Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pirate this!

There’s this little “Indian store” close by, no different from any of the numerous Indian stores dotted across cities and towns across North America. The usual little place, with an assortment of frozen or dry packed foods, Maggi, Parle-G biscuits, pickles, spices and other essentials. And of course, the irreplaceable videos of the latest from Bollywood. As is the case, every time a movie is released, the store-owner painstakingly copies each movie out on to a dozen or so video-tapes, to lend out to customers (us). This means a single DVD that he buys (from Shemaroo or where-ever else) multiplies for just about no cost, and is distributed. Most readers will agree that this would constitute the classical definition of media piracy, wouldn’t you? Typically, when a movie is running in the local cinema (that screens Indian movies), the movie does not reach the store on DVD or video. A few weeks after the release of the movie, it shows up on the shelves, as DVD and innumerable videos.

But (rather often, might I add) this chappie seemed to have some movies with him even the day after it’s release. These he wouldn’t display on the shelves, but if you asked him for it, he’d pull it out from under a counter, with the flourish of a conjuror pulling out a rabbit from a hat. He’d then smile and with a twinkle in his eyes typically say something like

“Yeh camera print hain, print aur audio average hain.” (this is a “camera-print”, and the quality is just about “average”).

We all know about these camera prints (wink, wink), those awful tapes which we just need to see, to keep up with cinema trends. Those tapes which were made by some enterprising entrepreneur who sat through the movie in the hall with a video camera (Seinfeld, any one?). We aren’t surprised when we see shadows walk across the screen, or some hooting or clapping noises, or even the occasional commercial. Very much part of the game. And most of us usually patiently wait for the “official” prints, copied from original DVDs, with marginally better audio and video quality.

One day, not unlike any other, my wife and I asked him if he had the video of some movie that had just come out in the theaters (I believe it was the atrocity passing off as a comedy, Garam masaala). He said it wasn’t there officially, but he had a “pirated, camera print.”

My wife instantly went, “Par aap ke yahan sabhi movies to pirated hain” (but aren’t all your movies pirated anyway?).

He looked right back in mortified horror, pain and indignation.

“Kya bol rahe hain aap? Sab movies pirated thodi hi hain? Sab ke original DVDs athe hain, aur unka copies banathe hain hum. Woh pirated thodi hain.”

And then he went on to patiently explain to us foolish, innocent ignoramuses that only those movies that are “camera prints”, which are made inside a cinema hall illegally, are pirated.

All other copies are perfectly legal.

Go figure!


Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
I like the look of indignation that you painted on his face.

It was as if he said, "What do you mean, 'They're all pirated'? Only these are pirated, those are contrefaire." These subtle distinctions are important.

Anonymous said...


The Desi theatre closest to Berkeley is in Fremont. During the interval, they show ads of dentists, lawyers etc, and then, the masterpiece...they say that the viewers can get a copy (DVD, VHS etc) of the movies currently playing there at some price. They also telecast cricket matches on the big screen. Wonder whether all these are legal or not.

Anonymous said...

Back in the days when Music Piracy was prevalent (until the restraining orders were brought to less relief), people would say that Music Piracy should not exist because the singers have to buy their Bentleys.

Similarly, if an Indian Store guy pirates some hindi/regional DVD or make a Camera Print and makes a few bucks, I am sure we need to put a stop to this, because over the last few years, many Indian actresses are finding it difficult to locate clothing on screen. Is that a sign of "Inflation"? ;)

This DVD piracy by Indian Stores need to stop as we need to clothe our actresses (Bipasha, Mallika, Rakhi Sawant Atleast the South Indian actresses are following our culture and not gotten onto the "Silk Smitha" Band Wagon.

Sunil said...

indeed Michael.....we were suitably chastized.

Vishnu.......i'm pretty sure those movies being sold are pirated. I'm not sure about the cricket matches though. they clearly have a subscription to some dish network, and could probably pass of the screening of the match as a private viewing. Here during the WC, some 30 of us pooled for the connection, and a friend's house was dedicated as the WC know it's different but still....)

Anil......not too sure if i got your comment (unless it's an attempt at satire. In that case, :-))

Anyway....performers don't make any money out of royalties. Only record companies do. Performers get paid up in advance, or get more money through stage-shows. All dvd/video/cassette/cd monies go to record companies. I think piracy isn't right, but there also is the demand for lower prices of this form of media. Over the next few years...there's going to be many small shake-ups of the entertainment industry (it started with Napster, then iPods changed a lot of'll continue). It makes a fascinating study.

But i digress and ramble....this was just a little, short humorous post from daily life :-))

Anonymous said...

Sunil, yeah, I was being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

I think even though its plain wrong, the video stores copying dvds and renting them, for a few bucks is not as a grave crime, as a theatre showing cricket telecasts (in the bay area).

You can argue that the community is benefitting in some way when there is no way, an individual can pay $200 to DISH n/w for the cricket package. But he can enjoy a cricket match with his friends. I think multiple restaurants around US, telecast for $10 (ofcourse with appetizers).

On the other hand, if I rent a copied DVD from the video store for a buck, imagine the savings:
a) No need to pay for tickets for the family.
b) No driving costs (implies, friendlier environments).

There is really no need to sweat on the small fish. IMHO.

Sudhanshu said...

Most of the movies which got nominated for oscars haven't yet reached the theatres in Pune. Besides the ones which get nominated for the Foreign Language, never show up in India. The legal DVD's are usually pretty late, and mostly short in supply. So, there is no way out but to go for pirated versions.

And yes you're right. Even here, the pirated ones are the ones which do have a good print. ie the camera ones. :-)