Pirates of New Delhi

Talk of international piracy may make some American publishers nod off at the conference table, but at a forum held in Frankfurt last month, the Indian anti-piracy daredevil Akash Chittranshi told tales that had even the most narcoleptic among us wide-eyed with suspense. An intellectual property lawyer based in New Delhi by day — and apparently an avid reader of cloak-and-dagger novels by night — Chittranshi has helped pull off nine daring raids on 40 different pirate publishers in India, rounding up 70,000 copies of pirated books to date.

One of the most celebrated Indian missions, reports PT’s correspondent, came last July, when a phalanx of 22 cops and 11 investigators swooped down on a Delhi warehouse after Chittranshi’s spies, posing as manual laborers, confirmed the whereabouts of a major pirate operation. The intricate 45-hour bust turned up scores of volumes from Grisham, Ludlum, and J.K. Rowling, and ended up being the biggest pirate haul in India’s history — more than 27,000 copies.

Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to copyright piracy, which AAP estimates put at an $8 billion loss last year for American publishers. For its part, the AAP hiked funding this year more than 100 percent to battle international copyright piracy. The $400,000 is hoped to bolster efforts such as those in India, which have also been aided by the British Publishers’ Association and the Indian Association of Publishers. Piracy experts note that even modest busts can be of paramount importance to medical and scientific publishers, as a hefty $300 engineering textbook can be pirated and sold for a fraction of the price. Moreover, sources say that in India, education programs have paid off: 90% of booksellers there now refuse to stock pirated copies. On the other hand, rogue traders still blithely take orders for illegal editions at open markets around New Delhi, and the police force has only a few officers to track what is said to be a sophisticated network of offenders.

In nearby Pakistan, half of the book market reportedly consists of pirated material, much of which is thought to find its way into Indian hands. And in Malaysia, copy shops happily take orders from schools, delivering photocopied texts to classrooms. But there’s hope. In Singapore, a new police division is targeting bulk photocopying, and last February, Korean agents nabbed 600,000 counterfeit English-language books worth $14.5 million. About 2,000 titles of bestsellers, textbooks, and other works were seized in a warehouse belonging to venerable distributor Han Shin. As officials complained, foreign publishers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain: “Korean students have been paying [the] full imported book retail price for Han Shin’s shoddy counterfeits.”