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Reduce prices to curb online piracy
Shubhankar Adhikari  NEW DELHI | 29th Jan 2012

India ranks 4th among countries with the highest commercial value of pirated software. REUTERS

he recent US-led crackdown on file-hosting service Megaupload, a Hong Kong-based company, that resulted in the indictment of several of its executives for running an "organisation dedicated to copyright infringement", is unlikely to have much impact globally, experts feel. What might help, however, is effective pricing and marketing, they say.

India has several regulations to fight online piracy. Maharashtra, for instance, includes video piracy under the Goondas Act. "Thus, the non-commercial activities of file-sharing is equated to

bootleggers and drug smugglers, and preventive detention (an anti-civil rights relic of India's colonial past) is applicable to them," Pranesh Prakash, programme manager at the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society, says in a blog post. Other laws such as The Copyright Act are also meant to check piracy. but India, remains a den of online piracy.

"As prices decrease, so does piracy. Earlier, the price of a DVD in India was Rs 600, but competition from pirated copies forced companies to slash it to half. What matters for most people is convenience, especially when it comes to products that are difficult to get legally," he opines.

Findings of a study titled 'Media Piracy in Emerging Economies' in 2011 by the Social Science Research Council, New York, reflect Prakash's views: "Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the price of a CD, DVD, or copy of Microsoft Office is five to 10 times higher than in the United States or Europe. Licit media goods are luxury items in most parts of the world, and licit media markets are correspondingly tiny."

Statistics released by market research group NPD show that only 3% of Internet users in the US relied on file-hosting sites, but around 9% of them turned to peer-to-peer systems. The situation may not be too different in India, which is one of the largest hubs of online piracy.

India has been ranked fourth in the list of countries with the highest commercial value of pirated software in the 2011 Business Software Alliance annual piracy study. India remains on the "Priority Watch List" of the US Trade Representative office, which maintains that the country's "weak legal framework" makes it difficult to protect intellectual property rights. Despite this, the CBI's cyber crime unit received no complaints of illegal file sharing in 2011, the agency's spokesperson has maintained.

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