Entertainment companies all around the globe bemoan the fact that their creations cost millions to create and often require years of preparation, but all that can be undone in an instant by pirates.
It’s certainly true that any media – whether movies, music or software – can be instantly cloned and distributed to a potential audience of hundreds of millions. According to the industry the doomsday scenario of this position is that filmmakers, musicians, authors and coders will eventually give up the game and go do something else more profitable instead.
Of course, this hasn’t happened yet, largely due to the fact that the public is still digging deep. Hollywood, for example, is having its best year on record. But what if all content suddenly stopped appearing on physical and digital shelves. What would the pirates do then?
Well, if the threats of India’s Tamil Film Producer’s Council (TFPC) come to fruition, we won’t have long to find out. Plagued by the menace of persistent and large scale piracy of their movies, the Council is close to making the most radical stand against copyright infringement ever seen.
Yesterday the TFPC held their general meeting and of course piracy was high on the agenda. Several solutions were reportedly discussed but one came to the forefront – a complete boycott on releasing films for the foreseeable future.
“Some groups wanted a six-month ban, while others wanted a three-month ban,” said council president Kalaipuli S Thanu.
The producer and distributor, who regained control of TFPC in January following allegations of corruption against his rivals, said that something drastic needs to be done.
“The basic fact is that all producers are suffering losses and we have to look into that. We have asked them for some time to call in all the parties concerned and try to reach a resolution that is beneficial to everybody.”
In addition to promising the establishment of a dedicated anti-piracy unit compromised of ex-police officers, Thanu says that not releasing movies at all will be the best way to hit pirates.
“Piracy will automatically stop when there’s no content. When we stop film releases, say for three months, the movie pirates will go out of business. We are looking into this option because film producers have suffered heavily in the last 24 months,” Thanu said.
“We haven’t finalized on the decision yet. A resolution has been passed but we’d like to discuss the idea with all the parties involved and only when found beneficial for everybody, will we implement it. It’s going to take some time.”
But speaking against the proposed ban, a leading producer told IAS that release suspension will only make matters worse.
“Piracy has become a menace, but stopping the release of films is not a solution. Filmmakers are already struggling to find a suitable window to release their films, and now this step to halt release of films will make it worse,” he said.
“Each Friday, a minimum of three Tamil films are releasing in cinemas. If you stop release of films for three months, we are holding back about 36 films. Post the ban, these 36 films have to battle it out with more films for release, which looks impossible.”
At this stage it appears that support for a three-month ban is gaining momentum but there are others that see a much better response to the problem. Filmmaker ‘Cheran’ said that releasing via DVD and VOD at a fair price is by far the best option.
“If an original DVD of a new film is available for Rs.50 ($0.80), why would anyone think of buying a pirated copy? We all know the quality of pirated prints. I’ve sold nearly Rs.10 lakh ($16,800) DVDs of my film in the first two days,” he said.
This ban, if it comes to pass, should be fascinating to watch. But whatever happens the pirates will still exist – that’s 100% guaranteed.