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 Archive.org.”
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.