Hollywood, Bollywood fight piracy, plagiarism

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"Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors"
 
It was just a matter of time before Hollywood and Bollywood came together to fight a common enemy.

In March, the MPA and leading representatives of the Indian film industry announced a joint anti-piracy coalition at the Mumbai industry conference FICCI FRAMES.

The coalition was unveiled by outgoing MPA chairman Dan Glickman and top executives from such Indian studios as Yash Raj Films, Reliance Big Pictures, UTV Motion Pictures, Eros International and Studio 18.

"These last two years of Hindi co-productions, joint television ventures, shared distribution rights, joint ownership of technology companies -- have all led to Indian and MPA member studios working in tandem," Glickman noted. "And as successful as we have been or can be, we need to come together to overcome common obstacles to our joint success."

Camcord piracy, in particular, continues to plague India's film industry, which lacks the support of government legislation. "Nearly every Indian title is camcorded and available in pirate street markets on average two to three days after legitimate theatrical release," UTVMotion Pictures CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur says. "While the industry has come together to provide theater security and anti-camcord training, our efforts will be futile without the government passing anti-camcord legislation."

Just a few days after he spoke, police raids inMumbai seized nearly 25,300 pirated DVDs and CDs worth about $48,800. Titles included recent Bollywood releases like Fox Star Studios' "My Name Is Khan" and Hollywood films like "Alice in Wonderland."

A 2008 report by the U.S. India Business Council and Ernst & Young, "The Effects of Counterfeiting and Piracy on India's Entertainment Industry," noted that the Indian film industry lost $959 million and 571,896 jobs because of piracy.

While the film industry is united on piracy, Hollywood and Bollywood are at odds over another kind of theft: plagiarism.

Hollywood studios lately have been aggressive in enforcing their intellectual property rights. In April 2009, Warner Bros. released ads in the local media alerting the industry to any unauthorized remakes of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" after rumors surfaced that there was an Indian version in the works. A similar notice was issued by Warners to protect "The Departed," while Sony sounded a warning in 2008 for "Jerry Maguire" after unconfirmed reports suggested that a leading Bollywood star was planning a remake.

The IPR battle went to court in 2008 when Warners sued the producers of Hindi film "Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors," arguing that its name was too similar to the studio's "Harry Potter" franchise. But the case was dismissed by the Delhi High Court, which said that the "Harry Potter" books are for "a different class of consumer who will not confuse 'Harry Potter' with 'Hari Puttar.' "

With the studios now revving up their local productions, Bollywood is shifting toward authorized remakes. In 2008, the Indian Film Co. said it had obtained rights from Paramount for a Hindi remake of "The Italian Job." Similarly, top Bollywood banner Dharma Prods., headed by well-known director Karan Johar, is finalizing an authorized remake of Sony's "Stepmom."
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