In common with most other countries, demand for movies is absolutely huge in India. According to a 2015 report, the country produces between 1,500 and 2,000 movies each year, more than any other country in the world.
But India also has a huge piracy problem. If a movie is worth watching, it’s pirated extremely quickly, mostly within a couple of days of release, often much sooner. These early copies ordinarily come from “cams” – recordings made in cinemas – which are sold on the streets for next to nothing and eagerly snapped up citizens. Who, incidentally, are served by ten times fewer cinema screens than their US counterparts.
These cam copies have to come from somewhere and according to representatives from the local Anti-Video Piracy Committee, piracy groups have begun to divert “camming” duties to outsiders, effectively decentralizing their operations.
Their targets are said to be young people with decent mobile phones, students in particular. Along with China, India now has more than a billion phone users, so there’s no shortage of candidates.
“The offer to youngsters is that they would get 10 US dollars into their bank accounts, if they videographed and sent it on the first day of release of the film,” says Raj Kumar, Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce representative and Anti-Video Piracy Committee chairman.
“The minors and youngsters are getting attracted to the money, not knowing that piracy is a crime,” he adds.
Although US$10 sounds like a meager amount, for many locals the offer is significant. According to figures from 2014, the average daily wage in India is just 272 Indian Rupees (US$4.24) so, for an hour or two’s ‘work’ sitting in a cinema with a phone, a student can, in theory, earn more than he can in two days employment.
The issue of youth “camming” came up yesterday during a meeting of film producers, Internet service providers and cybercrime officials convened by IT and Industries Secretary Jayesh Ranjan.
The meeting heard that the Telangana State government will soon have its own special police officers and cybercrime experts to tackle the growing problem of pirate sites, who will take them down if necessary.
“The State government has adopted a no-tolerance policy towards online piracy of films and will soon have a plan in place to tackle and effectively curb piracy. We need to adopt strong measures and countermeasures to weed out all kinds of piracy,” Ranjan said.
The State already has its own Intellectual Property Crimes Unit (IPCU) but local officials have complained that not enough is being done to curb huge losses faced by the industry. There have been successes, however.
Cybercrime officials previously tracked down individuals said to have been involved in the piracy of the spectacular movie Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion which became the highest grossing Indian film ever just six days after its release earlier this year. But despite the efforts and successes, the basics appear to elude Indian anti-piracy forces.
During October 2017, a 4K copy of Baahubali 2 was uploaded to YouTube and has since racked up an astonishing 54.7m views to the delight of a worldwide audience, many of them enjoying the best of Indian cinema for the first time – for free.
Still, the meeting Monday found that sites offering pirated Indian movies should be targeted and brought to their knees.
“In the meeting, the ISPs too were asked to designate a nodal officer who can keep a watch over websites which upload such data onto their websites and bring them down,” a cybercrime police officer said.
Next stop, YouTube?