Tag Archives: India

In Africa, Questions Over Connectivity and Content

While we often hear complaints that U.S. Internet access speeds lag behind countries like South Korea, Japan, and parts of Europe, it’s easy to forget that some areas of the world have little or no access to the online resources we take for granted.

 

In the global broadband speed league, countries in Africa lag far behind those on other continents, for example, and that’s only counting those consumers who can actually get connected in the first place.

That lack of connectivity is a driving force behind initiatives like Google’s Project Loon and Facebook’s internet.org, which operate under the banner of altruism – delivering the Internet to those without the means or infrastructure to access it – but do offer clear benefits to the companies behind them. As Microsoft experienced for many years with Internet Explorer antitrust accusations, any attempt to be the sole portal through which a high proportion of consumers access the web is viewed dimly by regulators.

Highlighting that fact, questions have been raised in recent months about the intentions of internet.org in India, and whether Facebook is violating net neutrality by creating what many see as its own “walled garden” of Internet activity. Telephone companies are heading up this criticism, concerned that their services will be undermined by this low-cost alternative.

In Africa, by contrast, regulation is not as extensive as India, and the market for connected technology less developed. This leaves plenty of wiggle room for Facebook to insert itself as a primary provider of connectivity, with all the boosts that brings to its user base in countries across the continent.

But the question remains, is this a true connection to the Internet or just a window to Facebook’s take on what the web should be?

The company will, of course, argue that some connection is better than none, and they might be right. Even so, further issues arise when copyright enters the equation, as the continent has a significant piracy problem and Facebook is a part of that. Where as in North America we don’t really associate the main social networks with copyright infringement (early issues with Twitter’s Periscope service notwithstanding), links to unlicensed song downloads are frequently posted by bloggers in countries like Nigeria, where piracy is reportedly more common than legitimate music services.

If Facebook’s version of a connected world is going to become a reality, they clearly have questions to answer about the extent of that connectivity and the content that they allow to flow through it. It will be a tricky balancing act between providing wider access while restricting the availability of content that infringes international copyright. It must also convince existing providers and regulators that this type of service doesn’t give Facebook, or any other dominant Internet company, a backdoor monopoly to online access in countries where there are still large segments of consumers to win.

Stepping back for a moment, however, what many see as a concern could easily be turned into opportunity.

If legitimate content services partner with initiatives aiming to bring connectivity to new areas, good habits can be formed early on and piracy alternatives pushed to the margins of online access. Where as pirates got the jump on legal platforms in more developed markets – think Napster serving up music downloads years before Apple launched iTunes – those who provide reliable connections to get new users online can learn from those lessons and present legal content options to them from day one.

The race for Internet providers to enter developing markets is well and truly underway and, as always, the fight to protect copyright and curb piracy will be right behind it.

Around the World, The Oscars Bring Out Piracy In All Its Forms

The Academy Awards is the crowning jewel in the movie industry’s celebration of creativity; the peak intersection of critical acclaim and mainstream recognition, if the winners haven’t already made waves with the masses.

Every year as the Oscars roll around, however, there’s also the shadow of piracy. As much as a win – or even a nomination – gives each film a boost on the international stage, it also prompts a spike in activity on sites notorious for their copyright infringement.

 

The phenomenon represents all that is wrong with the mentality of piracy, as well as showing copyright infringement in all of its forms around the world.

In the United States we’ve become used to the year’s piracy being communicated in terms of illegal downloads. Popular shows like Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory inevitably top the list of TV shows, while the year’s biggest box office titles show up with the same reliable frequency. The same contemporary measure and methods apply to The Oscars, where American Sniper headed the list of most downloaded movie in the run up to the awards show. Best Picture winner Birdman can expect to soar up that list in the weeks to come.

Further afield, where connections are less reliable and online access may be limited, more tangible forms of piracy persist. 

A report in the Tico Times explains how Costa Rica sees illegal copies of all the Oscar nominees spread onto the streets and into stores as fever peaks for the awards ceremony. From Birdman to Boyhood, Selma to American Sniper, all of the titles that should be gaining revenue as well as recognition for their varied creative talents are brazenly sold as bootleg DVDs.

This occurs not just on the streets, but in stores alongside other legitimate merchandise, some even with discounts for buying in bulk, making piracy as habitual as running to the grocery store for milk and bread.

Back to the original point, and the study that revealed the Oscars spike in piracy rates confirms just how global is this concern. The research by Irdeto finds Academy Award nominees and winners prompting rises in illegal viewing in all corners of the globe, with the top ten offenders including Brazil,  India, Australia, South Korea and several European nations.

Rory O’Connor, VP of Services at Irdeto confirms: “Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies… leaving room for pirates to take advantage. ”

The challenge for creators and the movie industry is to beat the pirates at their own game, getting out in front of passionate movie fans around the world and reminding them that the best way to support even more creativity in future is to pay for the films they love and the music they enjoy.

Making titles available in good time and educating viewers about release schedules is an important part of this puzzle, as is the ability of viewers to make a moral decision that piracy is an act that only undermines the very thing that draws them to Oscar winners in the first place: a desire to create visual stories that excite the senses and compel repeat viewing.

 

 

As India Replaces Media Minister, Its Courts Lead the Way Against Piracy

We took a look last month at the potential prosperity of international movie markets outside of Hollywood, including a nod to India’s rampant demand for its own films. As in any popular creative market piracy rears its ugly head, requiring authorities to come to the aid of creators.

Well, the high court in Bombay came to exemplify this action last week, following heavy piracy of the film  “Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans.”


A mixture of known and unidentified offenders, including two cable operators, flagged the film’s popular appeal and flooded the local market with illegal copies of the title, which didn’t go unnoticed by its producer Abis Rizvi. Returning to court with specific cases of infringement, following previous appeals based more on anticipation than actual fact Rizvi found immediate support from authorities.

The high court issued an injunction against all parties involved in illegal distribution of the film, coming just one week after its October 31st release and instructing police to assist the movie makers in shutting down websites and physical “hawkers” of pirated DVD copies. Although it puts the onus back on the filmmakers to work with police to catch offenders, the speed of the support is what marks it out as exemplary action on the court’s behalf.

Arun Jaitley at Indian Economic Summit

Arun Jaitley | Image Credit: World Economic Forum

The activity comes at a time when India has just announced a new Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley. Jaitley returns to the ministry after fifteen years away and would be well served to follow the example his capital’s high court has set in pursuing piracy with immediate action.

Prevention is preferable to cure, of course, and the latter comes firmly under the court’s remit. The former is best addressed by the politicians who define the laws that the courts must uphold. With a movie business worth almost $2 billion a year to his country, Jaitley will have every reason to steer his peers in the direction of protecting the creative minds that clearly thrive within the Indian film industry.

Beyond Hollywood: International Movie Markets Look to Make Their Mark

For most casual fans of film, Hollywood is the first and last location name in movie making. But as tantalizing as Tinseltown is for actors and fans alike, there’s much more to production and many other excellent, if somewhat elusive film releases are made outside of U.S. borders.

Perhaps the best known of these is India’s Bollywood, a prolific section of the country’s movie industry that produces thousands of releases every year and contributes some . The Mumbai-based focus of film contributes several billion dollars to the Indian economy every year and has launched its own megastars, some of whom have crossed over to the market we in the West consider mainstream, such as Anil Kapoor of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Bollywood Art

Image Credit: Meena Kadri

Where Bollywood is a term generally known by serious film buffs, Nollywood is unlikely to have reached such heights… yet. This week the New York Times name-checked the Nigerian film business of the same name,  citing the thousands of films produced by the country and the gritty, “bare-bones” nature of the industry as a prime attraction for domestic fans and those hardcore fans that the titles reach around the world.

Unfortunately the article also acknowledges a limiting factor all too familiar to global audiences: movie piracy. 

The box office revenues of Nigeria are reigned in, despite the huge level of production and passionate interest in what’s being made, by bootleggers. This illegal activity threatens to cut off the life blood of budding movie industries around the world, as cash is what impresses investors, and investment is what drives early-career filmmakers on to produce bigger and better movies.

Piracy is of course a problem in every country, from ripping off the big money blockbusters of Hollywood and denying them millions of dollars at the box office (see Expendables 3), to callously taking the work of rising talent without license, denying them the funds they need to get going on their next project.

At any level and in any country, widespread copyright infringement is a problem that requires both local and global enforcement in order to create an environment in which new talent can not only germinate, but bloom and grow with the funds that should be due to directors for success in their early work.