Piracy Fans of Tamil cinema help pull down illegal links of films that are put up just hours after a film is released. They tell Subha J Rao that anyone who loves films should report such acts

The minute a Tamil film releases, they surreptitiously record it, upload it from foreign lands using high-speed Internet and announce the illegal links to the world. When that happens, back home in India, another group gets cracking.

Anti-piracy experts stare bleary eyed at monitors till late in the night, locate these links and pull them down, one by one. This ensures the film gets a fair chance at the box office.

Now, joining them in this effort are fans of actors and directors, who trawl the Net to find these illegal links.

The fans are in the news because of Vishwaroopam, which is due to release in Tamil Nadu today, long after its release elsewhere.

The first illegal link came up within hours of the film being screened, says Sudarsan S. of Copyright Media.

The year-old anti-piracy firm has worked on 14 films including Aaranya Kaandam, Naan Ee, Billa 2, Thadayara Thaaka, Thuppakki and Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya. Once the controversy over Vishwaroopam started, many nameless fans, especially from abroad, pasted the illegal links on its website (copyrightmedia.in/piracy.html) so that the links could be brought down.

Keeping a vigil

The anonymity of the process helps — fans can send the links without revealing their e-mail addresses, says Sudarsan, 21. Every day, they receive tip-offs from at least a hundred fans, he adds.

“Some of the links might be the same, but I am happy that they show interest,” he says. “We have a technical team and the software to track these links, but if fans chip in, we can be more effective,” adds Sudarsan who is studying to be a chartered accountant. S. Shanmuga Sundaram, 21, a B.Tech student from Tirunelveli, also took up reporting online piracy of films. “Thrice a week, I stay up for an extra two hours to search for such links. I do this because I love cinema and because I believe it is the right thing to do. No one has the right to cut into the earnings of someone who has spent crores making a film.”

Sudarsan’s team has two core members — Kavin from Tiruchi and S. Bala Vignesh from Tirunelveli.

Kavin, 25, a freelance web content provider, teamed up with Sudarsan about a year ago. He has worked on Vithagan and Billa 2 among other films.

“What angers me most about online links is that people upload it for ‘timepass’. They get a kick out of cracking the system. Why should a filmmaker suffer because of such people?”

Online pirates abroad have the advantage of maximum Internet speed.

“They can download an entire film in less than 10 minutes and flood the Net with 100 to 200 links in less than half an hour,” says Kavin. Because India does not offer high-speed Internet, few films are uploaded from here.

Curb piracy

If fans develop some knowledge of how the system works, they can help curb piracy, feels Kavin. Because the offenders do it for a lark, they tend to bounce back even after a warning.

“One of them mailed me that I might have removed this link to Vishwaroopam, but the minute it beamed on DTH, he would put up another link. Sometimes, we get veiled threats over telephone too.”

Bala Vignesh, 21, is in college. At night, he becomes an online vigilante out to kill piracy. He recalls how Ajith’s fans chipped in when Billa 2 released. “Piracy kills cinema. I think anyone who loves films must do their bit to keep it alive.”

Report illegal links

He has removed more than 85 links of Vishwaroopam. But the fans do so only for the big movies, rues Sudarsan. “It would be great if they keep track of movies, in general, to ensure the entertainment space is clean.”

Says Saravana Kumar, a content writer who also writes about films.

“I am paraplegic. If I can make the effort to watch a movie in the theatre, anyone can.”

He recently travelled 40 km from Coimbatore to Kerala to watch Vishwaroopam. “Fans will chip in better if they know how to report illegal links. They can also take indirect action against piracy by watching movies only in theatres.”

Actor Jiiva, who is active on social networks, says such support from fans is gratifying. “When they do this, they protect a film in a way that only they can. As for Vishwaroopam, many have also signed a pledge online that they will not support pirated copies of the film. This reinforces your faith in people.”

Actor-director-producer Prakash Raj, who came out in support of Kamal Haasan during the controversy, says: “Many fans are active on social networks and are a great source of information. Given a chance, they will take their roles very responsibly and serve admirably.”

DE-LINKED

Vishwaroopam: 500-plus links

Thuppakki: 4,000-plus links

Thadayara Thaaka – 1,000-plus links

Billa 2: 2,500-plus links

Naan Ee: 2,000-plus links

The process

Once online anti-piracy experts see an illegal link, they send a notice to the infringing website, asking it to pull it down. If they do not comply, legal action is initiated. When it comes to torrents, which gain strength with every additional click, they take steps to slow them down. Besides deleting the links, the experts sometimes track an offender’s online trail and delete his Internet footprints.

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