Udta Punjab and Online Piracy of Bollywood Movies

Udta Punjab, the recently released bollywood movie on substance abuse prevalent in Punjab has been mired in controversy from the beginning. Earlier, when the movie had commenced its shooting,the production unit faced trouble for not taking mandatory permission from the district administration and police authorities of Amritsar. However, recently the movie drew attention due to its certification and censorship by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which became the bone of contention between the producers and the CBFC. In order to make sure that the movie gets released on time, the producers led by Anurag Kashyap went to the court challenging the decison of the CBFC .  The Bombay High Court on 13th June, 2016 ordered the release of the movie with just one cut.
The Bombay High Court held that the primary job of the CBFC is to certify and not censor movies.The court considered the viewers of the movie as mature human beings. The court stated that the public is the best judge of this issue and not the CBFC.  The CBFC had a problem with the movie because of the rampant use of cuss words in its dialogues and songs . The CBFC also had an issue regarding portrayal of the drug problem prevalent in Punjab in the movie. The CBFC had asked the producers to delete  Punjab, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Tarantaran, Jashanpura, Ambesar, Ludhiana, and Moga from the background and dialogues wherever it occurs.The CBFC had also asked the makers of the movie to delete the words “election”, “MP”, Party from party worker, MLA, and Parliament from the dialogues.  It is interesting to note that , the elections in Punjab is due next year and many consider this  movie to be a of game changer for the coming Punjab elections .
The producers of the movie heaved a sigh of relief after the decision of the Bombay High Court. However, the relief was short lived as a pirated version of a movie was released online with the words ” For Censor” written on the top left corner. The makers of the movie tried to take down the links with help of the police. As soon as the makers realized that the movie has been released online, they filed complaints under The Copyright Act, 1957 and The Information Technology Act, 2008 and the investigators are currently carrying out their investigation.  The CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani while refuting the charge , that the CBFC is responsible for the leak , stated that perpetrator will soon be nabbed .
There was a  recent controversy surrounding a Hollywood movie titled “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which  was leaked online before it’s actual release. The pirated copy contained the watermark ‘Property of Ellen DeGenere’  to imply that either she or someone in her production team has leaked the same. However, the investigation results revealed that it was actually an unidentified movie pirate who was responsible for the leak. In order to confuse the investigators, the pirate had imprinted the water mark of Ellen DeGeneres’s  on the movie’s leaked print . A similar analogy can be drawn in the instant case of  Udta Punjab and the matter needs to be  investigated thoroughly before jumping to any conclusion. As a matter of fact, Udta Punjab is not the only Bollywood film which got leaked before its actual release. Paa, Manjhi – The Mountain Man, Tera Kya Hoga Johny, Bajrangi Bhaijan, Mohalla Assi, Paanch had  also been leaked online.
However, the question that has not been addressed is that whether there is any legal recourse for situations like this.The recourse is limited and that is taking down the links from respective websites by means of a John Doe order, but before taking that step a lot of damage would already have been caused .For example, in the case of Udta Punjab, the producers lead by Balaji Motion Pictures Limited brought a petition against Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and forty nine other defendants requesting the court to order to take down one hundred and fifteen links and to prevent cable-operators from showing the movie. The court had  ordered to take down the concerned links. Though majority of the links have been taken down, few links are still active and thus disobeying the Bombay High Court’s John Doe order.
The person responsible for the leak of the movie Udta Punjab has not only committed a crime against the movie and the film-makers , but also against creativity and should be punished. It is quite apparent that the leak came as a terrible blow to the film-makers and it is quite understandable from  Anurag Kashyap’s Facebook appeal to  the public not download the movie through torrent till the movie gets released officially. Film piracy is indeed bad as it costs the producers huge profit, but leaking a movie well ahead of it’s public release is even worse and should be dealt by the law enforcement agencies stringently to prevent similar cases in the near future.
Authored by Rounak Biswas
Sources : 1, 2,3, 4