American and Indian movie companies are fighting a common battle against film piracy in India. Both Hollywood and the Indian film industry, known as Bollywood, lose millions of dollars a year due to lax enforcement of copyright laws in the country.
With over one billion people, India is one of the world's largest markets for films. India's homegrown "Bollywood" films are not the only draw. Hollywood movies, in both the original English and dubbed into local languages, are steadily gaining in popularity.
But Hollywood and Bollywood complain that piracy, an Asia-wide phenomenon, is cutting into their earnings. Illegal copies of films are available on India's streets for less than $2.
American film representatives say the authorities have begun taking some steps to enforce copyright laws.
The Hollywood-based Motion Picture Association says that in July, a warrant issued by a New Delhi court empowered the police to search and seize pirated films in any part of the city.
Motion Picture Association lawyer Chander Lall calls this a strong message to copyright pirates.
"You are seeing a sea change in the attitude of the judiciary, the attitude of the police. We have had problems in the past with police being hesitant to act for copyright owners. This kind of an order, which is an open-ended order directing the police to take action, it really strengthens the hands of the police and will greatly boost our efforts," he explained.
American movie companies estimate that piracy costs them $900 million a year in potential revenues from the Asia-Pacific region, and India accounts for about 10 percent of that loss.
Bollywood faces a double problem. Not only are pirated copies of its films freely available in the markets, but cable television operators often illegally feed films into Indian homes within two to three weeks of the films' release, cutting into ticket sales.
Bollywood turns out up to 800 films a year. Film Federation of India secretary Supran Sen says the industry loses an estimated $400 million annually to piracy.
Mr. Sen says Bollywood has been pressing authorities to create a separate police and judicial system to enforce existing copyright laws, because even though some offenders are caught, India's judicial system moves too slowly to be effective.
"There are hardly any convictions so far because the court matters take lots of time in India,” said Mr. Sen. “That is one of the major issues. There has to be a special police cell, there has to be special courts to try these offenses."
Both Hollywood and Bollywood say the Indian authorities must step up the battle against piracy to combat its growing proportions.