Caught net

Research suggests that globally, the Internet piracy business is around USD 18-20 billion with film and software piracy constituting almost 60 per cent of it. Sneha Mahale on the changing laws of online piracy.

| Updated on: Mar 04 2009, 15:37 IST

Research suggests that globally, the Internet piracy business is around USD 18-20 billion with film and software piracy constituting almost 60 per cent of it.

In India, there are two laws that prevent piracy — the Copyright Act and Information Technology Act, 2000. In the last five years, they have been instrumental in shutting down 630 illegal internet sites. But, by and large, they are not effective. In fact, to make the laws relevant, the government recently amended the Acts to make the laws stricter and bring more online crimes under its purview. Hrishi Dutt, a law professor says, "The problem is that despite these amendments, there is a lack of awareness about cyber laws. In the U S, cyber crime is treated as a serious crime and laws are strictly enforced. But India is still lagging when it comes to effective enforcement."

Legal factor Downloads from unauthorised sites are illegal. Among authorised sites, downloads are legal only after subscribers pay a small fee. This fee is then forwarded to the artiste. However, very few people adhere to this law. Despite losing 1,000 crore and more annually, companies are helpless.

Reason: most of the people who indulge in piracy are from outside India. And even if they are in India, they are not from the same city. This makes it difficult to track them and eventually the company has to put in money to do so The other culprit in piracy is the cost factor. Shadaab Nagree, 21, BMS student downloads music from the web on a regular basis and has no idea about the law. He reasons, "Companies should price the original thing at cheaper rates." Aatish M, 29, a computer software engineer, agrees that most software in the market is unaffordable.

"These days everyone has a computer and they want the best music and software. So the only way out is finding cracks for these things and downloading it.

In fact, Internet piracy has seen such upswings that even the illegal music MP3 and CD sellers outside Bandra and Andheri station are complaining about the drop in business. Raju, a seller outside Bandra station, says, "There is a drop of nearly 50-60 per cent when it comes to music sales.

The FM radio and the Internet are responsible for this lull in business." He adds that the only reason why film piracy still works is because it takes a few days for the movie to be released on the Internet and the ticket prices at most multiplexes is sky-high. Some companies have taken steps to stop such practice.

Music companies like T-Series and Moserbaer have slashed prices of original film CDs to 100 and 150 in a bid to stop piracy. But they cannot compete against Internet sites that offer the same music and software free. Online gamut Aman Arneja, 23, business development, knows about the law amendments but prefers to ignore it. He feels that even though he knows he is breaking the law there is nothing that can be done to stop him.

Besides, he downloads music from the web because he thinks it is a waste of money to spend 300 on a CD that has only one good song. Downloading is more convenient.

"But, if an album as a whole is good then I don't mind paying for it," he says. Supriya Mehta, 23 years, a call centre employee feels "Internet is all about freedom... so what is this law all about? I have not heard of anyone getting in trouble because of it. And it is as simple as, if something is available for free, why would any sane person want to pay for it?"

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First Published Date: 04 Mar, 15:35 IST
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