Is Indian music industry losing battle against piracy?

By Ruchika Kher, IANS
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MUMBAI - Caught in a thick web of piracy, the Rs.8.3-billion ($183 million) Indian music industry is facing serious trouble. Musicians and other artists feel there is not much they can do to save it from the free download menace and call it “a losing battle”. Some estimates say a staggering 95 percent of the industry could be illegal.

“Piracy kills the creativity and the work that go into making a song. When a song falls prey to piracy, it is so frustrating. You put so much money into it and get nothing out of it and people listen to the song for free. Sometimes one feels why are we even doing this work?” music composer Anu Malek told IANS.

According to a report, the effects of counterfeiting and piracy on India’s entertainment industry shows a loss of Rs.160 billion each year.

Earlier pirated DVDs, CDs and cassettes were troubling the industry, but singer Shaan says the digital format has now made it more difficult to curb theft.

“It’s an easy and convenient thing for people to just download any music they like from the internet free of cost. Then obviously they don’t take the pain to buy CDs,” he said.

“There was a time when people liked listening to good quality music and audio quality really mattered to people. Songs were heard on big music systems and enjoyed. But today most are not bothered about that. Today people listen to bad quality downloaded music and that’s why piracy has become a lifestyle thing for them,” he added.

The government is trying to help the industry to get rid of the piracy problem, but nothing substantial has been done so far.

In September this year, Ambika Soni, information and broadcasting (I&B) minister, said her ministry is in the process of reviewing a proposal for the launch of a multi-media campaign that involves all stakeholders against the threat of piracy.

According to the proposal, the government and the private sector should work together to prevent people from buying pirated products. Celebrities participating in the campaign would widen its impact.

“We’ve tried to appeal to lawmakers with little success…physical piracy remains a far tougher nut to crack. As part of IMI (Indian Music Industry), we’ve tried to bring some pirated sites down and conducted raids in several states, but we’re just scratching the surface here,” Apurv Nagpal, MD, Saregama India Ltd, told IANS.

“The situation has become far worse in recent years. Our estimate is that only five percent of the music industry is legal, the remaining 95 percent is illegal,” he added.

Malek echoed a similar stance and said: “It’s important that a proper law is formulated to curb piracy. A strict punishment should be decided for offenders. It should be made mandatory to pay for downloads too. Basically, proper monitoring is important.”

Meanwhile, some private bodies are trying to crack down on pirates.

Google Inc. has launched a music service in India to combat growing digital piracy. The tech giant will also add search service in association with three digital music providers.

The system will start working when a web user in India types a song into Google’s search bar; the top links in response would be from Google’s partners, Saregama India Ltd, New York-based media company Saavn and Web portal

Clicking on a link will launch a pop-up music player where the requested content will be streamed for free - as opposed to a download.

Wizcraft Entertainment’s maiden music awards, The Global Indian Music Awards (GIMA), announced a special award to fight piracy and it was bestowed on the Maharashtra government this year.

“Our industry is struck by piracy and initiatives to combat that need to be taken and hence recognised. There are opportunities to recognise this and the people who are aiding the campaigns on both the physical and digital space. We hope to reach out to the government bodies, allowing us to work together to further curb piracy,” Vijay Lazarus, president, IMI, had said.

Composer Salim Merchant feels education and self-realisation are key to the problem.

“I don’t download music, I stream… I also inspire my friends and family to listen to songs in a legal manner. In fact, CDs are so affordable and so are song downloads. We need to educate our kids to be more aware of a musician’s rights and respect their product. This might help,” he said.

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at

–Indo-Asian News

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