- Footage from 'Kabali' has been leaked online
- Footage showing the introduction of Rajinikanth has gone viral in social media
- But the film's producers have denied any kind of leak
HYDERABAD: Just a day before Rajinikanth's Kabali, this year's most highly anticipated release, hits the screen worldwide, footage from the film has been leaked online, and several websites have full links that can be accessed to view and download Kabali.
The film's introductory scene has gone viral across social media and was among the most shared videos in south India as of Thursday morning, 24 hours before the film's official release. The film's producers have denied the leak.
But there is no doubt that the rise in piracy has cost the industry dearly.
In fact, Akella Raj Kumar, who heads the anti-piracy wing of the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, made a stunning revelation last month that the Telugu film industry has been deprived of revenues to the tune of Rs 1,066 crore due to piracy.
Kumar said that in the last 18 months alone, there have been at least 10 million downloads of pirated Telugu films. He identified 138 notorious websites, which host pirated versions of Telugu films.
"The impact of online piracy on industry revenues in the media and entertainment sector is huge. The total revenue loss in the last 18 months, extrapolating from available data for new releases, is about 10.64 billion INR (1064 crore). These huge numbers just from one regional industry is just a glimpse of the situation for the entire entertainment sector. Some unofficial estimates show that the overall revenue loss to the Indian media and entertainment industry is close to 2.5 billion dollars," said Akella.
Experts believe that while stopping piracy may not be entirely possible.
"I think stopping this is very difficult. We have done everything we can to find out where these prints come from through forensic watermarking. If any camcorder or phone camera is used to record, we can tell where it was done, and what time and date. So this can help trace back to the person who shot the video. If we can use this time after time to nab the culprits, hopefully it will stop," says Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Qube Cinema, which screens films digitally.
Qube's forensic watermarking is invisible and provides information on the theatre, date and time of show from a camcorder copy. Because it is invisible, it cannot be masked or erased by pirates.
"Today the only loophole is to shoot it off the screen in camera. The rest we are able to prevent but people are still shooting in theatres with camcorders or cell phones. Even then, we are able to trace it back to the users," Senthil points out.
Producers believe that the government must take more measures to curb this piracy menace, especially blocking Torrent sites, from where movies can easily be downloaded.
"Piracy is a huge problem. It will financially ruin producers. That's what happened to Great Grand Masti," lamented Suresh Babu, president of the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce.
"What is needed is legislation and strict punishment. We have been speaking to the government to remove these torrents but they are just delaying the process. These torrents can just be removed from the sites, and that needs to be done as quickly as possible."
Suresh Babu also urged producers to be more careful with thier prints.
"If a producer has a diamond ring, how carefully would he keep it? He will not give it to his accountant to look after. He must be equally careful with the print of his film, because that's his life and death. So the producers must not be so casual about it," he said.
Producers feel that camcorders at single-screen theatres are not the only problem.
"Piracy is now becoming a white collar crime. Now people who are working in well-known multinational companies are also releasing prints online. So this must be tackled soon," Suresh Babu added.