India Criminalizes Merely Visiting A Copyright Infringing 'Blocked' Site

from the what-a-mess dept

The Indian film industry has long had a complicated relationship with piracy. After all, India’s Bollywood regularly produces the most films of any other country in the world (it’s often neck and neck with Nigeria). That seems to be a sign that the market is pretty healthy. After all, filmmakers keep telling us that piracy is going to destroy their reasons for making films… and yet here’s a market that’s making tons and tons of films (many of which are excellent). And, as we’ve noted in the past, the film studios in India are making lots of money, in part because they’re competing effectively against piracy. And, then you even have some Indian filmmakers who recognize that piracy helps spread the message of their films to a wider audience.

And yet… because it’s (oooooh! scary!) “piracy,” there will always be some who freak out and come up with bad ideas. Apparently, one of those bad ideas is now the law. After already putting in place dumb site blocking laws that force ISPs, under court order, to block access to sites deemed hubs of infringement, the Indian government now says that getting around one of those blocks (hi there, VPN user!) is a criminal act that could get you three years in jail.

“What are you in for?” “Me? I used a VPN to access”

Think I’m joking? The Internet Archive was included in the ban list. As was GitHub and Vimeo.

So why is the Indian government doing this kind of thing, despite everything noted in the first paragraph about the thriving and successful Indian creative industries? Perhaps it’s because of absolutely bullshit articles like this one at “The News Minute” claiming that Indian films gross $2 billion, but piracy makes 35% more. I found that article because well-known copyright maximalist, Canadian lawyer Barry Sookman, happily tweeted the link. But you have to be pretty bad at understanding copyright law if you think it’s a good article. After all, it struck me as odd for the headline to note that “piracy” makes more money than the Indian film industry. And that’s because it’s not true. Yes, the article starts out by claiming it does:

India’s film industry, said to be the largest globally with some 1,000 movies produced each year, earns around $2 billion from legitimate sources such as screening at theatres, home videos and TV rights. But with $2.7 billion, piracy earns 35 per cent more, and a way out has proved elusive.

Where is this $2.7 billion coming from and where is it going? And if it were really true that piracy “earned” so much more money, uh, then shouldn’t the Indian studios embrace piracy and start making that money for itself? But, of course, the answer is that that’s not what’s actually happening. It’s just how the terrible reporter at The News Minute confusingly explains things, and copyright lawyers like Sookman happily retweet because it fits into his narrative. But you have to dig deeper into the article to find out that the $2.7 million “earned” by pirates is actually just the made up number of the value of movies downloaded.

“The infringing copies appear online within few hours of a film release,” Singh told IANS, and added: “The Indian film industry loses around Rs 18,000 crore ($2.7 billion) and over 60,000 jobs every year because of piracy.”

You see, here they’re now calling the $2.7 billion “losses.” Because that’s a made up number that the industry wants you to believe it would have made if piracy did not exist. But that’s not money “earned” by piracy. And pretending it is is incredibly dishonest. After lots of hand-wringing and whining about evil pirates, finally, at the end of the article, you have someone who speaks sense, filmmaker Anurag Basu, who recognizes the way you beat piracy is by competing with it:

“Piracy is working because people can buy a (pirated) DVD for Rs 100 and a whole family can watch it. We have to offer that kind of entertainment at that price. It has to be as easy to get an original DVD as it is to get a pirated one,” he said.

But, instead of doing that, the government is buying into ridiculous claims about pirates “earning” more money, and thus they’re now trying to criminalize merely accessing a website that they’ve banned for having infringing material. Websites like the Internet Archive and Vimeo.

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Comments on “India Criminalizes Merely Visiting A Copyright Infringing 'Blocked' Site”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, if only every industry was facing such an existential threat the economy world-wide would be the best it’s ever been. The movie industry is always crying about how piracy is about to utterly destroy them, and how they only thing that could possibly save them is more laws to ‘protect’ them, yet year after year they rake in massive, often record breaking profits.

But hey, I suppose I can’t blame them. I mean they’re only making billions on a yearly basis, an amount that is barely enough to cover a bowl or two of ramen and a can of soda each day for those poor studio execs. Why if if weren’t for piracy eating away at them I’m sure they’d be making trillions on a monthly basis, enough to be able to buy real food for once!

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s Hollywood accounting.

They spin off a new corporation to produce each movie, and rent all the equipment from the main company to the spinoff at exorbitant rates. The spinoff company winds up ludicrously in debt to the parent company, and must pay all of it back before it is considered to have earned any profit.

The accounting is done very carefully so that the spinoff always winds up in the red, which is forgiven for tax purposes. Actors who get a percentage of the net profit never see a penny, since there is never any profit.

Then the spinoff company fires all employees after the movie is made, so technically there IS massive loss of jobs in the movie industry. It’s just not caused by piracy, except that the industry always blames the lack of profit on evil pirates, rather than their own crooked accounting practices.

I.T. Guy says:

I work with a guy from India and I excitedly asked him how India was wanting to know more about it. I assumed it was a beautiful place. He said to me, “No! It’s shit. It’s a horrible place and I will never go back, not even to visit my mother.” I laughed thinking he was kidding around. He said, “No! It’s no joke, it’s a horrible horrible place and I will never go back there.”

I said O…K, then.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is shit, the only reason to go back is because those making bank in America can have more influence than normal because they are a caste system there still, even that that is not the only reasons.

The draw money and power can have over people is something to consider. There are also some people that have no problem existing in that environment as well… I mean… you really do not have to go far to find out how much bullshit humans will put up with to survive. Most humans on the planet have really just exactly no fucking idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

If i want to watch pirated movies the last place i,d look is github.
India has a highly advanced tech industry ,
banning access to the no 1 source of open source program,s is a really stupid thing to do.
Are they gonna arrest programmers for downloading the
latest version of linux.
Even big companys like microsoft are now releasing open source programs on github.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Time to break out the parrots and eye-patches it would seem

India’s film industry, said to be the largest globally with some 1,000 movies produced each year, earns around $2 billion from legitimate sources such as screening at theatres, home videos and TV rights. But with $2.7 billion, piracy earns 35 per cent more, and a way out has proved elusive.

If copyright infringement in India is not only more profitable but drastically more profitable than the legal sources then it seems the studios need to start taking notes from the copyright infringers, as they’re clearly doing something seriously wrong.

The standard ‘people just want things for free’ line is clearly not going to work here as copyright infringement is making more than the legal source, meaning that clearly people are not only willing to pay, they’re willing to pay above and beyond the standard rates, but the studios are screwing up somehow and someone else is scooping up the money instead.

This is yet another instance where even if you take their claims at face value they still fail to hold up under even the slightest bit of scrutiny, leaving them looking like idiots who don’t understand what’s going on and how to capitalize on it at best.

ECA (profile) says:


“WE DECLARE that all values of profit be based on the ideal that Every ONE person has and will view our media. Everything else is considered LOSS.”

Im REALLY waiting for this to be Published someplace..Where people can see it..

Can anyone, any company Show a persistent, consistent, Value based IDEAL of what they will EARN on a product??

If I say that the VALUE of my product is equal to every living being USING my product and base that on profit/ loss…WOW, what a TAX dodge..

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