With Fingers Crossed, Tackling Digital Piracy and Counterfeiting
With Fingers Crossed, Tackling Digital Piracy and Counterfeiting
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In recent years, the licensing and merchandising industry has seen steady growth, driven by technological advancements and a rising demand for engaging content and fan merchandise. However, amidst this thriving environment lies a significant challenge—counterfeiting and piracy.

The 2023 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (the Notorious Markets List), released by the US Trade Representatives, identified 39 online and 33 physical markets. The report included three Indian markets in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, as well as three online markets reportedly involved in substantial trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy.

On the sidelines of Comic Con Mumbai, Jatin Varma, Founder of Comic Con India, spoke about the measures to curb counterfeiting. Varma told IndianRetailer.com, "Arguably, it has to be a mix of enabling easier access to licenses in the market alongwith enforcement against anyone violating IP." He attributed the success of various IPs in India to the large number of small and medium enterprises investing in non-exclusive licensing deals, thus building the market. Varma said, “I attribute the success of various IP’s in India, to the large number of small and medium enterprises that invested in non-exclusive licensing deals and built the market here. We at CCI get to host and provide a platform to many such businesses.”

A survey conducted by the Authentication Solution Providers' Association (ASPA) and the Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL) revealed that consumer perception suggests counterfeiting affects 25-30 percent of the market, higher than general industry expectations. Counterfeiting is particularly prevalent in the FMCG, apparel, and agro-chemical sectors, accounting for approximately 30 percent.

Radhika Raje, Marketing Manager – International at Pan Macmillan India, emphasized that digital piracy of Japanese and Chinese anime and manga content is a growing trend. Raje says, “I think piracy is prevalent not only in comics but even books. We try our level best by visiting local stores to check if the comics and books of our publication are being counterfeited or pirated. We also face tremendous challenge online with digital piracy. It will take some time for awareness. We have agents who keep a check on roadside stalls to make sure that they are not selling pirated copies.”

When asked what happens after you find a vendor selling pirated copies, to which she said, “Our local agents seize those pirated copies. Despite the seizure, next day we find those vendors again selling same number of pirated copies again. As publishers we do our level best to tackle counterfeiting. It is a long battle but I guess at some stage there will be a complete stop to piracy and counterfeiting."

Abhijeet Kini, Founder of Kini Studios stressed the importance of consumer awareness and purchasing licensed merchandise from authorized sellers. Kini said, "Piracy is something which no one can stop. Lot of people claim that they read so many books and comics but most of them are illegally downloaded."

Kini said, “Infact, biggest media houses have failed to curb counterfeiting and piracy in India, which is a loss of crores in revenue. We are still a smaller market and we are just hoping that people will understand the value of creativity.”

Inorder to tackle counterfeiting of jerseys especially during IPL, Mumbai Indians is bundling its tickets with jerseys as an add-ons to provide genuine products, the Mumbai Indians spokesperson said, “Our focus is to keep encouraging purchase of the official licensed merchandise to substitute the counterfeits and offer top quality and genuine products to our MI Family. The Official fan jersey is aimed to take on counterfeiting and mass-market fans. To make this possible, we have made jerseys available across multiple price points without having to compromise on the quality. Bundling tickets and merchandise within the same price or providing optional add-ons has been extremely beneficial. The bundling and option to buy merch has shown tremendous potential in handling the fake merchandise problem head on.”

According to the 2023 Licensing International study, the global licensing industry grew at a healthy 8.02 percent in 2022, with the South Asia/PAC region experiencing a growth of 12.4 percent. However, despite India being a major market for licensors like Disney, Warner Bros., DC, Marvel, among others, counterfeiting and piracy remain persistent challenges.

It is worth noting that popular licensed merchandise often arrives in organized Indian markets after being newly launched in Western and Southeast Asian markets. Nevertheless, tackling counterfeiting and piracy remains an ongoing struggle for both licensors and brands.

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