Piracy Prompts Film Strike in India

Ongoing financial losses to the Indian film industry from widespread video piracy provoked a one-day strike last week in the city of Bombay. On Tuesday, August 14, about 5000 people---including actors, producers, directors, and technical workers---streamed into the city's business district in a protest march from the suburb of Bandra. The strike was led by the Film Makers Combine, an industry association that called on the Indian government to step up enforcement of copyright laws.

India leads the world in the number of movies produced annually. Bombay is the capitol of the industry, with a huge output of Hindi-language films. The populous nation is also one of the most lax when it comes to enforcing copyright laws. These two factors have contributed to the growth of "video halls"---small venues that show movies on video tape. Estimated at more than 60,000 nationwide, video halls frequently show pirated tapes---as does cable television, which has made huge inroads in Indian cities in the past seven years. Attendance at India's 12,000 theaters has declined significantly in the wake of video halls and cable.

"We are fighting for our livelihood," said sound technician Umesh Yadav. "If the producers continue to lose money, we will be left without jobs."

A signatory to the World Intellectual Property Organization's recent treaty, India has been slow to move on movie and music pirates. "The pace of implementation is troubling," said Komal Nahta, editor of Film Information, a Bombay trade publication. "The authorities have not been doing anything to curb cable piracy."

Maharashta state chief minister Manohar Joshi met with representatives from the industry and duly noted their complaints. "The state is with you on this issue," Joshi said, noting that "necessary laws will be amended, if needed, to deal with it in an effective manner." Special enforcement units would be organized to combat the problem, state authorities said the day of the strike.