Piracy laws in India stand as a formidable fortress against the crime of piracy, a digital menace that has evolved with the era of content on demand and the widespread availability of content on the internet.

In the virtual seas of digital content, actual pirates roam freely, posing a challenge to creators, copyright holders, and the integrity of the entertainment industry.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of piracy laws in India, their evolution, and their vital role in combating the proliferation of illicit content, ultimately safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.

Different Types of Piracy in India

In India, various types of piracy persist across different forms of media and industries. These include:

Film Piracy is a prevalent issue in India, where unauthorised copies of movies frequently circulate through various channels, including physical media, online platforms, and mobile apps.

Both Bollywood and regional film industries face heightened susceptibility to piracy.

This unlawful distribution occurs even before the official release of movies, detrimentally impacting box office revenues. Pirated copies can be found on content sites, undermining the categorisation of films and posing significant challenges to the legitimate film industry.

Music Piracy: The music industry faces music piracy challenges due to the unauthorised distribution of songs and albums. Pirated music is commonly available on websites and file-sharing networks.

Software Piracy: Software piracy is a concern, with counterfeit copies of software programs being distributed and used without proper licenses. This not only affects revenue but also poses cybersecurity risks.

Book Piracy: The publishing industry is not immune to piracy, with copyrighted books and literary works being reproduced and distributed illegally, often in the form of e-books.

Check out the linked article to learn more about the book piracy.

Television and Streaming Piracy: Unauthorised distribution of television shows, series, and streaming content is prevalent. People often resort to illegal streaming websites and peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted content.

Counterfeit Goods: Apart from media, piracy extends to counterfeit consumer goods, including clothing, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. This undermines both intellectual property rights and consumer safety.

Online Streaming Piracy: Online streaming piracy involves the illegal sharing and streaming of copyrighted content, including movies, TV shows, and sports events, through unauthorised streaming platforms.

Video Game Piracy: Video games are not exempt from piracy, with cracked copies and illegal downloads being available on various websites and forums.

Check out the linked article to learn more about the video game piracy.

Counterfeit Drives and Goods: The production and sale of counterfeit drives, such as USB flash drives and external hard drives, are common. These may contain illegal copies of media or software.

Addressing these various forms of piracy requires a multifaceted approach, including legal measures, enforcement, public awareness campaigns, and the promotion of legitimate alternatives.

The prevalence of piracy poses economic challenges to industries and copyright holders while underscoring the need for continuous efforts to combat infringement of intellectual property rights in India.

Piracy Laws in India

In India, efforts to combat digital piracy include both state-level and national measures.

Kerala has implemented specific state initiatives, while at the national level, the Copyright Act of 1957, amended in 2012, aligns with international standards set by the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

These frameworks collectively aim to address and reduce the issue of digital piracy across the country.

State-Level Initiative

Kerala’s Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 2007 section 2(h) states that:

“digital data and copyright pirate” means any person who knowingly and deliberately violates, for commercial purposes, any copyright law in relation to any book, music, film, software, artistic or scientific work and includes any person who illegally enters through the identity of the user and illegally uses any computer or digital network for any illegal personal profit by deceiving any person or any computer system;

 International Initiatives

The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), both effective from 2002, represent key international initiatives in digital rights management.

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The WCT, extending the principles of the Berne Convention, focuses on protecting authors’ rights in the digital environment, including computer programs and databases.

The WPPT specifically safeguards the rights of performers, such as actors and musicians, and producers of phonograms in the digital landscape, emphasising their roles and investments in the creation and fixation of sounds.

National Laws

Copyright Act of 1957 (Amended in 2012) 

The Copyright (Amendment) Act of 2012 brought significant changes to piracy laws in India, with a primary focus on addressing digital piracy. Two key sections, Section 65(A) and Section 65(B), were introduced in this amendment.

Section 65(A) deals with the “Protection of Technological Measures.”

It stipulates that any individual who intentionally circumvents an effective technological measure, which has been applied to protect the rights granted by the Copyright Act, with the intent of infringing those rights, may face imprisonment for up to two years and may also be subject to a fine.

Section 65(B) pertains to the “Protection of Rights Management Information.”

This section outlines that any person who knowingly engages in two actions –

(1) removing or altering rights management information without proper authorisation, or

(2) distributing, importing for distribution, broadcasting, or publicly communicating copies of any work or performance, while being aware that electronic rights management information has been unlawfully tampered with – can be penalised with imprisonment of up to two years and may also be liable for a fine.

These sections represent significant legal provisions aimed at combatting digital piracy and safeguarding copyright-related information.

Information Technology Act of 2000

This also addresses digital piracy concerns. Section 66 of this Act prescribes penalties, including imprisonment for up to 3 years and fines of up to Rs 2 lakhs, for the unlawful online distribution of copyrighted content.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023

The Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023 is a recent piece of legislation in India that amends the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952.

This significant piece of legislation in India aimed at curbing cinematograph film piracy. It introduces several key provisions targeting different aspects of piracy, including:

Stricter punishments:

  • The Act imposes harsher penalties for film piracy, with imprisonment ranging from 3 months to 3 years and fines of up to 5% of the film’s audited gross production cost. This is a significant increase compared to the previous penalties.
  • Specific sections like 6AA and 6AB criminalise unauthorised filming or transmission of copyrighted content within theaters and public exhibition spaces.

Broader scope:

  • The Act goes beyond traditional piracy in theaters and addresses online piracy and distribution through illegal websites and streaming platforms.
  • It empowers authorities to take down infringing content and block access to piracy websites.

Improved enforcement:

  • The Act strengthens enforcement mechanisms by granting additional powers to law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute piracy cases.
  • It also encourages cooperation between different stakeholders like filmmakers, exhibitors, and internet service providers to combat piracy.
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Kerala’s Strategic Fight Against Film Piracy: The Role of the Anti-Piracy Cell

The Kerala Anti-piracy Cell, established by the State Government, operates under the Crime Branch Crime Investigation Department (CBCID).

It serves as a central unit for intelligence gathering, database creation, coordination, and direct investigation of significant crimes to identify their origins and online distribution networks.

This initiative specifically aims to combat piracy in the Malayalam film industry, which suffers significant losses due to tax evasion and lost royalties.

The Cell has successfully resolved many cases across Kerala. It has also issued public warnings to internet users, cable TV operators, mobile shop owners, and CD/DVD distributors throughout the state, emphasising the importance of curbing piracy.

Adobe Systems’ Comprehensive Anti-Piracy Campaign in India

Adobe Systems Inc. initiated a major campaign against software piracy in India, collaborating with local law enforcement and government bodies.

The initiative targets widespread software piracy, which causes global losses of about US$ 47 billion annually.

Adobe has undertaken over 25 civil actions in key Indian cities, setting a precedent for other large corporations interested in the Indian market but concerned about increasing piracy incidents.

Check out the linked article to learn how to protect software from piracy in India.

Piracy in India: Assessing the Effectiveness of Current Laws and Enforcement Challenges

The issue of combating piracy in India is complex, influenced by factors such as the prevalence and economic impact of piracy, enforcement challenges, and technological complexities. Let’s delve into these aspects:

Prevalence and Economic Impact of Piracy:

Piracy remains a significant problem in India, spanning various forms of media, including films, music, software, and literature.

According to a report by the Indian Music Industry (IMI), the music industry alone incurred losses of approximately Rs 1,068 crore (around $150 million) due to copyright infringement in 2019.

The film industry suffers substantial losses, with estimates suggesting that piracy costs it billions of rupees annually, particularly affecting Bollywood.

Software piracy is a concern, impacting both revenue and cybersecurity.

Effectiveness of Existing Laws:

The Copyright Act of 1957, as amended in 2012, and the Information Technology Act of 2000 provide legal frameworks to combat infringement of copyright and intellectual property.

While these laws include provisions for penalties and enforcement, their effectiveness in deterring piracy is limited.

Challenges in tracking and prosecuting internet piracy make enforcement difficult, especially when illegal copies are hosted on foreign servers.

The effectiveness of legal actions against online pirates varies, and the process can be time-consuming.

Challenges in Enforcement:

Technological complexities pose a significant challenge, with encryption, anonymous networks, and the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) making it challenging to trace and identify digital pirates.

Resource limitations within law enforcement agencies and the judicial system can lead to delays in prosecuting cases of piracy.

Lack of public awareness about the consequences of online piracy and the availability of legal alternatives contributes to its persistence. The sheer volume of pirated content across platforms makes monitoring and enforcement a daunting task.

International Cooperation:

Piracy often transcends national borders, necessitating international cooperation for effective enforcement.

While India’s accession to international treaties like the WCT and WPPT in 2018 aimed to align copyright laws with global standards, enforcement remains a challenge.

Digital Streaming Services:

The advancement in technology has led to the rise of legal streaming platforms, offering consumers convenient and affordable access to content, potentially reducing the appeal of piracy.

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However, piracy persists, partly due to the availability of illegal copies that are free of charge, posing challenges to copyright holders in the entertainment industry.

In short, addressing acts of piracy requires not only strict action against law breakers but also a concerted effort to navigate the evolving landscape of digital piracy in the face of technological advancements and changing consumer behaviors.


India’s piracy laws play a pivotal role in safeguarding copyright protection and upholding the basic rights of content creators. While advancements in technology present challenges, an active role in enforcing these laws is crucial.

Increasing awareness of copyright laws among digital content consumers serves as a deterrent against piracy, emphasising the importance of respecting the owner of copyright.

Creating robust deterrents to pirates, including cracking down on black market sales and download links, is essential to curbing piracy.

With collective efforts, including digital piracy monitoring, and stringent action against infringement, India can navigate the evolving landscape and foster a culture that respects and values intellectual property.


What is copyright and how does it prevent piracy?

Copyright is a legal right granted to creators of intellectual property, like literature, music, and films, allowing them to control how their work is used and distributed. It’s a key tool in combating piracy, as it gives creators legal ground to take action against unauthorised use or distribution of their work. In India, this is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957​.

What are the different forms of piracy prevalent in India

Common forms of piracy in India include camcorder piracy (illegally recording movies in theaters), end-user piracy (unauthorised copying of software), client-server overuse (exceeding server license limits), and hard-disk loading (selling computers with illegal software). These practices infringe upon the copyright holders’ rights

What laws exist in India to combat piracy?

The main legal framework includes the Copyright Act, 1957, and its amendments, such as the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012, which introduced sections 65A and 65B to protect against the circumvention of technological protection measures and unauthorised access to rights management information. The Information Technology Act, 2000, also addresses digital piracy. These laws provide a basis for taking legal action against piracy​​​​.

How does piracy affect different industries in India?

Piracy significantly impacts the film, TV, and e-commerce industries in India. The film industry suffers from the online availability of pirated movies. The TV industry is affected by unauthorised distribution of channels by local cable providers, and the e-commerce industry deals with the sale of counterfeit products, which harms genuine businesses and consumers​​.

What are the penalties for piracy in India?

The penalties for piracy in India vary depending on the nature and severity of the infringement. They can include imprisonment, fines, or both. For example, recording a movie in a theater without permission can lead to imprisonment and fines. The Copyright Act and the Trademark Act outline specific penalties for different types of violations. Enforcement challenges include distinguishing between original and pirated products and widespread online availability of pirated content​​​​.