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Punishment for piracy

Illegal downloading of movies

The Union of India recently issued an amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to clearly define the punishment which can be faced by pirates who, without the written authorization of the copyright owner, use any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film. It is not necessary for the film to be fully recorded, or even distributed via the internet. If the perpetrator attempts to record the movie while inside the theatre, he is guilty of the act.

The punishment for this is generally imprisonment, a fine, or both. This punishment can also extend to those who download said pirated movies.

Charges for piracy

Since the crime of piracy is not limited to only the movie industry, the punishment specified above isn’t the only one dealing with pirates. It varies with the industry in which they are committing an act of piracy. The most notable forms of punishment are covered in the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, and Information Technology Act, 2000. The punishments specified are as follows-

  • Copyright Act: If a person uses a pirated computer program or a program that has been manufactured or acquired through copyright infringement, on any computer device, he shall be liable for imprisonment no less than 7 days, extending up to 3 years, and a fine no less than Rs. 50 thousand, which may be extended up to Rs. 3 lakh.
  • IT Act: If a person gains access to a computer, a network of computers, or computer systems, then proceeds to view, copy and extract the data present on the computer, either through digital means or through a removable storage medium(pen drive or hard disk), without prior authorization from the owner of the computer, he is liable to pay damages as compensation which can go up to a sum of Rs. 1 crore. Any person who downloads said stolen data will also be liable for the same amount.

Prevention of piracy

While the legal consequences associated serve to act as an effective deterrent against piracy, they are not nearly enough to act as a solid preventive measure, considering actual prosecutions against digital pirates are few and far in between. This is because most intellectual property owners tend to just get a cease-and-desist(termination) order against sites that host pirated content, which are just orders to take down the download links for the content.

Therefore, there are, while loosely-defined, some effective ways to prevent piracy, i.e. deter users themselves from seeking out and downloading pirated content. These are as follows –

  • Price Regulation: By offering digital goods and services at a lower, realistic price, producers can hope to at least lessen the number of users pirating their content by a wide margin. It won’t stop piracy completely but reducing the incentive for people to make use of pirated content will certainly prevent piracy to a large extent.
  • Barriers to Entry: This is a mode of prevention that rests more within the jurisdiction of the government. Most governments instruct and encourage ISPs to restrict entry into sites that host pirated content, mostly by blocking the sites on their servers. Directly barring users from accessing these sites helps reduce the pirate users by a large amount, as most don’t have the technical know-how i.e. how to use VPNs which is required to circumvent the sites being blocked.
  • User Confrontation: A lot of TV and streaming services often use a combination of both the above-listed methods, but with some real-time interaction with the users. Pirate users often get real-time messages which notify them that the producer is aware of them using pirated content. Game developers often use this to troll pirate gamers in hilarious, game-breaking ways.
  • Cooperation between industries: The above-listed methods to prevent piracy, while working great on their own, often fail and fizzle out when there is one bad link in the chain. That one bad link can be a producer who is lenient with his content being pirated or doesn’t know about the extent of piracy. That is why, all of the above methods, if executed systematically and efficiently by all relevant producers at once, can be one of the biggest deterrents to pirates.


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