A Delhi court has heeded Hollywood's request and issued a warrant that empowers police to search for and seize pirated films anywhere in the city, an aggressive maneuver in the copyright wars.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- A Delhi court has heeded Hollywood's request and issued a warrant that empowers police to search for and seize pirated films anywhere in the city, an aggressive maneuver in the copyright wars.

The type of court order involved, known as a general search and seizure warrant, is normally reserved for matters of national security -- not copyright infringement -- Indian lawyers said Aug. 31.

The Motion Picture Assn. got a magistrate to issue such a warrant for the entire city on July 19 because of the scope of piracy and the police force's difficulty in combatting it, said Chander Lall, a lawyer for the group.

The MPA initially tried to keep the warrant quiet in India for fear of tipping off those illegally selling pirated movies, Lall told the Associated Press. "We didn't want it very heavily publicized initially because we did want successful raids," he said. "We did not want the pirates to know this is the order we have." Lall could not say if police had conducted any raids since the issuing of the warrant.

Pirated movies are a major problem in India. Made locally or smuggled in from such countries as China, they are readily available in bazaars and even upscale shopping centers. Some are barely watchable recordings made in theaters, others are cinema-quality rip-offs.

Lall said MPA members -- which include Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Twentieth Century Fox International -- lose some $80 million a year because about 60% of their movies available in India are pirated.

The Indian film industry has also complained about piracy, and it is estimated that box office takings of Bollywood films plummet to about 30% of regular earnings when pirated copies hit the market, typically within three to four weeks of the cinema release.

But the Indian film industry has gotten little relief from the courts -- a fact that has the warrant raising eyebrows among lawyers who deal with intellectual property issues in India.

Pawan Duggal, a prominent lawyer who deals with electronic copyright issues, called the issuing of the warrant "an aggressive maneuver."

"We've been hearing about this order only recently and it's been causing a lot of heartburn," he said. "Indian films do not get these kinds of orders."

Duggal said he was an ardent supporter of copyright protections, but feared police could abuse the power given under the warrant.

"Why should copyright protection lead to the infringement of the privacy ... of people in a free society?" he asked.

But Lall, the MPA's lawyer, insisted the order would not be abused, saying it was simply a tool in the fight against pirated movies.

He said police have to get information before they can go into homes or business -- "It's not an abuse of power that they will go around now breaking down people's homes, we're very careful about going into people's homes."