The advancement of technology has brought sweeping changes to the broadcasting industry. The increase in internet penetration and demand for on-the-spot entertainment have allowed the Over the Top (OTT) broadcasting industry to prosper. When audio or video content is streamed directly through the internet, it is said to have been broadcast over the top. Various OTT platforms like- Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, Hulu and the like have altered the modern-day entertainment industry landscape by disrupting the traditional broadcasting model. Undoubtedly, the OTT broadcasting market is one of the world’s largest media markets. The potential flow of advertisement traffic for this content makes them lucrative assets for any commercial establishment. The producers have broadened monetization prospects with separate licensing agreements with traditional broadcasters and OTT platforms. Many broadcasters which produce their own content, now have their own OTT streaming platforms in order to expand their subscriber base. Presently, many OTT platforms are taking up the creation of exclusive content to be streamed through their platforms. This sector has vast potential as they observe the behaviour and choices of their consumers through their programming that uses cutting-edge technologies like- Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These enhance the overall viewership experience.
The Threat of Digital Piracy
OTT platforms acquire the right to stream content online by entering into licensing agreements with content creators, distributors and production studios which specify the duration, geographical restrictions, and exclusivity rights related to these content. These licensing agreements enlist the various rights and liabilities of these OTT platforms, the particulars of content they are allowed to stream and the royalties which they agree to pay for streaming the content. Notwithstanding the fact that these platforms have now become part and parcel of the lives of the vast majority, instances of accessing the exclusive contents of these platforms without authorization are also on the rise. Unauthorized usage, storage and sharing of unsolicited copyrighted content is a threat to human creativity. People use platforms such as Telegram, Google Drive links and similar other platforms to access these contents. The use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows the people accessing these contents to avoid revealing their Internet Protocol (IP) address which makes tracing the perpetrators almost impossible. The platforms providing such content must take steps to secure their content. Most of the content on these platforms is subscription-based. If viewers are able to access these contents for free then the amount of revenue generated from licensing of intellectual property will be far below estimations. Video content creation involves substantial investment. Hence, the licensing agreement must be secured from unauthorized breach.
Measures to Prevent Piracy
Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are employed to encrypt the content. It ensures that only authorized viewers with valid subscriptions are able to access and view the content. Content Identification technologies, such as digital fingerprinting or watermarking are effective methods in detecting and taking action against piracy by tracking and preventing unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material. In addition, OTT services may restrict access to content based on the user’s geographical location to ensure that content is only available in authorized regions by implementing geo-blocking or geo-restriction technologies. OTT services may implement tools for content recognition and removal of infringing material from User-generated Content (UGC).
The Copyright infringement of a work broadcasted through OTT platforms is not specifically safeguarded through separate legal provisions in India, however, the existing legal provisions provide adequate legal remedies. Section 2 (m) of the Copyright Act of 1957 includes such content which is broadcasted through OTT platforms within the purview of the expression ‘infringing copy’. Further, Section 14 of the Act of 1957 authorizes only the owner of a copyrighted work to communicate it to the public, while Sections 26, 27 and 29 of the Copyright Act of 1957 mention the term of copyright for cinematographic work, soundtrack and international work, respectively. Section 37(3) enlists the various acts which may constitute infringement of ‘broadcaster’s reproduction rights’ in the absence of an authorized license. Moreover, Section 51 of the Act of 1957 categorizes the reproduction of any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work in the form of a cinematographic work as an infringing copy. Cease and Desist notices may be served to the infringers to cease all further dissemination while comprehensively outlining how the actions of the recipient are infringing the Copyright of the sender’s work. In order to combat the menace of digital piracy, the Indian judiciary has granted dynamic injunctions so that mirror websites and fake URLs may also be prevented from infringement of copyright. Pre- infringement protections may be obtained in the form of John Doe orders granted by the court if the copyright holder apprehends that someone might infringe his copyright, temporary injunctions may be granted so as to restrain usage of copyrighted material, Sections 43 and 66 of The Information Technology Act of 2000 penalises the transmission of copyrighted content online. At the global level, the World Intellectual Property Organization Internet Treaties aims to restrict unauthorized access to OTT content over the Internet.
Presently, the frontiers of Intellectual Property Rights have been pushed to previously unimaginable limits. Close collaboration between all stakeholders is necessary to protect the content broadcasted through OTT platforms. These platforms are different from traditional networking organizations and include instant messaging applications, video streaming applications, and voice calling applications, as well. The prevention of such unauthorised dissemination of broadcasted material is complicated. The broadcasted contents involve the text, music, video and publicity rights, which form the subject matter of copyright protection. Not only is there an increased risk of copyright infringement, but also compromises cyber security. A comprehensive universal mechanism is needed to tackle digital piracy. Law enforcement agencies of different nations must coordinate with each other to prevent cross-border digital piracy. Cyber-attacks, financial frauds, and cyberbullying are potential risks of accessing pirated content online. These contents are mostly embedded with malware which is the starting point of compromising user data. Moreover, the absence of proper legislations that regulate and safeguard OTT content is a major contributor to the looming threat of digital piracy in current times. Apart from this, the growth of OTT platforms has irreversibly changed the human psyche. The convenience of the platforms has instrumented a breakage in human social connections and bonding which further adds to the growing menace of digital piracy in not just India but the world.