It is said – ‘give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they will more likely pay for it rather than steal it. Even if some still steal it, we can still stop piracy to a large extent.’
Every person who is or has been a creator will invariably vouch for the fact that his creation is his ultimate brainchild and he would guard the same with his life in case he feels that it is in danger of being stolen or misappropriated by another.
Piracy which is the biggest issue faced by the original content creators in today’s world basically refers to the unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold at substantially lower prices in the 'grey' market. The ease of access to technology has meant that over the years, piracy has become more rampant. For example, CD writers are available off the shelf at very low prices, making music piracy a simple affair.
The official definition of piracy may keep changing with the change in perspective and opinion of the people but what remains constant is the fact that piracy was, is and will always be an unlawful act aimed at wrongfully enriching oneself from the toils of another.
In ancient times, the term piracy was often used for the act of raiding or looting, which involved the ship-borne looters, who then attacked dwellers of another ship or a coastal area, with the primary purpose being to loot them of their belongings, such as cargo or other valuables. In the modern times however, piracy generally refers to the theft on copyrighted and trademarked grounds i.e. unlawfully stealing and infringing someone else’s work and producing it as one’s own. Piracy can also be said to be similar to stealing as when a person illegally distributes a digital file for free, he prevents the profit from the purchase of that item from going into the coffers of the person who created it in the first place.
Types of piracy
Broadly speaking, piracy can be classified into five types:
Counterfeiting:?It is the illegal acquisition, duplication, and distribution of any copyrighted material, which directly imitates the copyrighted product. The nature of the distribution of the said product may be a sale, or not. The most common way of distributing such pirated works is through compact discs.
Internet Piracy: Internet piracy is the act of downloading a file from the internet, or by procuring an online software through a compact disc. Methods of conducting internet piracy are websites offering free downloads of software, auctions selling illegally obtained software or P2P servers which transfer programs.
End-user Piracy: This form of piracy involves the user illegally reproducing software which he isn’t authorized to do. An example would be a user using one license to the software and installing it on multiple systems, or upgrading an already pirated software.
Client-server Overuse: In a computer network, when the number of clients exceeded the number prescribed in the server license, then it is termed as overuse piracy.
Hard-disk Loading: This occurs when a business sells new computers with illegal copies of software loaded onto the hard disks to make the purchase of the machines more attractive.
Piracy in our day to day lives
Piracy can be seen in multiple forms in our day to day lives, so much so that we even forget to identify it.
Piracy is rampant in the film industry where it has become the biggest villan in the lives of the producers. Film piracy involves the act of illegally acquiring and further reproducing and then distributing film media sans any right or license. The most common form of the same is the illegal distribution of films on websites that stream newly released movies for the sake of increased traffic. There are high chances that the moment a new film is released, one of such websites will surely come up with a downloadable version of its pirated version. Such act is highly dangerous to the film fraternity as it eats into their profits.
Apart from the fact that there are various modes of offline piracy that take the form of pirated CDs and cassettes, online piracy has grown manifold in today’s world with the advancement of technology. Any piece of digital content, be it movies, music or games, are now accessible online through the BitTorrent client service, which strings together several pieces of the data from a swarm of users, then downloads and compiles them onto the user’s computer. This is not only extremely simple and effective but is also sadly extremely difficult to crack down on. This technology has further become the bane of every developers life as it breaks their morale by taking away the fruits that come in the form of a successful game that has been developed in many years and throwing them away for free in front of millions of users.
Software Piracy is another form of piracy that is rampant and is basically the act of illegally acquiring, copying, reproducing, and distributing software without a valid license. Software piracy has become an albatross around the necks of all original creators as most software has been converted into a one-user license i.e. it can only be redeemed once by one user for his use alone. Distributing this software, such as sharing with a friend, or via the internet, is illegal. However, the software pirates have come up with ways and means of going around this lone user limitation by creating methods by which multiple users can use a single license and hence cause losses to the seller.
Anti-piracy laws and their effectiveness
India is one of the biggest democracies in the world with multiple dominant box office film industries. Not only Bollywood but also Tollywood and Hollywood have a large viewership in India and hence the rewards for film piracy are also greater. Internet users often use VPNs to visit torrent sites which host songs, games, movies and the like. Local vendors at technological hubs often carry compact discs with pirated movies and games, which are sold at cheap prices. Modding video game hardware to play pirated discs is also a booming industry in India.
The Union of India recently issued an amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to clearly define the punishment which can be faced by pirates who, without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, use any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film. It is not necessary for the film to be fully recorded, or even distributed via the internet. If the perpetrator attempts to record the movie while inside the theatre, he is guilty under the act. The punishment for this is generally imprisonment, a fine, or both. This punishment can also extend to those who download said pirated movies.
The punishment however will also vary with the use and industry in which the act of piracy is committed. The most notable forms of punishment are covered in the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Information Technology Act, 2000. The punishments specified are as follows:
• Copyright Act: ?If a person uses a pirated computer program, or a program that has been manufactured or acquired through copyright infringement, on any computer device, he shall be liable for imprisonment no less than 7 days, extending up to 3 years, and a fine no less than Rs. 50 thousand, which may be extended up to Rs. 3 lakh.
• IT Act: If a person gains access to a computer, a network of computers, or computer systems, then proceeds to view, copy and extract the data present on the computer, either through digital means or through a removable storage medium(pen drive or hard disk), without prior authorization from the owner of the computer, he is liable to pay damages as compensation which can go up to a sum of Rs. 1 crore. Any person who downloads said stolen data will also be liable for the same amount.
Furthermore, Piracy of content from streaming platforms can also to a large extent be stopped by three methods:
? Firstly, by implementing better security of available content.
? Secondly, by making content easily too accessible and cheap. If it does not cost an arm and a limb, people will likely go ahead and buy it rather than steal it. The economies that were creating profits at a higher margin will now earn more due to scaling of the product so the original creator is not at a loss.
? Thirdly, strict action needs to be taken against organised piracy so that the right message is sent across and the erring individuals are deterred.