Copyright

Multiplexes to Show Anti-Piracy Clips. Oops! They’re Doing It Again.


In a landmark move set to highlight India’s strong anti-piracy stance, the Ministry for Information & Broadcasting has issued directions to all multiplex owners that an anti-piracy clip is to be shown to audiences each time before the movie is shown. 
Involvement of FICCI 
The move came from a request made by FICCI after extensive discussions were held in a conference organized by it in Mumbai on 17th October and the issue was raised by Yash Raj Chopra. FICCI will provide two short-clips (of 30 seconds and 60 seconds duration) free of cost to the multiplexes. 
Is the direction mandatory? 
Going by the language contained in the notice circulated by the Ministry of I&B to various stakeholders such as the Multiplex Association of India, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association etc., it is seen that the multiplexes owners have been merely requested to screen such clips. I gather this opinion from the use of the phrase may be screened’ in the notice . I reproduce the relevant para below:
As stipulated in the provisions of Section 12 (4) of the Cinematograph Act 1952, you are directed that the anti piracy video clips, as provided by FICCI, may be screened before exhibiting a movie each time. Your cooperation in this regard would be apreciated’ 
However, it must be remembered that Section 12(4) of the Cinematograph Act 1952, under which this notice was issued, categorically lays down that the Government may issue additional directions and that such ‘directions shall be deemed to be additional conditions and restrictions subject to which the licence has been granted.’ Thus, non-compliance with these directions may have adverse consequences for the licensees and although the notice is couched in a language that makes it optional, the multiplexes may be obliged to do so. 
Content of the anti-piracy clip: My concerns
While the initiative itself is a welcome one, I am slightly concerned about the potentially adverse impact a badly thought out anti-piracy clip could have in the minds of the youth, who have grown up on a culture of file-sharing, bit-torrents and digital distribution of content. I say this not because I support piracy but just going by past reactions of people in other parts of the world to such initiatives.
I’m sure our readers will recall the anti-piracy clip introduced by the MPAA, inserted into DVD’s of Hollywood films (you can view the clip here) that were unskippable and contained the text:
“You wouldn’t steal a car
You wouldn’t steal a handbag 
You wouldn’t steal a television 
You wouldn’t steal a movie 
Downloading pirated films is stealing, stealing is against the law, 
PIRACY. IT’S A CRIME”
I’ve blogged about this issue before, the crux of which is that ‘copyright infringement is not theft’  (see my post here) and it is absolutely ridiculous for the likes of MPAA to equate downloading of movies to stealing cars. But that is precisely what the MPAA did in its anti-piracy clip and the results were as expected. The ‘Internet generation’ as I like to call them (myself included) jumped on the absurdity of the anti-piracy message and ridiculed it to no end. They made parody videos, essentially saying ‘yeah, we wouldn’t steal a car, but we would most definitely download one if we could, because stealing something and downloading something, even if illegally, is just not the same’
I suggest that everyone associated with making the Indian version of the anti-piracy clip visit this page before finalising the clip, if nothing else, to make sure that they don’t use the same rhetoric, equating copyright infringement to theft. I must admit, I haven’t seen the clips myself, and perhaps I’m underestimating the intelligence of the parties involved in making the clip, who must have learnt from past experience. But even so, as long as they tread with caution, I’m sure the objective of this campaign, to educate the masses about the evils of piracy, will resonate and have some impact on the younger audiences.

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