The DVD rental business across the country has come under heavy legal scrutiny following a judgment by the Delhi High Court to curb rental outlets from issuing unauthorised DVDs copyrighted by the Motion Pictures Association (MPA). The judgment is expected to have far-reaching impact on the film rental business in India.
Justice Reva Khetrapal passed orders restraining a rental library, Cinema Paradiso, from renting out any films copyrighted by (MPA) member companies, including Warner Bros Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Tristar Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios, New Line Productions and Orion Pictures Corporation.
Chander M Lall, Head of Operations and legal counsel for the MPA in India, said, “Although copyright law does not permit unauthorised rental of films, rental libraries are functioning all over the country without licenses and without the authorisation of the copyright owners. This ruling by the High Court sends a strong message that India is committed to the protection of copyright and intellectual property, not only to the benefit of MPA member companies, but to the benefit of local filmmakers and everyone in the film industry in India.”
The development has resulted in several DVD rental outlets scurrying for permission from respective licensees. Said M N Kapasi, MD, Excel Home Videos (licensee for Walt Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and others in India), “There has been a sudden growth in rental license applications from DVD rental outlets across the country. There is scarce knowledge among rental companies due to lack of awareness of copyright laws. As a result, the rentals end up on the wrong side of law. We are happy and ready to offer rental specific legal products and license support to anyone who wants to do rental business in India.”
Piracy in India affects the Indian film industry more than the American producers and distributors. It is estimated that only 20 per cent of pirated goods infringe the copyrights of foreign film titles. The remaining 80 per cent of pirated products infringe the copyrights of domestic films. According to Government estimates, the entertainment industry loses up to Rs 1,700 crore annually on account of piracy.