Are art forms like cinema and theatre making enough money for all its creative contributors or are the proceeds flowing to cut-price pirates? A panel of filmmakers including noted director Jabbar Patel and others from Europe and Latin America deliberated on the biggest threat to monetary returns to their craft and ways to counter it.
While one is recording a film on the phone, one does not realise that he or she is getting involved in piracy and it badly hits the efforts of the people working behind the scenes, Lohitha Sujith from the Motion Picture Association of America's Indian wing said at the discussion during the recently concluded International Film Festival of Kerala.
Jabbar Patel, known for his production of Vijay Tendulkar's play "Ghashiram Kotwal", recalled an incident while making "Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar" starring Malayalam superstar Mamootty.
When he asked for some shehnai music as part of the background score, a young music producer said he could make that with a synthesizer. "I can give you Bismillah Khan," he told Patel.
Patel said it was "horrible". "People (indulging in piracy) now feel there is no need of the man who was conferred with Bharat Ratna," he said.
Producer Pablo Chernov from Argentina said the problem was "complex" because "good quality stuff is easily available on the internet".
He offered a solution : ask internet companies to pay a tax to distribute movies, while the consumer pays a small amount like 50 cents to download a movie.
In a lighter vein, he said: "In India's streets, pirated DVDs are sold everywhere. Producer wants to kill himself (on finding his movie on the streets), but he can't go to every street. This is very difficult to control."
Debutant filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharya said that when people watch pirated movies, they should realise that they were not paying any money to the producer, and the art created by the entire team is wasted.
"The artiste needs to survive; so who would take care of that?" he asked.
He admitted that he also watched pirated movies as a kid, but as soon as he started earning, he bought all genuine films and music DVDs.
He said he went to a distributor for his Odia film "I", but he was turned down saying the movie was too good for the commercial market.
"The mainstream movies do not allow experimental stuff. Many artistes have become popular through piracy... the mainstream would not have allowed them," he said.
Producer Golda Sellam from France said there was a "strong lobby" in her country to defend and protect the rights of authors.
"In some countries in Africa, people set up cameras right inside the theatres and record the films. In the US, the producer has the movie's final cut, not the author. In France, a fight is on to protect the rights of authors," she said.
Sujith said Britain has an anti-piracy cell, where people can submit lists of piracy websites. The cell works with internet providers to shut them down. Till date, at least 98 such websites have been blocked.
Patel, recalling an incident about his daughter and grandson in Britain, said a 10-year-old there knows that he/she cannot download materials illegally from the internet.
"But in Kerala, people get an Akira Kurosawa DVD for just Rs.100, whereas it costs 10-20 pounds in Britain. An SRK movie, however, sells for Rs.500," he quipped.
Sujith spoke about someone being exposed to harmful elements promoted through piracy.
"A child goes online, checks Google for a cartoon film. He comes across a lot of links, clicks on a site, and gets exposed to a variety of ads of drugs, porn and other marketing gimmicks."
To control video piracy, Sellam suggested that after the first week of release of a movie in a theatre, it can be released on the internet, for profit of both sections - producer as well as internet service providers.
Patel said that nowadays after the first 4-5 weeks of a film's release in Mumbai or Chennai, and after the film earns Rs.200-300 crore, the producers stop bothering. Thus, piracy rules after that.
People often approach him, saying they do not get DVDs of his movies. He said he jokes and tells them to watch it on YouTube.
"Like car number plates get recorded by CCTV when they break traffic rules, the same policy should be applied to piracy. Whenever something is released, the authorities should know from where it is being done," he said.