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US group plans Bollywood piracy probe

The world's two most populous nations are already on the "priority watchlist" of the US Trade Representative office's annual report.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 16:44 IST

A top US business lobby group is to launch a probe into counterfeiting in India's film industry and hold a global summit in bootleg capital China to highlight intellectual property rights abuses.

The world's two most populous nations are already on the "priority watchlist" of the US Trade Representative office's annual report of measures taken by countries around the world to protect intellectual property rights.

The US Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2007 business strategy last week with a multi-million dollar programme to fight copyright piracy which it says costs the US economy up to $250 billion and 750,000 American jobs every year.

Chamber chief Thomas Donohue said the three-pronged programme of education, detection and enforcement would include "a study in India to measure the effects of piracy on Bollywood," the informal name given to the popular Mumbai-based, Hindi language film industry.

The Indian movie industry, which churns out about 1,000 films per year, is the largest by volume in the world but revenues are very small.

A key problem facing Bollywood is copyright infringement through the illegal sale of VCD, DVD and videotape movie copies as well as online piracy, all of which are expected to be covered by the US business group's study in the first half of 2007.

Movies from India are the top-grossing foreign film category in the United States, with annual revenue estimated at $1.5 billion, said TitleMatch Entertainment Group, subsidiary of a US provider of DVD on-demand systems.

Turnover for Bollywood particularly is expected to grow 16 per cent annually over the next five years -- bringing the market to over $3 billion, it said.

In addition, Hindi film distributors are marketing aggressively their movies in the US digital-cable services, industry reports say.

Also reeling from piracy, the US movie industry has appealed to foreign governments to crack down on illegal DVD factories and toughen laws on Internet file sharing.

Movie piracy causes a total output loss for US industries of $20.5 billion per year and accounts for more than $800 million in lost tax revenue, according to an American study relayed to the US Chamber of Commerce.

In China, a top US piracy concern, the US chamber will hold a world summit in March on intellectual property (IP) and innovation while partnering with Interpol to establish a "global IP database," Donohue said.

This is the first time the chamber is working with the Chinese government to hold a world gathering to protect intellectual property, a chamber official said.

The chamber lobbied hard and got the US government to conduct a special study on China's efforts on copyright protection and enforcement at the provincial level.

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