The Cyber Cell of the Maharashtra Police has started a ‘digital crime unit’ that works towards systematically eliminating websites that upload pirated content.

The initiative, the first of its kind in the country, has been launched under directives of the Home Department.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sudhir Shrivastava said representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America had sought the intervention of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis into stopping the upload of pirated content related to the entertainment Industry.

“Their contention was that uploading pirated content, including that of Hollywood and Bollywood on the internet causes them loss worth billions of dollars annually,” Shrivastava said.

He said the Chief Minister then referred the matter to the Home department, which subsequently asked the Cyber Crime Cell of the police, headed by senior IPS officer Brijesh Singh, to come up with a solution.

Norms in place

Singh, who is also the Director General of the State’s Publicity Department, said contents from the entertainment industry like movies, music albums and books and softwares are regularly uploaded on the internet.

Their owners suffer massive losses when their content is not purchased, but its pirated version is uploaded, he said.

“The US, the UK have stringent norms in place against pirated content, but it is a normal practise in South East Asian countries. In India, we have anti-piracy laws, but there is no proper machinery to implement them,” Singh said.

Balsingh Rajput, Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell, said in a bid to contain piracy, a multi-stakeholder model has been created on a pilot basis. Industry stakeholders and officers of the Cyber Cell are members. “Initially, we extensively studied the London metropolitan police’s ‘PIPCO’ unit and according to conditions favourable in India, started a digital crime unit through which we started studying online piracy,” he said. Rajput said around 9,000 websites, through which piracy activities are taking place have been studied and 19 parameters have been applied to shortlist the websites.

Tracking the trends

“Based on our parameters — the type of content being uploaded, downloaded and the number of downloads — we shortlisted 1300 websites and further conducted a detailed study on them and understood some trends,” Rajput said.

“In third stage, out of 1,300 websites, 100 have been further shortlisted on which, action is being taken in three stages.”.

Rajput said in the first stage, all ecosystem players are being told to desist from supporting illegal activities.

“We track their source of money and write to the advertising agency of the company about any illegal content on their website, which should be stopped.”

In the second stage, web servers are blocked and domain names are cancelled. “If mirror content is once again uploaded, then the third stage of registering a crime comes into play. However, mostly, the content is uploaded from other countries and booking the culprits becomes an uphill task.” “A similar unit is being developed in Telangana and Karnataka, but Maharashtra is the first State to formally begin work,” Rajput added.