India's piracy toll: $4 bil a year

Illegal downloads, cable theft cost media biz dearly

The Indian entertainment business loses $4 billion per year to piracy, according to a study released on the final day of the FICCI Frames conference.

The study, commissioned by the U.S.-India Business Council in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, found that the television industry carries the lion's share of the loss at $2.68 billion annually, with film accounting for $959 million.

The study's author, Ernst & Young India, also determined that 820,000 jobs have been lost as a result of theft and piracy.

Indian films accounted for 62% of total pirated films in the territory, with MPA member studio films accounting for 20% and other foreign films 18%.

"Piracy affects the industries of both countries, and now that we have seen the situation in India, we will have a reciprocal study to gauge the impact of piracy on Indian entertainment in the U.S.," U.S.-India Business Council president Ron Somers said in an interview.

In terms of tackling piracy, Somers said that the U.S. strongly supports the proposed optical disc legislation by the Indian government. "This legislation implies that just like currency notes, every disc will have a unique identification number so that if it is pirated, its origins can be traced," he said.

TV is hit by advertising loss because of cable piracy and subscription revenue under-reporting by cable operators, which accounts for a $2.55 billion loss. The study points that, while the MPA has "successfully brought down (cable) piracy of its content, regional producers have not been able to make an impact."

While Somers agrees that the multitude of industry bodies within the Indian film community has led to fragmentation, "there is still an awareness to battle piracy and we hope this will be intensified with a more unified approach."

The study puts the music industry's losses at $325 million, while gaming suffered $40 million in losses. Pirated music product outstripped legit sales by almost double.

Also previewed at FICCI Frames as a part of the Bollywood-Hollywood Initiative was "Illicit — The Dark Trade," a documentary that will air worldwide, produced by National Geographic for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center.