Dealing with Pirates the Smart Way- The Joker Model


We are all too familiar with the spectrum of arguments in relation to piracy. While some push for a position of copyright maximalism, there are others who shrug off the very idea/ utility of copyright. Irrespective of the ideology one might want to follow, it would serve one well if the reality of piracy is accepted and ways to tackle it smartly are sought for. It is in this context that the recent attempt by SR Prabhu, producer of the Tamil movie ‘Joker’, to innovatively combat piracy assumes significance (see his interview here). He decided to put out a promotional poster requesting those who watched the pirated version of the movie online to contribute in any manner they deemed fit. The proceeds from these contributions shall be put to the construction of toilets, the accessibility of which is the central theme of the movie itself. The movie, which is a social satire, has already garnered much acclaim (watch the trailer here).

It is worthwhile to recall in this context the excellent post by Balaji, wherein he discusses, among others, the views of Shekhar Kapur on copyright and the need to explore new monetisation avenues. For an industry which has an extremely myopic view on piracy, his opinion stands out. In fact, some of the views expressed by Shekhar Kapur on his blog and in this interview question the fundamental ideas surrounding copyright protection by asserting that each work of art/ innovation is an outcome of collective consciousness. He goes on to explain that the dominant role assumed by IP is in enabling monetisation rather than spurring creativity. But, despite the seemingly strong views against a restrictive IP regime, he acknowledges the role of IP in protecting innovators in an era when patronage for innovation is hard to come by. He concludes by saying that it is a chicken and egg situation and that we need a balanced system. His own answer to this dilemma was Qyuki, an incubator platform which facilitates content creation while not impeding the right of creators to monetise content by distributing it on multiple platforms.

I feel that there is a common theme, which emerges from the interviews of both Shekhar Kapur and the producer of the movie ‘Joker’. Both tacitly acknowledge that without corresponding technological changes, any amount of IP protection is pointless. This acknowledgment has taken them to the realisation that monetisation models have to be tweaked and made fit for the changing digital scenarios. Balaji’s observation that it is unclear whether Mr.Kapur’s model will result in actual monetisation holds true for the ‘Joker’ movie model also. But, the significance of their moves lies in the fact that our mainstream industry has slowly but surely started thinking about alternate models to cut the losses from piracy.

P.S. While we are on it, I must also make a mention of one my favourite comedians Louis CK’s path breaking revenue model, in which he bypassed all the intermediaries and sold his content directly to the viewers at a minimal cost of $5.

Image from here

Balu Nair

Balu Nair

Balu completed his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from WB National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata and LL.M. from Melbourne Law School as an Alex Chernov Scholar. He is currently working with Centre for Law & Policy Research (CLPR), Bangalore on its Supreme Court Observer project. He can be reached at [email protected]

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