Indian state gets tough on piracy

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NEW DELHI -- The western Indian state of Maharashtra has passed a resolution to include video piracy as a punishable offense ineligible for bail under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, the state government said Friday.

Offenses ineligible for bail are considered serious crimes and bear a minimum jail sentence of three years.

"Film piracy has been included in the MPDA Act to nab criminals who are indulging in this anti-social activity," Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil said.

Under existing copyright laws, pirates were let off on bail and/or will see a small fine, but under the new regulation, they can be detained for a year and are ineligible for bail.

According to industry estimates, the Indian entertainment industry loses up to 1.7 billion rupees ($43 million) annually to piracy.

Maharashtra is the second Indian state to make those convicted of piracy ineligible for bail, with the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu being the first to take the step under that state's Goonda Act ("goonda" is Hindi for gangster) three years ago.

"This move will definitely strengthen the fight against piracy as it sends a very strong signal to pirates. I think it's been a positive development in Tamil Nadu and we hope the same happens in Maharashtra," the MPA's New Delhi-based legal counsel Chander M. Lal said in an interview.

The MPA estimates that piracy in India affects the Indian film industry more than its American counterpart, with only 20% of pirated goods infringing copyrights of foreign film titles.
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