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Zee claims piracy bust success

India’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises is heralding a major breakthrough in its fight against content piracy with the news of a successful raid by Delhi Police which found illegal tapping and unauthorised uploading of live content of popular Indian Television Channels such as ZEE TV, Star Plus, Colors, and Sony TV on pirate websites.

After carrying out a detailed initial investigation, the police raided premises in Kalyanpur area of Lucknow, with more than two dozen workers being caught red-handed, digitally stealing live feed of Indian pay-TV Channels, using more than 50 DTH and cable TV set-top boxes. These persons were extracting TV feeds, removing watermarks and uploading them on their sites such as www.Desitvforum.net.

These websites are being accessed by millions of viewers abroad in USA, Canada, Europe, UK and the Netherlands, with thousands of dollars being illegally earned by pirates, causing huge amount of losses to the broadcasters. In addition, there has also been rampant violation of foreign exchange regulations and money laundering.

The alleged mastermind of the piracy, Md. Asif Siddiqui was arrested by the Delhi Police and various equipment, including computers and other accessories, used in carrying out the piracy/signal theft were also seized. Investigations in the matter are continuing and more such raids and arrests are likely to follow based on interrogation of the accused.

Zee had lodged an FIR (First Information Report) alleging unauthorised streaming of the episodes of various Zee channel programmes within 10 to 12 minutes of their actual broadcast. The pirates’ modus operandi was that in addition to tapping and stealing live feed of various channels from DTH and cable set top boxes, the accused persons within these 10-12 minutes, were recording video, editing identifiable information, adding their logo and uploading it to several servers simultaneously.

This is the first occasion when an Internet pirate has been caught red-handed in India. Normally identifying individual persons and their physical locations behind their pirated sites is very difficult. It took more than a year-long investigation and digital evidence gathering by Zee’s in-house IT Security Team to collect irrefutable evidence to identify humans behind the mask of these websites, which were hosted from Sweden.

With the proliferation of Internet-enabled devices, India’s pay-TV industry has been badly affected. According to open-source web-based analytics, this particular group had more than 10 Lakh (1m) daily viewers and have been earning thousands of dollars every day. The targeted customers were mainly from US, Canada and Europe.

The Indian channels which are available in more than 100 countries around the world are extremely popular amongst the South- Asian diaspora. However, according to Zee, piracy, stealing of signals and their unauthorised transmission and streaming on web has been a major stumbling block in revenue monetisation, with broadcasters losing huge revenue to piracy.

“Unfortunately the provisions of existing laws such as Copyright Act, IT Act 2000 have not proved to be effective in curbing these kinds of new-age crimes as piracy is categorised as a ‘bailable’ offence. In order to effectively deal with the menace of copyright piracy the copyright infringement should be made ‘non-bailable’,” says Zee.

“Similarly whether signal theft could be regarded as theft of ‘property’ as contemplated under section 379 of IPC also needs to be clarified. The need of the hour is to review these laws and introduce more stringent provisions to deal with such offences so that these provisions may act as an effective deterrent,” it concludes.

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