And now, Delhi to take anti-piracy measures

July 16, 2009

New Delhi, After Maharashtra, it is now the turn of Delhi to come down on audio-video piracy, with Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit assuring a film industry delegation Thursday that she will take necessary steps to curb the menace.

“We met the chief minister and explained to her the problem. She said that she will take necessary steps to stop piracy,” said Reliance Big Pictures chairman Amit Khanna, a member of the delegation.

“She is willing to speak to the central government regarding this and said that she will intervene as and when required,” Khanna told IANS after the meeting.

“The chief minister has asked us to send her the draft of the Maharashtra government ordinance (to curb audio-video piracy). She has already instructed the police to take necessary action against those who are into piracy,” said Khanna, who was accompanied by leading Bollywood filmmakers Yash Chopra, Mukesh Bhatt and Ratan Jain.

The Maharashtra government has notified an ordinance to curb audio-video piracy, prescribing preventive detention and equating the pirates with drug offenders. The entertainment industry hailed the measure as a landmark that other states should emulate.

The ordinance was notified after a plea by the entertainment industry to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan that it was losing an estimated 820,000 jobs and $4 billion annually in potential revenue due to piracy.

“I am glad cynicism and despair have given way to idealism and hope. It clearly demonstrates a signal from the government that piracy is not just a copyrights issue but an economic offence,” said noted filmmaker and activist Mahesh Bhatt.

“The Indian film industry will turn a century old in 2013. Piracy has been like a kiss of death for us. The ordinance is a wake up call. This vibrant industry, an important component of India’s soft power, won’t be left to die,” Bhatt told IANS.

The ordinance, signed by Governor S.C. Jamir, has included audio-video piracy in the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, which has provisions for preventive detention of likely perpetrators.

It also categorises audio-video pirates with slumlords, bootleggers, drug offenders and dangerous persons, besides calling for the imprisonment of offenders for up to 12 months.

Khanna and other industry stalwarts like Manmohan Shetty and the Bhatts have also been seeking to sensitise the central government to act fast to curb piracy and even got an assurance to this effect from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The prime minister, during a meeting last month, promised protection against piracy and expressed surprise that not much had been done on the suggestions of the information, communications and entertainment committee he had set up in 2006.

“I asked him what his message to the film industry was. The prime minister’s exact words were, and I quote: ‘Think big. I want Indian cinema to flourish’,” Mahesh Bhatt said, adding: “We came back very happy.”

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni Tuesday told the Lok Sabha that the ministry has taken a slew of steps to curb the menace, including a reduction in the entertainment tax and promotion of digital theatres.

“The information and broadcasting ministry has formed a core group to suggest measures to combat piracy of films. Action on the recommendations of the core group is being taken to curb piracy.”

The Cable Television Network Regulation Act has also been amended to prohibit a cable operator from transmitting or re-transmitting any programme or channel for which the copyright holder has not granted him a licence, she added.



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