Piracy Still Scourge of Indonesia's Film Industry

MAY 08, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesian film industry reportedly lost Rp 1.5 trillion ($107 billion) to content and DVD piracy in four Indonesian cities in 2017, a study from the University of Indonesia’s Institute for Economics and Social Research, or LPEM-UI, shows.

Senior researcher Chaikal Nuryakin said during the Digital Economy and Creative Content Forum in South Jakarta on Thursday (03/05) the study was conducted in Jakarta, Deli Serdang (North Sumatra), Medan (North Sumatra) and Bogor (West Java).

Chaikal said the study also projected that bringing the research to 30 more cities across Indonesia will likely drive up the total loss figure to Rp 5 trillion.

The study shows Indonesians between ages of 15 and 45 download illegal films online or buy pirated DVDs since they can't go to the cinemas.

"People are drawn to pirated content because it’s cheap, and for those in remote areas it's the only way to watch films," Chaikal said.

Indonesian Film Producers Association (Aprofi) chairman Fauzan Zidni said Indonesia, with a population of more than 250 million people, only have 1,117 cinema screens (one screen per 224,000 people) and more than a third of them are located in the Greater Jakarta area.

The study also shows that many Indonesians are unaware watching illegally distributed creative content actually breaks the law.

Chaikal said this is the number one reason why piracy is so rampant in Indonesia.

"People keep buying pirated DVDs and download illegally because they see their friends doing the same, they think the practice is totally acceptable," he said.

Pirated DVDs in Indonesia can be 10 times cheaper than the originals.

Online streaming services like HOOQ, Netflix, Iflix and Hulu can’t compete since it still costs more to subscribe to them than to buy pirated DVDs.

"People who watch films on illegal streaming sites also tend to stop going to cinemas, even if they have them in their hometowns," Chaikal said.

A 22 year-old student who asked not to be identified at the discussion said he no longer comes to cinemas to watch new movies since he can easily find them on illegal streaming sites.

"It's much cheaper than going to the cinema or buying DVDs. It's also way more practical, I don't have to browse from store to store to find the movies I want to watch," he said.

Chaikal said stricter piracy laws are needed to punish both distributors and viewers of pirated movies.

Smarter Pirates

Indonesian filmmakers have been battling against piracy since the 1980s when home video came on the scene.

But new technologies have heavily stacked the odds against filmmakers.

Peer-to-peer downloading, streaming and direct download sites have made it very easy for everyone to find pirated content online.

"Everyone now can download and redistribute pirated content on social media. People no longer come to watch movies in the cinemas. They can do it in just one click. This definitely hurts the film industry," Chaikal said.

Joko Anwar’s movie "A Copy of My Mind," ironically featuring a captionist who uses Google Translate to make subtitles for pirated DVDs, is just one example of hundreds of pirated local films shared on YouTube.

The movie was uploaded on YouTube in February last year and has attracted more than 100,000 viewers.

Even after a year, YouTube has not taken down the pirated video.

Tackling Piracy

Aprofi chairman Fauzan said the organization regularly reports illegal streaming websites and keeps a list of websites that constantly infringe copyrights.

The reports and list are lodged with the Justice and Human Rights Ministry that has the authority to shut them down.

Last year, Aprofi reported more than 300 copyrights-violating websites.

The ministry has so far taken down 324 of these illegal sites.

Last year, Aprofi collaborated with Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf), Indonesian cineplex chain XXI, the Communication and Information Technology Ministry and the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to create an anti-piracy campaign alerting the public to the real cost of piracy.

Fauzan said the campaign sent Indonesian film directors and producers, including him, to talk to students in schools and universities about film piracy.

"They're getting the message, slowly," Fauzan said.

Aprofi also warn DVD sellers in malls not to sell pirated DVDs.

One Big Hurdle

The fight against piracy has largely been unsuccessful, and there's one particular hurdle that seems at the moment insurmountable: the government will only make a move against movie pirates if there's a complaint from the movie's producer or director.

"Law enforcers can't do anything until we submit a formal complaint. The time we should be spending on making movies is wasted on fighting piracy," Fauzan said.

Bekraf's Ari Gema said Indonesia actually has adequate intellectual property and information technology laws to stop the spread of pirated content online.

He said the government can easily work with Internet Service Providers to block access to streaming sites but in practice, this doesn't always happen.

"Digital film piracy is the biggest single threat to the development of our film industry," Ari said.

Learning From Other Countries

At the forum, Brett Danaher from Chapman University in the United Kingdom, delivered findings from his study, "Copyright Enforcement: Measuring the Effect of Piracy Website Blocking."

He discovered that blocking one large piracy website is never as effective as blocking several illegal streaming websites simultaneously.

"Simultaneous blocking of multiple sites significantly reduces piracy and increases legal consumption," Danaher said.

"Site blocking can be an effective tool in converting consumption from illegal channels to legal ones if it’s done diligently," he said.

Though Danaher said there are no easy solutions to tackle online piracy, he did suggest the most effective way to tackle it is by using a three-pronged approach – using legal remedies, creating lawful commercial alternatives and increasing education and awareness.

He said the only way forward for Indonesia in fighting film piracy is to do what's already being done in other countries: step up law enforcement.

"Intellectual rights must become a priority. Making movie requires months, years of hard work involving hundreds of people whose jobs are dependent on the industry’s ability to make money," Danaher said.

"Stricter piracy laws should be enforced," he said.