‘The end of TamilRockers is near’
Experts from anti-piracy cell, ardent Rajini fans and theatre owners comment about the viral leakage of pirated Kaala movie prints
Rajinikanth's Kaala, which released in theatres on Thursday, was found available for viewing on several torrent sites on the day of its release, despite the industry's firm stance against online piracy. A handful of sites, including the notorious TamilRockers, were ready with the pirated version of Kaala as early as 5.30 in the morning of the film’s release day. Screenshots were shared across social media platforms suggesting that HD versions of the print were put out on the web, and made available for free download. Shocked fans tweeted to actor Vishal, President of the TamilNadu Film Producers Council, demanding that the sites be taken down, but even as this was going on, the files began to be shared across sites.
Shiva, the operations head of the anti-piracy cell of the TFPC, shares that the team first sprang to action when they learned that the film was being live-streamed from Singapore. "We traced the ID and contact number of the person with the help of Facebook's team, and he was taken into custody within hours of organising the live feed," he says. The issue isn’t as much identifying the source as it is, stopping proliferation. "The prints began to circulate on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We took down the FB and Instagram links of the clip. Eventually, with the content verification tool, we also shut down the YouTube links." He assures that almost all the links of the 45-minute video were taken down from social media, and estimates that his team has saved at least Rs 40 lakh of revenue in the process.
As for sites like TamilRockers, Shiva claims that the end is near. “We have already blocked all their revenue sources (US-based Propeller ads and Xap ads). Recently, a TamilRockers admin posted a tweet asking for crowd-funding using PayPal, but they de-activated the handle soon after, fearing legal action. They won't be able to survive long without a source of revenue,” he says.
The challenges were quite new for Kaala, says Shiva. “People began sharing clips and live-feeds of the film using Google Drive and some android apps. We sought the help of our counterparts in Telugu Film Producers Council, and other anti-piracy groups like Blockx, Copyright Media, and Royal Spiders, to take down these sources." He claims that except one print, all other versions have been successfully blocked so far.
The solution, he suggests, is to nip piracy at its source (theatres). "We have instructed all theatre owners to install CCTV cameras and report any suspicious activity immediately. We have also requested the police to supervise all theatres screening Kaala during the opening weekend." He believes that the team is very close to busting the two main inter-linked piracy sites, TamilRockers and TamilGun. "There is no mafia behind this business. The master admins of these sites are just a bunch of techies who know how to make money out of the internet. They will be in jail soon," he says.
Rakesh, owner of Vetri theatres, points out that this isn’t the first time that a film has been leaked online ahead of its release in India. "It was the same for Kabali. Nothing has changed since. The CCTV cameras are pointless, as almost all the fans take out their phones to record the hero-introduction and other major scenes,” he says. He believes that the solution is to pass a law prohibiting the usage of mobile phones in theatres. "Technically speaking, we can also tackle this by replacing the current projector screens with mammoth high-definition 4K TVs. That way, recording the film will result in heavy loss of quality in the video clips. Such TVs are currently in the development and I hope they'll reach the Indian market soon."
City-based Vignesh Ramachandran, an ardent fan of Rajinikanth, believes that it all has to start from the audience. "When we spotted a person recording the film on his mobile phone, we immediately handed him over to the authorities. We also constantly send piracy links to the anti-piracy wing."