Home / News / India /  India sees big spike in film piracy post covid-19

New Delhi: Locked up at home without much to do, a big section of India’s population, who either cannot afford legal video streaming platforms or simply wants to consume free content through cheap internet connectivity, is responsible for pushing up piracy figures. Online film piracy rose 62% in India in the last week of March compared with the last week of February, according to digital piracy authority MUSO.

Film piracy increased 41% in the US, 43% in the UK, 50% in Spain and 66% in Italy. These numbers indicate that it has never been easier to view content illegally and people have never been more comfortable about doing so, said MUSO.

“A lot of pirated content in India is circulated through platforms that people technically use for other features," said Rajkumar Akella, honorary member of the Telugu movie industry anti-piracy chamber. Akella refers to messaging and voice services like Telegram and social networks like Helo which he says, understand concerns of filmmakers and intellectual property right owners but are also hungry for traffic and do not currently have adequate protective mechanisms in place.

Given that all cinema halls are shut indefinitely and people are dividing their time between television, video streaming platforms and pirated content, at least 30-40% of the total video consumption is of the last mentioned, , Akella said.

A senior executive at a technology solutions firm said Indians tend to be extremely price conscious as a community but just as minimally security conscious.

“Somehow, we don’t seem to mind that malware attached to some of these sites may eat into our own data and damage our private systems," the person said adding that names like Stremio, Popcorn Time, 123Movies and Tamil Rockers top the list of torrent websites offering movies for free.

Akella says piracy from video streaming services will impact small producers more during this lockdown. Because theatres are shut and there is no box office to judge the value of the film, filmmakers and VoD services are likely to operate on revenue sharing basis in some cases, and divide profits based on how the film performs on the platform. Pirating from these services will take away significant chunks of their revenue.

Not just movies, piracy also extends to web originals. In August 2019, the second season of Netflix’s crime thriller Sacred Games had found pirated videos circulating on messaging app Telegram and multiple websites on the Internet. Damaged, a Hungama Digital Media original, had over 169,000 downloads across different torrent websites since its premiere in June 2018. According to a report by Irdeto, a global solutions provider in digital platform security and media and entertainment, the Indian media and entertainment industry loses $2.8 billion of its annual revenue to piracy. India is among the top five countries in peer-to-peer downloading.

According to a study by Envisional Ltd, a firm providing customized brand and trademark monitoring services, Indians are the largest group of visitors to Indian content-focused torrent sites and also constitute the largest or second-largest group of people who visit major international bit-torrent sites like Mininova, Torrentz and The Pirate Bay.

“In a way, the SVoD (subscription video-on-demand) model also enables piracy," said Nitin Narkhede co-founder of blockchain entertainment platform MinersInc. He refers to the fact that India has more than 30 video streaming platforms and no consumer can subscribe to all or even most of them.

For instance, Netflix’s cheapest mobile-only plan costs 199 a month, Amazon bundles its video, music and shopping benefits for 129 a month or 999 a year, YouTube Premium too is priced at 129 a month while ZEE5 comes at 99 per month. The new Disney+ Hotstar app offers VIP ( 399 a year) premium plans ( 1,499 a year). However, not everything you want is available on one platform and sometimes after you’re bored of surfing and don’t have more money to spend on subscriptions especially at this time of lockdown, pirating is the only option.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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