A film leaking online within hours of an official theatrical release, makes news no longer. However, the events that led up to the much hyped, and now successfully running Mersal ( Released yesterday) and the leak which happened yesterday need an introspection.
Vishal’s group wins TFPC Elections – Without any tangible results being obtained from the two decade old menace of Digital Piracy, a small group of individuals, lead by Actor Vishal, contested elections in the Producers council. This lobby which subsequently emerged successful in the local-body elections, had come to power, on the promise that meaningful action would be taken against the ‘TamilRockers’ website, which over a period of time has allegedly become the flagship bearer of hosting infringing Tamil film content.
Following their coming to power, producer Gnanavel Raja, one of the board members of the TFPC ( Tamilnadu Film Producers Council), challenged Tamilrockers in an open duel. At the same time, pressure was being mounted against TamilRockers, and its URL’s were being seized, only for the notorious website to keep hopping its URL’s.
Social Media Shaming campaign – A month ago, events reached its pinnacle, when a person based in Triplicane was arrested on charges of being an admin of the notorious site. The fact that this happened on the eve of the release of Actor Vishal’s ( President of TFPC) film, Thuparivalan, was seen as an act of publicity, by some quarters. This had no bearing, as a pirated print of Thupparivalan, also subsequently found its way out into the online space. Later, there were also reports that the arrested person, was not associated with the alleged website. There has been little follow up by the news channels on this matter, unfortunately.
A few days later, TFPU upped the ante, by releasing the names and pictures of two individuals in social media, and accused them of being associated with the ‘Tamilrockers’ portal. One of the accused individuals has sent out a denial through his Facebook account, but TPFC’s Twitter handle asks him to come out into the open, to prove his innocence. The issue stands at that. There is little follow up on this side of the story, too.
Alleged Tamil Rockers Audio – As pressure started to mount among Tamil rockers, an audio surfaced on the Internet, with an anoymous individual throwing nepotism charges against a selected few of the Tamil film industry. He claimed that he had no money to become a Film hero, and it was his frustration that led him to become the prime antagonist of the film industry. He would have his revenge by running Tamil Rockers. Interestingly, the voice declared an open challenge to Actor Vishal to stop them, if he could. The voice also claimed that being a fan of Actor Vijay, the film Mersal would be updated not immediately, but in a day or two.
‘Revenge’ and the Story of ‘Tamil Rockers’ – About ten days ago, Vox’s web portal published an excellent article based on the interviews, of one of the disgruntled admins of ‘Tamil Rockers’. This admin was allegedly part of the original team that was involved in the daily operations of the ‘Tamil Rockers’ portal. Individual differences cropped up between the team, and this person decided to go ahead with his story, and have his revenge. It was an excellent article by the publisher, except for the fact that some figures were misleading. The portal claimed at ‘Tamil Rockers’ invested only 10 Lakhs to get returns of over 200 Crores. No documents were mentioned in this article to substantiate these figures. There was no break up of ‘operational’ + ‘content acquisition’ costs Versus the potential revenues earned, by the portal. The article itself mentions that each film would need an ‘acquisition cost’ of 1l onwards. This would easily translate to a much larger amount per year, considering the number of films published and would be much greater than the 10 lakhs mentioned by the portal.
Social Media AntiPiracy Action – The mention that Mersal would be released set up substantial number of ‘Vijay fans’ against the release portal. It is a little ironic here, that several of the fans who had supported the portal, now felt the heat, when the portal would do the same, for their beloved hero. In the midst of this turn around, several social media profiles bearing the Portal’s name were taken down. A jubiliant TPFC twitter handle took a dig at Tamil Rocker’s frequent domain hopping.
We have no ‘Social Media’ handle, claims Tamil Rockers – A couple of weeks, as several handles were shut down, the ‘Tamil Rockers’ website sent out a message that, they had no official Social media handles. Yet, at the same time, several handles continued to exist, bearing the portals name. A large amount of them were likely to be fake. One of these handles claimed that, ‘Mersal’ would be released only after 3 days.
‘Mersal’ leaks – A few hours after ‘Mersal’ was released in theatres, a first 15 minute cam shot was uploaded on YouTube. The link soon found its way to Social media. The watermark on this print however, did not have the name of Tamilrockers, but of another website. A few minutes later, One of the Twitter handles bearing Tamilrockers name, claimed that they had obtained a copy of a cam print and were involved in cleaning up the audio. A few hours later, the handle claimed to have uploaded a HD print version in a Torrent feed.
TPFC Response – While TPFC’s official Twitter handle continues to keep issuing threatening tweets to those sharing links on Social media, and taking steps to remove the URL’s of hosted Torrents and other streaming URL’s, the damage done is irreversible. Yet, the moot question is, why doesn’t the film industry use pre-existing solutions like YouTube’s ContentID? Logically, it won’t stop piracy, but it can minimise it. If a film producer bears the risk of showing the film to the censor board ( Censor Board copies have been alleged to leak in the past), why can’t they upload it to YouTube? Had they done that, the 15 minutes upload would have got blocked immediately.
Off course again, if the person searching for the link had not found it there, he would have looked for another link likely, rather than decide to spend money in a theatre. That is more logical, but then, do film producers have a choice? The onus on spending money for Anti-Piracy action is more for publicity these days,
deterrant ( does it deter people anymore?) , and to make it as inconvenient as possible for a user to get infringing content, rather than getting it as a way to increase revenue, which is the object of making a film. Then again, Does the film industry have an alternative choice, today?