Indian police launch major piracy crackdown

13-09-2012

Police in India are investigating more than 1,000 people for allegedly downloading or uploading the Malayalam-language film Bachelor Party.

Authorities in the south-western state of Kerala have apparently traced the IP addresses of 1,010 file-sharers and owners of sites offering the film. According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), the country’s largest news agency, the suspects are based in India as well as countries such as the UK and the US.

Bachelor Party was released on June 15, 2012. Reports suggest the CD, DVD, Internet and mobile rights of the film belong to an individual named Sajithan, who owns a firm called Movie Channel. The reports say Sajithan’s complaints in August prompted Keralan police to investigate the alleged illegal downloading.

The state police has claimed it is the single biggest crackdown on Internet piracy of an Indian film.

Nishchal Anand, senior associate at Indian law firm Anand & Anand, said it was “extremely rare” to target individual end users. The typical approach taken by the authorities is to force Internet service providers to block access to sites which aid piracy. 

Anand said it is “highly doubtful” that the downloaders would be found guilty of copyright infringement. “A recent amendment to the Copyright Act in India provides that private or personal use of any work including cinematographic films is a defence to copyright infringement under the ‘fair use’ doctrine. The only work that this defence doesn’t apply to is computer programs.”

It is more likely for uploaders to be held liable for copyright infringement, he added. The minimum punishment under the Copyright Act is a six-month jail term, which can be extended to two years, or a fine of Rs. 50,000 ($1,000), which can rise to Rs. 200,000 ($4,000).

The news follows increasing calls from the Malayalam-language film industry for the government to take a tougher approach to Internet piracy. However, Anand said rights owners are unlikely to focus their efforts on end users: “It is not likely to be on their agenda to target individual downloaders directly. They would certainly be more interested in uprooting the cause of the infringement rather than periodically plucking at the thorns.”

Around 36 million people in India speak Malayalam.

This article was first published on 14 September 2012 in World IP Review

Bachelor Party, film, Malayalam, PTI, copyright infringement, online piracy

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