| 05 Dec 2023
IMI leads fight against piracy

MUMBAI: Piracy is an age old problem lamented upon by many across the world and in India. Many say nothing much can be done on it. However, the Indian Music Industry (IMI) is one body that has attempted to fight against it.

Indian Music Industry secretary general Savio D'Souza came on board as a 'Special Editor' at and contributed in the fifth anniversary celebrations.

D'Souza states that fighting piracy needs two major investments – regular funds and dynamic strategy.

As per D'Souza, piracy in simple words is "someone else using your content and not paying for it. It clearly indicates that retailers and consumers exist for their content on a certain price with a certain distribution and packaging." You need to find ways of reducing this revenue stream.

One of the early strategies followed by the industry was 'Vanilla Enforcement' that is to arrest each of these pirates/consumers and change their behavior. Of late the industry has adapted another that is to create 'Enforcement-cum-Business' solution where we are able to convert pirates to partner with us. D'Souza, the architect of this change process from 'Vanilla Enforcement' to 'Enforcement-cum-Business' solution spoke on the need to change and its advantages.

The IMI has a team of more than 100 retired police officers headed by senior cop JF Ribeiro, supported by Manjari Jaruhar, chief coordinator and teams in various states. The IMI anti-piracy team operates on a "zero tolerance to piracy". Till date these teams have conducted more than 22000 raids and achieved more than 5000 Convictions. India's highest Plea Bargaining Order of Rs 32.5 lakhs has also been one of the achievements of IMI. Despite the success, the IMI has moved from 'Vanilla Enforcement' to 'Enforcement-cum-Business' solution for the following reasons states D'Souza

1. A pirate will continue operating like a pirate even if he is arrested as he does not know any other trade. Even though he has a business piracy, he needs to feed himself and his family. We need to understand this "basic livelihood" behavior of a pirate retailer.

2. Vanilla Enforcement action places tremendous burden on the fragile policing and judicial system in the country.

3. It requires resources to be invested without any returns and does not result in any revenues to the industry or the government.

"In 2009 the Indian Music Industry launched MMX "Mobile Music Exchange" to license shopkeepers involved in illegal downloading of songs on mobile phones. In the last 4 years, the IMI has issued more than 8000 licenses and earned approximately Rs 145 million (gross revenues), which would never have come to the industry."

The most important follow out of this activity is that 8000 new music outlets are created and revenues generated for the industry and tax paid to government. Now only shops not taking a license and indulging in piracy are raided, hence the burden on the police has reduced. In a number of small towns the police officials are themselves cajoling shopkeepers to take a licence.

D'Souza believes that this business has a tremendous potential. Assuming that 2 lakh shopkeepers exist across the country involved in this business and 20 per cent i.e. 40,000 shops obtain a licence, the total business would be approximately Rs 70 – Rs 100 crores and would be 10-15 per cent of the music industry current revenues.

Given the success of MMX, D'Souza believes that this model should also be implemented for physical format piracy i.e. pirates involved in selling CDs and Cassettes. Given a survey conducted by IMI in the suburb of Andheri West, more than 75 shops exist selling pirated content and assuming Mumbai has 50 such suburbs, approximate number of shops would be 3750-4000. Assuming that 20 per cent of these shops were licensed at Rs 20,000, Rs 15 – Rs 20 million could be collected from each city and 100 cities in India could generate Rs 1.6-Rs 2 billion.
More importantly, we would have more than 80,000 to 1,00,000 legitimate dealers of music rather than pirates.

However, this model has various challenges. Firstly all players who are not members of IMI like T Series, Yash Raj, SIMCA, UTV, Eros etc. need to join both MMX and IMI. The revenues collected need to be disbursed in an accurate and timely manner and retailer issue regarding piracy in their locations need to be addressed on a war footing. D'Souza laments that currently other than the 7 members i.e. Venus, Tips, Sony, Universal, Saregama, Aditya, EMI, who contribute regularly no other members come forward to fight piracy. If this battle has to be won, the industry needs to fight in one voice. It is time for non member to take a decision.

Other IPR industries need to embrace the IMI model and build their capacities in fighting piracy.