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Online Piracy in India

By Garima Singh July 29, 2016


In the recent past we saw rampant violation of the copyright policy of the movie ‘Udta Punjab’ when it was distributed via internet before its actual release. The cyber cell of Mumbai Police on receiving the complaint from the deputy general manager (legal) of the Phantom Films Pvt Ltd. blocked the pirated version of the movie and arrested a man for illegally uploading the movie on his site. The movie was apparently uploaded on seven sites before its release. This brings us to the major issue which has been on a rise that is ‘Online piracy’.

Almost all of us are guilty of downloading a latest movie or any latest episode of say Game of Thrones from torrent or other similar websites. Are these downloads authorised? Is there any law which we are infringing? In the following blog post we shall dwell into all these questions and understand the law relating to such unauthorised downloads.

What constitutes Online piracy?

Online piracy is the term to elucidate the illegal act of duplication of licensed or copyright material from internet. There are three main piracy context- music, movie and software.

Piracy means unauthorised reproduction, importing or reproduction of the whole or any part of work protected by copyright. Through advancement of technology and broadband connection almost in all households the method of piracy has changed from physical reproduction and distribution to online distribution.

How rampant is online piracy in India?

There was a study conducted by Evisional and Motion Pictures Association (MPA) which concluded that the online piracy for movie content is very significant in India. According to the study Indians form the largest group to download Indian copyright content from torrent sites. Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore accounted for maximum level of illegal downloading.

In another report by Ernst and Young 2008, Indian film industry lost USD 959 (Rs. 4,411 Crores) million and 5, 71,896 jobs in that year due to piracy. The report estimates the piracy rate in India at 60%. This report is available on The figures indicate that online piracy in India is very substantial and the Indian film industry looses a great deal of revenue due to online piracy.

Legal measures against online Piracy:-

In India all form of literary and artistic work is protected under the Copyright Act, 1957. The Indian film industry has strong lobby at both state and union level. The increase in online piracy has led the government to take strong actions. The recent amendment in the Copyright act is an example of the various initiatives taken by the government.

  • Amendment of 2012

In 2012 the Central Government added two digital rights management provision (DRM). The main objective of this amendment was to curb digital piracy and to facilitate the membership of India in WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty (WCTT). These amendments were incorporated in the Copyright Act as section 65A and 65B.

Section 65A

This section protects the technological protection measures (TPM) used by copyright holders to protect their work from bring pirated. The section says that in case a person circumvents the copyright of the protected work with the intention of infringing the right of the owner then that person would be punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years and shall also be liable for fine.

Section 65B

This section makes removal of rights management information without authorisation a criminal offence. The copyright act formerly used to try for civil liability only. After the inception of this section, infringing the work without authorisation calls for criminal liability. Any person who sells, distributes, imports, broadcast or communicate to the public, copies of any work or performance without authority, knowing that the rights management information has been removed or altered without authority is punishable under this section. Punishment of maximum two years is prescribed by the Act this could be with or without fine.

  • John Doe Orders

The Indian Judiciary has recently adopted a new concept of ‘John Doe’ Orders. These orders have far reaching effects in curbing online piracy. The term John Doe order refers to orders where the identities of defendants are unknown at the time of filing of the petition and the orders identify the defendants only by way of some description. The producers in the Indian film industry make extensive use of this form of judicial intervention against online piracy by filing such applications before the release of new movies.

The movie makers can make use of such orders to block the whole website that is suspected to provide unauthorised online access. These orders should be granted only after careful scrutiny of all the circumstances, Indian Judiciary has in the recent past passed these orders at an alarming rate. These can be an effective tool against online piracy but the judiciary has to maintain a balance between the right of the copyright holder and the interest of public at large.

Various case studies

Piracy in India is not a pretty new concept. It has been in India for quite a long time and has clinched in our system with deep roots. Initially piracy in film industry started with unauthorised DVDs and CDs. The cable operators started showing movies on TV without permission and now the latest trend is downloading and distributing. The film industry has however always tried their best to eradicate and protect their rights. Some of the cases are:-

  1. The latest is the arrest of a 25 year old boy who allegedly uploaded the movie ‘Udta Punjab’ in his website for masses to download two days before the release. The cyber cell of Mumbai Police arrested him.
  2. In a similar case the Tamil movie 'Enakku Innoru Per Irukku' which was uploaded on internet before its release. Musician-turned-actor G V Prakash Kumar filed a complaint to the Chennai police for early arrest of the accused.
  3. In 2015 after the petition from the makers of Piku, Delhi High Court passed a piracy restraining orders against websites and cable operators from streaming, broadcasting or publishing online the film Piku without permission.
  4. In 2012, Kerala police arrested almost 1000 people for infringing the copyright of the movie ‘Bachelor Party’. These people were arrested for illegally uploading and downloading the film. The action was taken by the cyber cell of the Kerala police after a complaint was filed by the Thrissur based firm Movie Channel which bought the video CD, DVD rights.
  5. In 2011, for the Bodyguard Movie case, John Doe orders were passed by the Delhi High Court.

Is torrent illegal?

The answer to this question is a big NO. Torrenting has in the recent past proved to be an effective tool for peer to peer file sharing. The government only prohibits downloading or uploading any unauthorised material or any file which is infringing the copyright of the work. Otherwise, torrenting is always encouraged by many cyber experts.


Piracy is a big problem in India. The film industry suffers from a substantial amount of online piracy. The inclusion of DRM provision and the rampant John Doe orders have been effective to an extent. These provisions provide a digital platform to curb online piracy. But these provisions suffer territorial limitation. Many servers are based abroad and the failure of industry to provide legitimate media content abroad acts as another major motivation for downloading contents through illegitimate means. The industry should adopt new method and make use of technological advancement to provide access to all consumers of the Indian movies through inexpensive, safe and legitimate routes.


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This blog post is authored by Garima Singh,4th Year, National Law Institute University,Bhopal 

Tags: Online Piracy , Movie Piracy , John Doe Orders , Section 65A , Indian Copyright Act , Section 65B , Legal

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