Sunday, 11 January, 2009

Is Movie piracy in India wrong enough?

Movie piracy, or selling illegal copies of Indian movies on CDs and DVDs is pretty common in India. These copies sell on the streets of nearly every major street in India. Its helped by the fact that street selling is perfectly legal in this country. As long as the stuff you sell is legal.

Within clear line of sight of the Versova Police Station there's a small bazaar with hawkers selling vegetables and fruit on the street. One hawker has a handcart full of CDs and DVDs. You can get many of the latest Hindi and English movies there. Could the same hawker have been selling marijuana, or other stolen merchandise, so brazenly? I think not.

So obviously movie piracy is not illegal enough in this society.

A leading columnist wrote in a column today that they 'got impatient' and saw Slumdog Millionaire on a pirated DVD. I'm certain that many Hindi film producers and probably even distributors, have already watched this movie. Either on a pirated DVD or downloaded on a torrent. It has to be, the movie hasn't been released here yet. (its 11 Jan 09, SM releases 23 Jan 09 in India)

So obviously, for many people, even Hindi movie producers, movie piracy is not wrong enough. As long as its someone else's movie.

Movies get released here everyday, some become successful, some don't. Successful movie producers and distributors are a wealthy lot. The piracy of one of their movies will result in lesser revenues, or lesser profits for them personally. But I find it hard to believe that they will get poor because of movie pirates.

On the other hand, a Hindi movie that's going to flop (or fail at the box office) is not going to flop just because of piracy. No one I know is seeking out the DVD or VCD of any of the flops of the past few months. Nor even downloading those movies. Even those selling pirated movies have operating costs and even they won't lose money selling a flop.

And how about computer software piracy? Walk into any Hindi movie producer's or distributor's office and you see people working on computers - PCs mostly. None of these are stolen, of course. But the software on them almost certainly is. Ask any Hindi movie producers or distributor if he has as many licences of all software as he has PCs running Windows.

If a successful Hindi movie producers or distributor has 5 PCs running Windows and MS Office, he should have spent about Rs 2.5 lakhs (US$ 5,000) on software alone. If he hasn't, then he doesn't believe software piracy is illegal. Pirating such people's movies is like stealing from a thief. Illegal perhaps, but not harmful.

So, obviously movie piracy is not even harmful enough, because even the victims practice it.

The real answer to piracy is not to try to prevent it. You cannot. Pirates are very smart. Any DVD can be ripped, any movie will be shot off the screen somewhere, and people will watch even that fuzzy copy.

Instead, they who have a problem with piracy need to understand that like every crime piracy has to have two things - motive and opportunity.

With piracy, you can't do much about opportunity. But you could fix the motive.

Everyone wants to watch movies. And, they go to theatres in droves to watch them. India has 13,000 theatres, and the number of movie watchers in theatres in a year is equal to the population of the whole world!

No one really likes watching VCDs or DVDs. But for a family of 4,one trip to the multiplex to watch a movie, costs between Rs 1000-2000 (US$ 20-40). Maybe more, on weekends. At this rate this is the costliest outing for the common man. And the drivers that most movie producers employ for their fleet of cars take home a wage of Rs 3000-10000 (US$ 60-200 per month)

Why do cinema multiplexes charge so much money for tickets? And, after that, why are water, chips, and other goods with a printed MRP (retail price), charged over the MRP? Can this movie watching experience be made economical? Or, can Hindi film producers and probably even distributors subsidize this experience? Free popcorn, free soft drink, or even T-shirts and other merchandise giveaways. Something. There's got to be a way. There are, after all low cost airlines aren't there?

The bottom line is this. Movie piracy is wrong, but not wrong enough in India. Those that are affected by it, also indulge in it themselves.

There have been protests by people about the high cost of tickets, and food and goods sold inside a theatre. Can't movie producers and distributors get together and examine this? Induce theatres to eliminate this crazy practice?

And, make its possible for the common man to watch a movie in a theatre for under Rs 100 per head. If they can, then, I believe, there will be one less motive for piracy left.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:55 PM

    this post reflects my mind


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