While the global media and entertainment (M&E) sector has seen recovery as well as significant growth after the pandemic, online piracy has also been growing with estimates that the illegal pirate video services will be a $67 billion industry by 2023. Between January 2022 and August 2022, a significant 141.7 billion visits to pirate sites was recorded globally. This figure marks a 21.9% increase over the same period in 2021. During the reported period, television was ranked as the top pirated industry with 66 billion visits to pirated sites, followed by news publishing with over 39.3 billion total visits to pirated sites, film with 17.6 billion visits to pirated sites, and Music with 9.9 billion visits to pirated sites. Further, the top traffic source for music piracy in 2021 came from India followed by Iran and the United States.
The prevailing legal framework in India provides for several means of tackling online piracy such as notice-and-take down mechanism, judicial website blocking orders and criminal enforcement of intellectual property rights. However, these remedies are increasingly becoming obsolete and inadequate in light of rapid technological changes, increasing judicial burden, time limitations and costly litigation hurdles. As on March 2022, there were 4.1 Crore cases pending in District and Subordinate courts, 59,55,907 cases pending in 25 High Courts across the country and 71,411 cases pending before the Supreme Court of India. Further, after the abolition of Intellectual Property Appellate Board in 2021, 3000 intellectual property rights (IPR) matters were transferred to the Delhi High Court in addition to 2500 odd commercial civil suits pending before the Delhi High Court. Similarly, after the abolition of IPAB, approximately 400 matters were transferred to the Gujarat High Court in addition to 4000 pending IPR matters before the court.
Combating the growing menace of online piracy will never be simple in the digital era and challenges faced due to the borderless nature of online piracy necessitate a unique solution. Therefore, Brazil’s anti-piracy campaign “Operation 404” becomes an important case study highlighting the relevance of cross-border public-private partnerships as an effective means in improving IP enforcement and creating a safer environment for intellectual property owners. Co-ordinated by the Secretariat of Integrated Operations (SEOPI), the Ministry of Justice in Brazil, Operation 404 is an international collaboration between the Brazilian Civil Police, US enforcement agencies, UK’s Intellectual Property Office and Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and private body stakeholders representing IP stake owners.
An effective public-private partnership leads to knowledge sharing among participating stakeholders and the evolution of new strategies for efficient copyright enforcement. For instance, NagraVision, a technology provider for anti-piracy services and a partner of Alianza anti-piracy group contributed significantly to the efforts of Brazil Operation 404 by providing access to its proprietary app detection program that targets apps that facilitate access to pirated content.
Consistent efforts against online piracy made possible through public-private partnerships plays an important role in deterring pirates. For example, continuous efforts under Brazil Operation 404 led to signing of cooperation agreements between the Brazil Film Agency (ANCINE) and the main online marketplaces in Brazil to prevent their registered users from advertising illegal IPTV lists and illegal streaming devices. The signing of the cooperation agreements led to more than 30,000 illegal advertisements being removed.
An efficient public-private partnership model by way of introducing administrative routes to combat piracy can also significantly reduce the burden experienced by the judiciary. Such efforts attack online piracy at the root and help in avoiding the economic, administrative and social costs of litigation, where in most cases the defendants are anonymous and cannot be traced making it difficult to enforce the court orders.
The propelling factor behind the growth of media and entertainment sector is the financial fuel of investments. Lack of an effective anti-piracy framework results in hurdles for investors in the media and entertainment sector to effectively monetise their investments. Prevalence of functional public-private partnerships working on combating online piracy safeguards the interest of investors, thereby attracting significant investment opportunities in the M&E industry.
For India to curb online piracy and improve its position from one of the top pirate markets to one that provides for adequate protection of intellectual property, it is crucial to take into consideration global best practices and adopt an efficient administrative anti-piracy framework in the form of a robust public-private partnership.
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About Author: Jenil Shah is a Legal Associate at Indian Music Industry (IMI)
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