Crime Does Pay

Gone is the golden era of smuggling, when once upon a time the Khidderpore dock used to bask in the glory of smuggled goods. Gone with it is the negative romanticism of the smugglers who were once a chief source of screenplay material for countless Bollywood movies. Markets like the Fancy Market and AC Markets have lost their temptation and beckoning with their plethora of “foreign goods”. Now international organized crime in India has taken a new face called piracy. Piracy involves copyright infringement and making illegal copies of anything, be it a movie or a computer program on CDs, DVDs and mini DVDs and distributing them all over the country thereby causing severe losses to the movie and the software industries.

Let us take a look at the damage piracy has done to the movie industries of our country. According to a joint Hollywood-Bollywood collaborative effort, movie piracy has robbed about $4 billion from the Indian Entertainment Industry. Investigations of the Anti piracy cells of the crime branch has revealed that a new generation of computer geeks religiously upload movies on the torrent sites of the Internet as soon as a movie is released in the DVD format thus making it available for piracy to the entire country. It has also been established that most of these computer hobbyists are possibly on the payroll of Europe- and Gulf-based movie piracy rackets. Efforts to track down such cyber criminals have mostly ended in a cul de sac: because the geeks are smart enough to use latest softwares to distract the pursuing investigators thereby efficiently covering their tracks. Even camcorder versions of latest releases are uploaded on to the net, the chief source being Bangalore. Besides multi-city releases of the latest movies makes piracy even easier. Big production houses like Yash Raj Films, UTV, Shemaroo and Moser Baer have joined forces to invest a substantial amount of money every year to fight the piracy threat. Over a 1000 movie halls have been closed down throughout the country, another indirect peril of movie piracy. The current estimate is that the Indian film industry is losing out $180 million every year due to movie piracy.

Software piracy is not much different from movie piracy. Legitimate business houses use licensed software but using unlicensed software is an excellent way of tax evasion. Unlicensed software is very difficult to trace when used off line as evident from the fact that the software piracy rate in 2009 was 65%. The net loss was $866 million in taxes as only one third of the PC software revenues went to the relevant industries while the rest was lost in piracy rackets. Software piracy is somewhat unwillingly supported by the masses too, with the increase of computer and Internet usage in India. The reason is quite clear. A licensed version of Coreldraw12 costs $487.18 whereas your local computer dealer can supply it to you (that too the full version with all the plug ins) for just Rs. 400. How many people will buy a licensed version of Photoshop CS6 for Rs51, 597 when they can get a pirated copy of the same software for Rs400 that would be as effective as the original licensed version? Are you going to buy an Autodesk 3DS Max for $4090.00 when you can get a pirated copy for less than Rs1000, if it’s entirely for your personal usage?

Anti-piracy cells of the crime branch and the Cyber crime divisions of the police are gearing up with new software to track down the Internet Protocol Addresses of the cyber criminals, advanced training courses, and regular seminars on cyber crime. But tracking down the actual criminals still remains a wild goose chase so far. For instance, Karnataka has the most sophisticated cyber crime division amongst all the states with the aspirations of making Karnataka a “zero piracy zone”. However, the irony is that Karnataka has 70% of its software products pirated.

The Captain Kyds, Blackbeards and the Jack Sparrows of this generation have switched from the brazen high seas robbery and kidnapping to the sea of information called the Internet where the treasure trove is much, much bigger. Yes the risks are higher but so are the stakes. It is evident that the police have to be more tech-savvy and smarter to match these new generation pirates.