September 30, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): Oney Seal, Founder & CEO of the Databazaar group of companies is seriously concerned with the critical issue of piracy of Indian and specifically, Bengali films and films not Bengali but produced in Bengal in North America. But ‘concern’ is a concept, an ideology, a theory unless translated into action. “Piracy is a problem even for Bengali films globally although the scale is far less than Hindi films that have a much wider market and audience. The market for Bengali films is far smaller, the demand lesser, and hence the motivation to pirate lower. But after entering distribution, we have found that it exists. As it is, Bengali films are struggling at the box office most of the time. The lost revenue impact of piracy is magnified in case of Bengali films,” says Seal.
Social and economic activism is not confined to activists and NGOs. Corporate business houses and entertainment companies can do the same if they so wish. In fact, no social activist will take up the cause of piracy of films in DVD and CD formats or from sites like YouTube. The fight must come from within the people directly concerned with providing its clients with entertainment. A pioneering effort in this direction to fight piracy has been taken by Databazaar that has the exclusive distribution and exhibition rights to screen Bengali films in North America. In music and movies, piracy is the single biggest source of lost revenue. A pirated DVD or unauthorized download does not generate any revenue for the producer/copyright holder. Fighting piracy of a title and marketing it go hand in hand. It is like the saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Every unauthorized download stopped, every illegal DVD not sold, translates into an extra sale of that title.
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[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FDPA4″ display=”inlinepost”]DMV (Databazar Media Ventures), under the guidance of a reputed entertainment law firm in Miami, has mounted a multi-pronged attack on the piracy of the titles it acquires the rights for. One, it is monitoring the sale of physical DVDs that are pirated via random sting operations. When it finds a pirated DVD being sold, Databazaar’s lawyers send ‘cease-and-desist’ letters immediately with pending lawsuits. The returns from pirating a Bengali film are not that great. So for any pirater, it is not worth the money and effort to risk a costly lawsuit. Databazaar expects that once it sets an example of a few piraters caught, word will spread and prevent prospective piraters from taking the risk. Two, Databazaar is trying to stop unauthorized digital downloads by becoming part of Google’s YouTube’s Content Verification Program and its ContentID Program. This allows the company to identify and remove unauthorized downloads on YouTube rapidly. It has made a routine of taking illegal downloads off YouTube Three, it has hired a prominent online piracy protection service provider to monitor and remove its copyrighted content from non-YouTube sources. “We have also tied up with Torrent, another video-sharing site on the NET. We have sent legal notice to all the groceries and DVD/Book stores that were reportedly selling illegal pirated copies of The Japanese Wife and Jodi Ekdin. We are planning to take sterner legal action against those continue to indulge in piracy,” adds Seal.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B003M5P9GK” display=”inlinepost”]Apart from corrective and curative measures, Databazaar has launched an all-out preventive measure with incentive-oriented programmes that might make piracy redundant for those who hope to profit out of this illegal trafficking of DVDs and CDs. Firstly, Databazaar has reduced the price of the DVD to $5.00 in Amazon.com retail so that there is no economic incentive for the pirates who enter with the promise of financial gain. Now they can become a distributor with Databazaar and make more money legally without worrying about the police breathing down their necks. Secondly, YouTube will automatically reject any Databazaar movies. Last, but never the least, Databazaar has brought down the rental rates for online Bengali movies to just 99c for three days in dingora.com which is an incentive-based step in favour of the viewers. The quality of films shown on dingora is much better than the quality of a pirated film.
“The one thing one must keep in mind is that one must be a rights owner and have the willingness and the ability to fight back piracy. It costs a lot to fight piracy. For a long time, no one was willing to make this investment for Bengali films because they either did not have the US rights or were unwilling to spend money to defend those rights. Our investment at this point does not make much business sense. It does only in the very long-term. For the first time in the history of Bengali cinema, Databazaar DVDs are encrypted at the highest level and therefore, it cannot be uploaded to any video sites. But we embarked on this distribution model viewing it more as a movement to make Bengali films popular and financially successful. So help us in this battle and wish us luck,” Seal sums up.
Piracy is not just an issue of economics and business. More importantly, it is a strong ethical issue that is staining the whiteness of an otherwise straightforward business of providing entertainment to the masses at economic rates for a wider reach at lower cost. Few corporate houses and individual business persons are aware of the ethical implications of piracy. Had this not been so, piracy would have died a silent death long ago.
Shoma A. Chatterji