Pirates cater to demand, but finally kill supply



Piracy is a 3-headed monster. Head One is the perpetrator of the crime, the duplicator. Head Two is the fence, or video parlour dealing in stolen goods. And Head Three is the consumer — all of us. The last category is what worries me most. 


There is supreme indifference to the plight of this industry because of certain entrenched biases against it in the public mind and the media. If a couple of dacoities happen occasionally in the city outskirts, there’s a hue and cry. But when we are being robbed on a daily basis without a holiday; there is not a squeak. Why this indifference? 


Because film people are a debauched lot! That’s perception no.1. “They deserve what they suffer. as they are morally bankrupt.” Well, every profession has black sheep. 25% of the Members in Parliament have a criminal record. But dubbing every  MP a crook is incorrect. Easy generalisation is lazy thinking. Corruption of character exists everywhere; a CI asked me Rs.60,000 to book an internet piracy case. An Income Tax Officer foisted a false case on a much-in-demand Director and demanded 5 lakhs —  plus dates for good measure; does this make the whole department suspect?


Perception no.2. “The films they make are trash, so what if they are pirated. They show police in a bad light, they show teachers in a bad light, they show women in a blue light. . .” But think of this, when a property is stolen you do not question the taste of the owner. Whether the painting stolen is a Ravi Varma or garish calendar art, the law has to take the same cognizance. 


Perception no.3. “Film people have tons of money so they can afford to lose a few kilos to sundry pirates”. Though the view that the film industry means a few bigwigs is sadly mistaken, lets stick with it for a moment. They are rich. So what? Aren’t all equal in the eyes of the law? Isn’t that why the lady with the scales has a blindfold: to mete out equal punishment for equal crime, irrespective of who commits it. And to protect equally the rights of any victim, big or small?


And small they are, over 1 lakh of them, working in the industry. Daily wage earners: carpenters, painters, light boys, set boys, production boys, spot boys, sweepers, dishwashers. Piracy hits them more than it does the big guns. When losses mount due to our rightful revenue going into the crooks coffers, film production falls. And film workers lose their livelihood.


Perception no.4. “Film makers themselves are cheats, they blatantly filch from other films. So why is the pot calling the kettle black?” This is trying to equate two unequal crimes. Copying from another’s work is plagiarism, not piracy. Plagiarism is far less dangerous than Piracy, and much easier to detect. Because the perpetrator is not hidden. His name is there in the credits. It is usually a one off case between two individuals unlike piracy which is a rampant epidemic across the whole industry with hundreds of perpetrators who are everywhere yet remain unknown. 


Perception no.5. “It is all the fault of the film makers for not releasing legitimate DVDs along with the theatrical release.” This argument was actually given by an internet downloader of pirated movies. He says he wants to watch a movie which is not playing at a theatre near him and since a DVD wasn’t released, he goes for the pirated one. Great! We agree consumer is king; but he can’t become a dictator and grab what is not his. 

But the film chamber too needs to ponder if this delay in the availability of original DVDs is necessary. There is a huge demand which is increasing by the day. Remember that law in physics — nature abhors a vacuum. If we don’t cater to that demand, there are a 100 willing crooks with pirated stuff. 


Lastly, Perception no.6. Actually it is a lack of perception on the part of the consumer. As David Ogilvy said in regard to advertising — the consumer is not an idiot, she’s your wife. In the same way, who are the people watching these millions of pirated DVDs . They are our own people, our family, friends, neighbours. And they don’t have a twinge of guilt about it. Why? Because of this lack of clear perception. These same people would die of shame at even the thought of picking someone’s pocket. Yet what they are doing by renting or buying a pirated DVD is just that. Thousands of software engineers and students in US download pirated movies. But it never strikes them that if computer software was pirated on the same scale they would soon be out of those fancy jobs.


If these mindsets are changed tackling this menace would be a less daunting task. As for the losses, forget what the film industry loses, quake at what society will lose. Intellectual property is the least palpable but most precious property of all. If we can’t protect and reward our creative people, we will soon be staring at a wasteland of stale ideas. Every change in society follows from some creator who questioned the present . And saw a better future. Don’t let piracy turn the creative community into a past tense. 


4 thoughts on “Pirates cater to demand, but finally kill supply

  1. Sir, I have always liked your work and so I have subscribed to your posts. I have a few observations to make :

    a) I don’t think people watch pirated movies, because the film industry is debauched or otherwise. It seems like a simple case of demand vs. supply. The justification can be any of the ones you have mentioned, but they don’t seem to be the reasons. It is this same customer base that has given “blockbuster collections”, and is more than willing to pay the unreasonable “weekend” charges of the multiplex.

    b) No one wants to watch the shaky, unclear, CAM print with multiple interruptions of shadows of people. But, the movies are not accessible (not released at many locations), so there are not many options left for the viewers. E.g. “Uu kodatara ulikki padatara” hasn’t been released in Kolkata even after the good response and in spite of the fact that all Telugu movies released here have always been “housefull”. The problem could be costs of distribution, where the customer doesn’t have any role.

    c) You mentioned that you accept that “Customer is the King”, then what do you expect out of a King other than “getting what he wants at any cost to the bearer”.

    d) You mentioned that the creator is the one who has questioned / overcame the present. The “present” is the demand-supply gap. So, is it not the “creative” film community that is supposed to overcome the situation?

    e) An Allari Naresh movie or a small-budget movie wont attract much piracy, it is the high-budget films that are the most pirated. So, the problem seems to be in the “input costs” / “production costs”. Can you please point me to the viewer who asks the filmmakers to take the crew to the foreign locations for shooting a forced-in-song? Or to the viewer who asks the producers to pay such hefty remunerations to the big-heroes / big-directors? A Bengali film is made within a budget of Rs 1 crore. The success of “Ee rojullo” proves the reduced-input cost theory. Or the success of low-cost tamil movies attempts at pointing this pattern. So, where do you think the problem is?

    f) Fighting against piracy, is like fighting against corruption / against bad politics / for any social movement. It is a good cause, but wont last and is impractical.

    g) We are in the age of the-free-Wikipedia, viewers funding film projects (kickstarter.com), online TV, crowd sourced short films sustaining on online ads. But the accessibility of Telugu movies hasn’t increased much.

    I am not trying to justify the rampant piracy, but merely pointing the possible reasons for such a situation. I am neither with or against piracy, I am only a viewer who would like to have their movies served hot and well,

    1. Thank you for appreciating my work, Ravikanth. And for taking the trouble to share your observations about piracy.

      Perception is a key contributor. If one doesn’t think it’s a crime one doesn’t hesitate in committing it. And law isn’t too keen to prosecute. There were over 3,000 cases booked by the anti-piracy cell and only 10 convictions in 2006 (not too sure of year).

      Most of what you enumerated has been mentioned in my post, including the concept of Demand & Supply and the need for producers, rather than pirates, to make digital versions of their movies available much earlier. “Andala Rakshasi” may be the first to test the waters.

      A small budget movie may lose a fraction of the money big star films do to piracy; but even the small amount may pinch a small producer. Splurging on casting or locations is not relevant in this context as the topic here is not cost-failure. (See, the biases and prejudices are ingrained).

      Whether it’s corruption or piracy, it’s all a violation of private property. It’s stealing. Whatever the reason nothing justifies it. Saying ‘I’m neither with or against piracy’ is saying ‘I neither condone crime nor do I condemn it’. So what does it say about you?

      You may be a viewer who likes his films served hot off the lab/computer, but you have no special viewing rights over the producer’s product; just as he has no rights over your time and money. If you don’t see the movie both you and the producer lose; you the enjoyment of it and the producer the admission price. But if you watch a pirated version only the producer loses. Not entirely fair, is it?

      1. Raju garu,

        Mee cinema lu choosi, interview lu vetiki mari chadivina tarvata – mee meeda boledu gouravam / abhimanam kaligindi. Anduke mee blog ki subscribe chesa (saadharanam ga cheyani pani). Mee vaadana lo oka producer drukpadam maatrame kanipiste, oka prekshakudi kalla to choosindi chepdam ani prayatnincha. Vaadana vyaktigatam aipotundi – gabatti deenitone aapesta.

        Cost-failure annaru. Margins ni input-costs debba teestayi kadandi. Margins bagane vaste piracy gurinchi inta vaadana undeda? Piracy ni aapalekapoyina, cost-failure aapagaliste sagam baadha tapputundi kadandi?

        Naku cinema choodatam alavatu, verri – gabatti choostanu. Kolkata lo rakapote AP vachchinapude varusa ga choosesta. Na 50 rs, 100rs evarino batinchestayi ani anukolenu. Evarino baagu chesenta / udhdharinchesenta pedda vadini kaadandi. Unde oorilo cinemalu rakapote, CAM printlani bharinchaleka, theatre lo nalugurito cinema choose aanandam kosam theatre ki velta.

        Donga CDlo telugu chitralu choosi konnellu aindi (kaneesam 8 ellu). Kaani ala choostunnaru ante kaaranam idi ani anipinchi, cheppe prayatnam chesa. Piracy ki prekshakudu asankalpitam ga kaaranam autunnadu ani cheppadam maatrame na uddeshyam. Sanjayishilu vetakadam / ivvadam ardham lenitanam – ane nenu kuda antunna, kaaranalu vyapara-paristhithulu ai undavachchu ane abhiprayam to raasa,


  2. @Ravikanth. Its a crime, no reason is good enough to justify it. Stealing someone’s mobile phone just because it was out-of-stock in the stores doesn’t change anything. Maybe you are a fan of the product and you did it out of love for it but it doesn’t please anyone. What Raju garu is trying to point out (I think) is that people don’t realize that watching pirated stuff is the same as stealing someone’s mobile-phone. When that change in perception occurs, piracy stops. Justifying it by saying they do it out of love for the movies is just a mask of self-pity to cover up a crime. Its stupid to list out justifications.

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