Maharashtra’s Big Push to Eliminate Piracy


Brijesh Singh, Special Inspector General of Police, Cyber, Government of Maharashtra

India has several laws to protect copyright, intellectual property, and to address cybercrimes, but without a specific unit to address these issues, it’s been hard to tackle.

In an effort to counter massive growth in cybercrimes, Government of Maharashtra launched the Maharashtra Cyber Project in 2016. In addition to establishing cyber police stations in every district, the project involves cybercrime investigation labs (and continues to make more), trains all police officers to identify a cybercrime, and also heightens awareness among citizens of Maharashtra as to what cybercrimes are and how they can avoid partaking in criminal activity such as downloading infringing content.

Maharashtra Cyber is currently implementing the much-awaited Automated Multi-modal Biometric Identification System (AMBIS), the latest technology in crime detection.

AMBIS will help the Investigation Officer to trace the criminal within a fraction of a millisecond using finger, Palm print, retinal scan and advanced facial recognition.

This technology helps gather sufficient evidence in cases that might otherwise be hard to prove. As a result, there will be a spike in criminal convictions, including cybercrime convictions in the future. Banking isn’t the only sector vulnerable to cybercrime activity and online theft. Cybercrimes can and do occur in every industry.

Online piracy continues to remain the biggest threat to the growth of the media and entertainment industry. Under Maharashtra Cyber’s various initiatives, the Maharashtra Cyber – Digital Crime Unit (DCU) was launched in 2017. The unit is a specialized enforcement solution in association with industry stakeholders (Star India, Viacom 18, Sony, Motion Picture Association, India office and IMI) to proactively tackle infringing websites that distribute infringing content to millions of online viewers.

Till date DCU has suspended 139 websites impacting 130 million users per month through a six-point programme.

  1. Disruption of operations – Issue notifications to the domain registrar and web host;
  2. Outreach to ISPs – Persuade Internet Service Providers to voluntarily block infringing websites;
  3. Working with Central Government – Seek cooperation from MeitY and NIXI to block/ suspend infringing websites;
  4. Criminal enforcement: Register criminal cases against infringing websites;
  5. Disruption of Revenue 1: Outreach to brands advertising on illegal sites thereby impacting revenues earned by the site;
  6. Disruption of Revenue 2: Outreach to payment gateways to stop services to pirate websites.

Suspension of infringing sites will result in estimated additional revenue gain of INR 10.65 Cr. every month for the industry.

It’s important to recognize that any time, money is spent in a legal economic ecosystem; it is taxed, which will ultimately benefit the State and the economy. Prior to the creation of the DCU, content owners obtained John Doe orders to block infringing sites. As a result, they might have been able to block their own content from appearing on some of these websites, but often it was a “too little too late” situation. The DCU is able to expedite the process and proactively fight digital piracy from multiple angles. In conjunction with fighting to remove entire piracy sites, convicting those involved in theft is also under the Digital Crime Unit’s jurisdiction. The most notable case was that of Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 4, which leaked in India two days prior to its US release. Star India and Novi Digital filed a complaint and we promptly took action and made four arrests.

Pirate networks also earn revenue through advertisements on their websites. Legitimate businesses, including well-known brands are inadvertently supporting theft of digital content by placing their advertisements on pirate websites, in search of high traffic volumes.

MCDCU team found that 34 renowned brands advertising on pirate websites.

We have issued advisories to these brands to refrain from adverstising on such pirate websites. Few brands have reacted positively and have asked their ad network partners to stop advertising on the said websites. We have also sent notices to 9 ad networks to refrain from publishing ads on these pirate websites.

Foreign production houses looking to collaborate with Indian companies for content creation need to know that their intellectual property will be protected and likewise Indian producers deserve not to fall victim to digital theft. Government of Maharashtra is committed to curb piracy in the Indian Media & Entertainment Industry.  DCU is leading this fight and one can expect many more enforcement actions on infringing websites to address the concerns of Indian content owners.

Maharashtra Cyber welcomes wider participation from industry stakeholders to enhance DCU’s efforts in disrupting operations of such criminal establishments.


- Brijesh Singh is the Secretary & Director General, Information & PublicRelations and Special Inspector General of Police, Cyber, Government of Maharashtra. Previously, he has implemented huge and successful projects like the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & System (CCTNS) project and other significant IT schemes for Policing. Presently he is also heading the CCTNS Task force developing big data solutions and analytics on crime data. He has authored two books, Quantum Seige and Dangerous Minds published by Penguin Books.


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