The Indian government is facing criticism from Hollywood and others after its latest move to ban online piracy and protect its intellectual property rights, which critics say is the latest in a series of moves that are aimed at stifling innovation and competition in the entertainment industry.
The country is among a handful of nations that have outlawed the practice, dubbed digital piracy, in recent years.
The decision to restrict the practice came just days after the Supreme Court rejected a bid to block a ruling that would have allowed the ban.
But the ban has raised the ire of international movie studios, who say that it has created an environment where Hollywood and other film makers are able to avoid paying licensing fees to Indian content owners.
On Thursday, India’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government said it was suspending all imports of films from China, the world’s second-largest film market.
“We are suspending the import of movies from China and suspending the issuance of licenses from the companies that have already stopped the import,” Rajiv Sethi, the NCP’s chief minister, said in a televised address on Thursday.
India’s decision to prohibit online piracy came a week after the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) announced it was shutting down its membership after it refused to sign a “fair and reasonable” agreement with India that would guarantee that pirated content is not used for promotional purposes in India.
“It is our position that there should be a fair and reasonable agreement between the movie studios and the IP holders to ensure that IP owners do not get in the way of the film industry,” said IFPI’s chief executive, Anil Sethi.
The industry group has been pushing for the ban, which would have included a mechanism to block the importation of pirated movies from overseas.
The Indian industry says the ban is necessary to protect its investments and ensure the integrity of Indian film and television content.
“The movie industry has been the engine of the Indian economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the country and creating a lot of jobs across the country,” said Nilesh Khemka, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University Film School.
“In this environment, if you ban the movie industry, you stop the economic engine.”
India’s movie industry says it would have had no choice but to sign an agreement with Hollywood, which is responsible for most of the content in the market.
In recent years, India has been grappling with a crisis of overcapacity in the film and TV industries.
But critics say that the ban could lead to more jobs being lost as studios and content owners struggle to find more content to release.
“What you have is a very aggressive effort to take away the creative industries and to make sure that we don’t have enough content to make the industry sustainable,” said Jayant Sinha, an economics professor at Jawahal Nagar University in New Delhi.
The ban would also have put pressure on Indian studios, which are trying to expand their business in China, Sinha said.
But it’s also unlikely to stop people from downloading content illegally.
“This ban will hurt the industry, because this will be a very difficult time for the industry and for consumers,” Sinha told CNN.
The government has been lobbying Hollywood and the film companies to sign the fair and unreasonable agreement.
It’s unclear whether the agreement will actually be signed, but a spokesman for the film studios said they have been meeting with the government on the issue.
India is not alone in banning online piracy.
The United States and Australia have also banned the practice.
In May, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released a report saying that the practice was harming the industry.
“While it is not the only issue that affects the Indian film industry, it is one of the most significant ones because of the extent of its effects on the economy and human rights,” the report said.