How Karthik Subbaraj's 'Petta' team is fighting Tamil Rockers and other online pirates

Pavan Narendra of Stone Bench Creations explains that legal and technical options are the only way ahead to end the menace of online piracy.
How Karthik Subbaraj's 'Petta' team is fighting Tamil Rockers and other online pirates
How Karthik Subbaraj's 'Petta' team is fighting Tamil Rockers and other online pirates
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Just hours after the release of Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam, news of the two films being uploaded on the notorious Tamil Rockers website spread like wildfire. This, even after the Madras High Court banned sites from illegally streaming these films.

But Petta and Viswasam aren’t the only films that have been affected by online piracy. Every new release, irrespective of its language and from where it’s being released, goes up almost immediately on these piracy websites.

Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta team is now working round the clock to bring down as many links as they can. In about 48 hours, they’ve taken down over 300 such sites with links to illegal copies of their film.

Speaking to TNM, Pavan Narendra of Stone Bench Creations explains that piracy in the industry is a lot like the Hydra of Lern from Greek Mythology - a monster capable of doubly regenerating from its severed heads. “All the parties involved are exploring options to curb piracy. Films go up almost instantly no matter from where the release happens,” he says.

Pavan further explains that there are legal and technical options to fight this menace. “There are also other options where you can educate the film-going population to understand that watching it online is a way of bringing down the effort put it by everyone involved. But that can be an intangible way of measuring the impact,” he says.

Therefore, Pavan is of the opinion that right now, all that the industry can do is from the side of technology and law. “Nothing in the real world has worked out so far. The only way is to invest more resources from tech side along with strong enforcement laws, which is now happening. As you can see, when a site has been blocked by the court all access to it is blocked immediately. But still the problem persists because the pirates find a way to work around it and manage to inform the public on how they can watch. So technology always has to be one step ahead,” he shares.

Pavan further adds, “When there is investment there is always an expectation and in business you need to recover that investment. But piracy kills it quite hard. And we’re talking about very bad prints that are not even worth watching on any device. This has a detrimental effect to the entire process,” he says.

But the widespread knowledge of these links can be quite alarming for makers.  “Everyone who works for us, even people who drive us to places, immediately inform us when they come across any such links. That is encouraging in a way that there are people who are concerned but what is discouraging it is that it is available to so many people!” observes Pavan.

How do they do it?

So how do they go about fighting it? “There will be an IT team that works specifically for taking down links of torrents, not just Tamil Rockers. There will be a coordination cell that will be getting all the links and forwarding to the IT cell who will be taking down the links,” shares Pavan.

There are two ways in which a production house equips itself to fight piracy. We learn big production houses might hire in-house IT teams while some others outsource it to reputed IT teams who can do this on a daily basis.

But these links cannot be dismissed in just one click. “When we were working on Mercury, it took us about 30 minutes to pull down a link. You generally cannot take down every link. First, you have to verify the link. Then it has to be backed by evidence and has to be documented because in future if someone were to question legally, there has to be sufficient documentation to prove that this was indeed an illegal copy available. Then the request is given immediately to take it down,” explains Pavan.

All documentations are made online and the tech team employed in such a task usually has specific arrangements with Internet Service Providers (ISP) across the world.

“Guys who are doing this will have their backend team working in tandem with ISPs. The minute a link comes up, it needs to be sent to the ISP to block it,” says Pavan.

But the pirates have a clever way to work around the system. “If they go through Virtual Private Network (VPN), they can bypass any country and download the link. When you’re using VPN, you are not bound by law anymore,” explains Pavan.

A VPN is a private network that uses the public network (Internet) and the data transmitted is usually encrypted. VPN allows a user from India to access content that is specific to a foreign country, thereby bypassing laws. This has been a goldmine for users with a tendency to download/watch illegal content online.

Has online streaming platforms helped?

Online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, SunNxt, Hotstar, etc., have worked beneficially shares Pavan adding people’s effort to download films from the internet, if, by chance, they’ve missed the movie in theatres, has reduced in recent times.

“I have seen people who will shy away from online piracy. Nowadays the online streaming platforms are also advertising heavily on when a particular film will be available on their platform. People would rather wait for that, even if a few weeks, and watch it in the way it needs to be watched,” he says.

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