WASHINGTON (AFP) — Campaigners against piracy in India's money-spinning entertainment industry, which loses four billion dollars a year to counterfeiters, took their battle to the US Congress on Monday.
"We are losing 90 percent of our home video market in the United States," veteran Indian filmmaker Bobby Bedi told AFP at a Capitol Hill event where he and others highlighted the seriousness of piracy in developing nations.
Bedi lamented that American enforcement agencies were not forceful enough in helping plug losses suffered by the Indian entertainment industry in the United States, where he said counterfeit Indian movies were being peddled mostly by mini retail stores.
"We feel that we should get the same treatment as American producers should get as far as intellectual property is concerned," he said at the event, held in conjunction with World Intellectual Property Day to be marked on Saturday.
A recent study prepared for the US Indian Business Council by global accounting firm Ernst and Young showed that India's burgeoning entertainment industry lost as much as four billion dollars and 800,000 direct jobs each year due to counterfeiting and piracy.
The study was commissioned as part of a joint initiative by the council and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, as well as a combined drive by Hollywood and Bollywood to promote "convergence" between the entertainment industries, officials said.
A key problem facing Bollywood, the informal term popularly used for Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India, is copyright infringement through the illegal sale of VCD, DVD and videotape movie copies as well as online piracy.
Bedi said the Indian home video market in the United States made up 15 percent or about two billion dollars of India's entertainment industry valued at 13 billion dollars, "which is really huge."
"We are losing maybe half of that -- one billion dollars per year -- through piracy and related activities in the United States," said Bedi.
He is currently producing India's most expensive movie venture ever -- a three-film series of the Indian legend, the Mahabharata, at an estimated cost of 70 million dollars.
Movies from India are the top-grossing foreign film category in the United States. In addition, Hindi film distributors are aggressively marketing their movies in the US digital-cable services, industry reports say.
Democratic lawmaker Diane Watson, who hails from California where Hollywood is based, was sympathetic to the plight of the piracy-plagued Indian filmmakers.
"On World Intellectual Property Day we recognize the talent of creators around the globe who enrich our lives with their artistry and innovation," said Watson, who chairs the US Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus.
Another Democratic lawmaker, Robert Wexler, and Republican legislator Tom Feeney, both of whom chair a congressional body on intellectual property and piracy prevention, called for greater efforts to combat piracy.
Movie piracy causes a total output loss for US industries of 20.5 billion dollars per year and accounts for more than 800 million dollars in lost tax revenue, according to a recent study.
Michael Ryan, director of the Washington-based George Washington University's creative and innovative economy center, said piracy was creating a dilemma for filmmakers and curtailed their imagination.
"So long as pirates earn a high share of movie revenues, producers must focus on making relatively inexpensive movies," he said.
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