Given that losses from piracy in India run into several billion dollars—Ficci-KPMG put it as $4 billion for just the music industry last year—it is not surprising the Bombay High Court reiterated the fact that a violation of the Indian Copyright Act invites up to a R3 lakh fine along with a 3-year prison term. Of course, someone searching for and downloading a movie off the internet won’t automatically be considered guilty, this applies only to blocked content and to those doing this persistently. If a site has been blocked by the Indian government, a person going to the site will see a notice saying it has been blocked—using a VPN to circumvent the block to download the movie could then be construed as violating the Act. A legal crackdown helps—a study published by Technology Policy Institute (TPI) shows that France saw a 22-25% increase in digital music sales after the HADOPI anti-piracy law and Sweden saw a 36% increase after the IRDEP law, but the effects don’t last.
The way letmewatchthis.com morphed explains this well. The site was banned in 2014, but quickly morphed to letmewatchthis.ch which was banned, 1channel.ch which was also banned and then to others like primewire.ag and lethmewatchthis.eu which are all operational—downloading from them is not illegal in India. The only viable solution lies in providing users genuine content at a reasonable price—by way of example, foreign medicine suppliers have an Indian price that is quite different from the US/Europe price. The TPI study cited talks of the fact that removal of NBC content from iTunes in 2007 led to an increase in piracy while addition of ABC content on Hulu caused a 25% reduction in pirated content. The war on piracy is a long one and can’t be won by a simple crackdown—as Bill Gates famously said, “as long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours … they’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade”.