached there, the movie didn’t, which meant the people had to consume it illegally.” By offering this service for a reasonable price over the internet this website may be able to counter the piracy problem in the overseas market. This same model however will probably have mixed results in India since internet penetration is poor and broadband penetration is poorer.
Other production houses like Eros International have entered into licensing agreements with You Tube to allow for viewing of promotional videos and clips of their movies. The best part of this strategy is that Eros will be making money through marketing instead of spending money on marketing i.e. You Tube will be sharing ad-revenues with Eros for all its uploaded content.
Prashant Reddy

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.