Six arrested in India piracy crackdown

UTV moves against Adlabs, UFO over 'Rashee'

NEW DELHI -- In what is considered a major breakthrough against piracy, Mumbai police Tuesday arrested executives from six leading facilities and distribution companies in connection with a plot to pirate "What's My Rashee?" UTV's tentpole movie set to be released on Friday.

The six people arrested include UFO Moviez associate vice president, digital mastering Rajesh Chowdhry, Reliance Big Cinemas manager of overseas distribution Neerav Shah, Adlabs Processing manager Durgadas Bhakta and home video distributor Shemaroo Entertainment head of overseas distribution Kalapi Nagda. UFO said it had immediately dismissed Chowdhury following the arrest.

The master print of “Rashee” ("Star Sign") that stars top actress Priyanka Chopra was allegedly stolen from the Adlabs film processing facility and was to be passed on to bootleggers, along with the master of another unreleased film “Fast Forward." News reports also suggested that the police learned from the arrested men that they had pirated at least 11 movies over the last six months.

The arrests were made under the newly implemented Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, which empowers police in Maharashtra state to arrest people involved in piracy. An offender can be detained and sent to jail for one year.

Meanwhile, UTV issued a notice Wednesday to Adlabs and India's largest digital cinema chain UFO, seeking damages of $11 million from each company.

"It is clear that you have abetted infringement of the copyright of the film, which is a protected work," UTV said in the legal notice.

UTV also sent a letter to the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association, requesting the industry body to issue show cause notices to Adlabs and UFO. “This illegal activity has been possible only because highly-placed persons employed by these entities have been copying prints and facilitating piracy unchecked and not monitored,” the letter said.

UFO said it will discuss UTV's notice with its legal department “and then react appropriately.”

“We welcome the steps taken by the Mumbai police to nab the culprits involved in the piracy racket ... We would like to reassure the film fraternity and the law enforcement agency that we have the most stringent security measures in place. In fact Adlabs is the only laboratory in India which is recognized by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, U.K. We shall take all appropriate legal actions against any person or persons in the organization found guilty of any lapse or misconduct," Adlabs' parent Reliance Big Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna said in a statement.

UFO said it will discuss UTV's notice with its legal department “and then react appropriately.” Similarly, Reliance Mediaworks said, “Anyone found guilty will be strictly dealt with as per the law of the country.”

The Indian film industry suffers an estimated revenue loss of up to $400 million annually due to thriving piracy.

The piracy crackdown comes at the onset of the festive season when major releases, like “Rashee," are lined up in a year that has seen a boxoffice slump and a two-month strike by cinemas.