Pirated CDs and DVDs of Vishwaroopam seized

Two police officers were manhandled during a joint operation by Kerala and Tamil Nadu police here on Saturday that led to the seizure of scores of CDs and DVDs containing “poor quality camcorder recordings” of Kamal Hasan’s latest movie “Vishawroopam”.

The raid was held in a communally sensitive coastal locality known for its thriving market in contraband goods here.

Local youth stiffly resisted the police operation. They assaulted one officer for recording the “raid” on camera and another for confiscating the pirated material. Local opinion leaders asked the youth to stand down after the police rushed reinforcements to the locality to extricate the besieged officers and men.

Officials at the State anti-piracy cell said the images on the “camera prints” they seized were at best hazy and wavering. The audio quality was dismally poor. Local traders retailed the pirated DVDs for Rs.20 a piece.

The police said they hoped to exploit the advantages offered by digital water marking technology, which was employed to embed hidden security features in original prints of films, to pinpoint the distributor or exhibitor from whom the pirated version of Vishawroopam seemed to have reached the local black market.

(Last week, the police had seized pirated versions of Vishawroopam from a “CD” vendor from Pathanapuram in Kollam district.)

The State police have roped in a few film processing laboratories, which have special software detectors to read the hidden codes.

Recently, the police had used the technology to track the pirated versions of two recent Malayalam releases, “Husbands in Goa and Banking Hours”, to a theatre in Bangalore.

The “camera prints” were of “good quality” and the police were investigating whether they were recorded with the connivance of the exhibitor.

Officials said the watermarking technology was used widely in 2012 to detect authorised vendors who purchased copyrighted film content released in CD and DVD format to replicate it on a large scale for sale in the black market.

Last year, the anti-piracy cell had seized nearly 1.5 lakh pirated CDs and DVDs of South Indian releases, arrested scores of persons, and registered over 100 cases.

A senior official said the anti-piracy unit had information that pirated copies of “Vishawroopam” were freely available in markets in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Canada. He said pirated versions of the movie were also available on certain “torrent sites”, an Internet-based free file distribution network.