Karthik Subramanian

CHENNAI: It's nearly a year since Tamil Nadu Government brought video and audio piracy under the purview of the Goondas Act; and the State police are among the first in the country to have set up anti-piracy cells across the State.

Yet piracy thrives.

The police frequently issue press releases detailing the anti-piracy raids, along with photographs of the detainees. This month alone, the anti-piracy cell of CB-CID has conducted 11 major raids in Chennai, in most cases confiscating recording equipment and several DVDs and CDs of copyrighted material. They include the latest Tamil movies that have not yet completed their run at the theatres. Indian Music Industry, a consortium of over 100 music companies that also runs an anti-piracy cell, has valued the CDs confiscated this month at over Rs.7.5 lakh.

In a change of tactics in recent times, police have started targeting the "mass copiers" rather than the individual sellers. Some of the shopkeepers in areas best known for dealing with pirated discs Burma Bazaar near Parry's Corner and on Ritchie Street off Anna Salai (Narasinghapuram) say they have been feeling the heat in the last couple of months.

Police have been able to confiscate the pirated goods, arrest the shopkeepers and even get convictions. But there is a twist in the tale: a majority of the offenders pay a fine of Rs.1,000 and face only mild punishments.

Savio D'souza, secretary-general, IMI, says it is a situation where "everybody wins and everybody loses."

"Cases filed under the Copyright Act can carry sentences up to 6 months of imprisonment and Rs. 50,000 in fine. But somehow the pirates seem to get away with mild punishments."

Even while calling for stringent punishments, IMI as well as other leading record companies say the "Tamil Nadu model" is one that other States could emulate. Sridhar Subramanium, managing director, Sony BMG India, says there are more efforts to curb piracy in Tamil Nadu than any other State in the country. He adds that the difficulty in curbing piracy completely is probably because the network is extensive and the stakes are high.

Ultimately record label companies feel that it would take more than the Goondas Act or frequent raids to combat piracy. They are demanding an Optical Disc Law in the country to make it mandatory for CDs and DVDs to carry a Source Identification Code (SID).