Though fewer complaints regarding video piracy were lodged with police last year, film producers, distributors and theatre owners say they have been making representations to the government for years to put down the menace with an iron hand.

While Tamil Nadu set up an exclusive video piracy cell and booked video pirates under the Goondas Act, the lack of similar stringent law enforcement has cemented Puducherry’s reputation as a safe haven for pirates, industry experts say.

Several film theatres that were popular a couple of decades ago have turned into hotels and only a fraction of them still screen movies today. “Yet, Puducherry’s impact on a film’s profit is felt through the video piracy it nurtures. A film which can easily do a business of Rs. 25 crore makes 30 per cent less owing to piracy,” says Sridhar, joint-secretary, Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners’ Association.

The practice of recording prints at movie halls using video cameras has diminished.

“What is really worrying is the availability of new films on the internet for download,” says a theatre owner. “Anyone who has an internet connection can download a movie within hours of its release in the country. It’s time we did something to address this problem,” he adds.

Downloading a new film is a popular practice - a case in point is Tamil movie ‘Thalaiavaa,’ the theatrical release of which was delayed but was available online.

What seems to be helping video pirates is the release of movies in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore along with their release in India.

“The prints of new movies scheduled for a Friday release in India are sent abroad as early as Wednesday. This is because the film has to be certified by the local certification board in those countries. The possibility of pirates making a copy for the Net is high during this process,” an industry insider says.

“Perhaps, releasing a new movie first in India and holding back the overseas release by a week might help. But, this has to be experimented by bigger producers initially,” Sridhar says.

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