On Sunday, the makers of Salman Khan-starrer ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ lodged a complaint with the cyber cell after their Eid release fell prey to piracy. A hybrid release, the film opened in theatres overseas and went with a digital release on various platforms on pay-per-view mode in India, where the theatres have been shut in an attempt to arrest the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. While film piracy is a menace that the industry has been struggling with for a long time now, OTT releases have increased the instances of piracy even more.
Trade analyst, Taran Adarsh predicts that piracy will eat into 70 per cent of an OTT-released film’s business. “Earlier cine lovers would prefer going to cinemas to watch a film for the experience and avoid watching pirated DVDs of a film, but today they are sitting at home, so it works for them any which way. Radhe’s business will definitely get affected due to piracy,” he adds.
The numbers Taran estimates are far higher than the 20 per cent business revenue that films lost out on when they released in theatres only. Rajesh Mishra of UFO Moviez explains why this is so. “When I play a movie from my server, it is an encrypted signal going to a targetted projector which will play out only when I give the cinema hall the key to decode it. These layers have been stripped away by the OTT platform, which is now sending out a clean signal. They are yet to come up with the technology that bars taking the signal from an OTT platform. This clearly means that from day one, you know that piracy is going to happen”.The only solution he can think of is sticking to the traditional ways. “The right strategy is the formula of theatrical release where you mop up the revenue from the market and then go to OTT which is not really a movie platform but more suitable to long format shows and series,” he reasons.
The FICCI report of 2021 states that as India moves towards a billion screens by 2025, the level of piracy is expected to increase significantly. When viewed through the lens of subscription products and a less than effective IP protection enforcement regime, the need to enable continuous monitoring and bring down pirate sites in real-time near the release of fresh content can help increase the efficiency of marketing costs.
In the 2019 Union Budget, provisions were made to curtail piracy of films by introducing the anti-camcorder regulations in the Cinematograph Act to prevent piracy which was welcomed by the film industry But like trade analyst Atul Mohan says, it is still not enough. “We need to have Goonda act in Bollywood, like it is in the South, where stringent action is taken against pirates. Also, fan clubs of big stars discourage people from watching a pirated version of the films which unfortunately is lacking in Bollywood. There also are some anti-piracy companies that guarantee zero piracy by charging a huge amount of money. However, some producers sign up with them while others don’t bother as they have already accepted that piracy cannot be stopped. I think it is the government which will have to bring in more stringent laws and cyber laws for film releases on OTT as otherwise, it will only encourage more piracy”