Stealing Prized Revenue for a Song

Blaise Fernandes, President, Indian Music Industry

No bang for the buccaneer

Liberal democracies like Australia, Britain and the US have, on an average, around 4% of GDP contribution from the media and entertainment (M&E) sector. In India, M&E contributes just about 1%. Given the fragmented nature of the M&E sector, data is hard to come by. But the music industry is estimated to lose about Rs. 1,000 crore a year due to piracy, which, according to a 2019 International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) ‘Digital Music Study’, makes up for 67% of the market — the global piracy average being 27%.

The film industry is estimated to lose around Rs. 22,000 crore and around 60,000 jobs every year because of piracy. There is no data available for the biggest M&E sector, broadcast TV-signal. Book publishers face a loss of Rs. 400 crore a year. It is estimated that 20-25% of books sold (in number) are pirated in India.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates a 50% reduction in piracy will give India an additional $700 million to its $1.3 billion M&E industry contribution towards GDP. A 2019 Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA) report indicated that counterfeit products in India were worth Rs. 1.05 lakh crore.

The services sector will play an important role in the revival of the post-Covid economy. A large proportion of the services sector will be based on connectivity. Around 850 million smartphone users are estimated in India by 2022. The internet via the smartphone will be the backbone of India’s economic activity. Which leads to the very pressing matter of piracy that needs to be addressed right away.

Most students refrain from cheating in schools or colleges, but don’t bat an eyelid while copying a film or song from the internet for personal or peer consumption. Why? Their guardians teach these youngsters values that include not taking anything that does not belong to you. That would be stealing. But most guardians are proud of their wards’ technological skill sets when the latter illegally download for them their favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs or Raj Kapoor movies. Why is that not stealing?

India is going to be one large digital marketplace. Who will protect the artist from Bastar or the manufacturer from Kanchipuram or the physician from Rishikesh who may find an immunity-booster to fight the common flu, when their creations and innovations are copied and sold on the digital market? Is our low number of filing patents due to the lack of qualified researchers and scientists alone? Or is there a concern in the mind of a scientist or a researcher that if she or he files a patent, it will not have adequate protection?

Make in India and MSME India will strive on innovation. But if the innovations and creativity are not protected, both domestically and internationally, and rewarded, then aatmanirbharta will be a distant dream.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is the bedrock for innovation and creativity, which, in turn, turbocharges the growth of major economies. In 2014, China ranked behind India in IFPI’s global music rankings. China introduced the Sword Net project, which brought down music piracy by 80%. This is one of the reasons why China now ranks above India, and is estimated to become among the top five music markets in the world by 2025.

IPR theft is like cancer. You need both palliative care via social messaging, as well as chemotherapy via the Indian Penal Code or laws that keep up with the needs of India’s digital requirements. Reforms to laws must immediately also be looked through a digital lens.


Blaise Fernandes is the President of the Indian Music Industry.  He is also the Director of Gateway House. He can be reached here.


Photo Credits: Dinodia Photos

This article was first published on The Economic Times. 

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