Indian Music Industry Exec Says The Unthinkable: 'Internet Piracy Is A Good Thing'

from the he's-saying-what-we're-all-thinking!-and-saying! dept

If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you’ve heard many opinions on file sharing from many different people. While there are many who have taken a pragmatic or even receptive approach to file sharing (and seen a bunch of “freeloaders” cough up a whole lot of cash), there are many more who only see the downside of copyright infringement.

What you rarely, if ever, see is a top level executive of a major player in the content industry state, on the record, that not only is piracy a good thing, but it may also be a necessary thing. Here’s Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music, India, commenting on the internet’s upheaval of the recording industry.

I may get lynched for saying this – but I have always believed that internet piracy was actually, in some ways, a good thing to happen to the industry. If not for that, the music industry would never have pulled its act together and embraced innovation and realised changing consumer behaviour and digital distribution. The challenges the music content industry faces are too vast to lay down here but the most significant one is the fact that the very core of the industry and its business dynamics have been shaken deep due to the consumer’s changed consumption habits and habitat, and its value proposition changed forever. It’s almost akin to consumers not wanting to pay to consume Coke/Pepsi anymore. In that sense it is as good as creating a brand new entertainment industry, creating brand new value and brand new revenue models at the same time as preserving the existing value/revenue base.

Now, before someone writes off Time Music as the equivalent of a boutique label run by three guys out of their stepdad’s garage, let’s take a look at the facts. Time Music, India is a division of the Times Group, the “largest mass media company in India,” with annual revenue exceeding $1.5 billion and the employer of 11,000 Indians.

Much of what Thakur stated has been documented here over the years. Piracy may be a problem, but it’s also a sign of disruption and an indicator of underserved markets. The problem with the American recording industry is that it spent much more time worrying (and attacking) the first item on the list while ignoring the other two. From what he’s stated, Thakur is apparently uninterested in wasting much more time and money trying to eliminate file sharing. This should allow Time Music Inc. to devote those resources towards making money, rather than plugging leaks.

That he would come out and state this plainly probably won’t win him any friends in the IMI (Indian Music Industry), the Indian version of the RIAA. Late last year, IMI filed a petition in support of India’s IT Rules, pushing to be granted the right to take down content within 36 hours, without having to serve notice to the content creator or uploader.

Thakur may also begin irritating those even higher up on the food chain. IMI is part of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), best known around these parts for serving up an annual report on piracy that’s riddled with factual errors and filled to the brim with pleas for various governments to save it from having to make forward progress.

Not only does Thakur view file sharing as a side effect of industry stasis, he also seems to have a good grip on what consumers actually want — and how the rollout of better and speedier connections will continue this disruption (and its attendant opportunities).

Faster access at affordable prices has always created a massive boost for consumption. At one point it was content that was king, then the portable device became the centre of the digital universe and now it’s the war of the OSes. The underlying factor across all these spurring growth (or preventing growth) has always been access and in this particular case it’s the global LTE and LTE Advanced roll- outs that will accelerate growth, especially in large countries such as India, Indonesia and China. This [growth of access] will be nothing short of an internet revolution, due to the wide-scale consumption it will create as common people’s daily habits change.

This is also refreshing. Rather than viewing across-the-board increases in bandwidth as nothing but a more efficient conduit for infringement (see also: the MPAA’s comments on Google’s fiber rollout), he sees it for what it is: an new, rapidly expanding market.

It’s great to see such clear thinking from someone inside the industry. IMI and IFPI may not be happy with a pirate-loving COO heading a major music outlet, but it appears he’s in place to catch a new market on the upswing, an uncommon experience for those in his position.

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Companies: time music

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Comments on “Indian Music Industry Exec Says The Unthinkable: 'Internet Piracy Is A Good Thing'”

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Corwin (profile) says:

The Shoes Peddler Parable

This story is set in the time when France had colonies in Africa.

There were once two salesmen at the French shoes company, who were sent to Brazzaville. Then after a week, their manager calls them, and the first said “There is no market for shoes here : everyone runs bare-footed!” and then the manager called the second salesman, who said : “Send reinforcements, I’m having too much work here : everyone needs shoes!”

Austin (profile) says:

Re: The Shoes Peddler Parable

Addendum to this story: everyone in Africa who can afford shoes now has them, and those who can’t now want them.

Moral: Either sell the masses shoes at a reasonable price, or they’ll go steal them. Simply “going barefoot” isn’t an option, and if you won’t sell them conveniently and reasonably priced, they’ll get their damned shoes however they can.

Anonymous Coward says:

oh, how good it would be to see countries like India, Indonesia and China surge ahead with content available and the associated increases in sales. all because people like Mandar Thakur not only possesses the common sense to know what is wanted but also the sense to use what is wanted to increase the sales and income from the various revenue sources. whilst this is going on it would be good to see the USA, the UK and other stupid proponents for the continued implementation of copyright enforcement and restrictions applied to content availability to fail miserably!!

Robert (profile) says:


What does First Nations have to do with Mike being a Google Shill? Who listens to that music anyhow?

Piracy doesn’t help anybody but Google and Mike Masnick.

And piracy only matters when it happens to American content. Only American creators are actually hurt by piracy because that’s all that is pirated. Nothing else is pirated! Why? Because who wants anything that isn’t American?

Way to go Mike, just keep promoting piracy while sitting on the fence of morality with Streisand affecting your angst against artists and authors, and you never debate me!

Ninja (profile) says:

I first had to read the headline twice. Then I blinked a few times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Isn’t this pretty much the obvious that has been said ad nauseam by virtually anyone who is not inside the copyright cartels?

I’ll throw my bet: the old rotten media moguls are starting to lose grip of their very own lives and an younger, more connected generation is taking their place in charge of things. We’ll see more and more opinions like this pop up in the next decade. For now I won’t be surprised if he’s punished for daring to think and say it openly (Jeff from Tunecore anyone?). We should keep an eye in this guy.

out_of_the_blue says:

You missed the "in some ways".

Never anything nuanced or qualified in your view of piracy, is there?

Here’s where you flatly go wrong:
“Piracy may be a problem, but it’s also a sign of disruption and an indicator of underserved markets. The problem with the American recording industry is that it spent much more time worrying (and attacking) the first item on the list while ignoring the other two.”

No, piracy is theft; it’s made more easily possible by recent gadgets, but it’s still theft. You can’t (and reasonably don’t) worry about “disruption” or “underserved markets” when your main income stream is in danger of disappearing to thieves.

Just basic economic facts, as you’d know if hadn’t been schooled by high-level thieves.

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Where “I’m a pirate! You can’t stop me!” is one of the more thoughtful fanboy positions.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: You missed the "in some ways".

“No, piracy is theft; it’s made more easily possible by recent gadgets, but it’s still theft. You can’t (and reasonably don’t) worry about “disruption” or “underserved markets” when your main income stream is in danger of disappearing to thieves.”

I propose a new definition of “irony”:

Irony – accusing someone of not being nuanced and then conflating two legal terms instead of understanding the nuance and minutia of the law.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: You missed the "in some ways".

No, no, this is normal irony…it is ironic that someone who states “Here’s where you flatly go wrong” proceeds to make a flatly wrong statement.

Nowhere, not in the law, not in the dictionary, and not in ethics, are “theft” and “copyright infringement” considered the same thing. Even a child knows the difference between taking another child’s crayons and drawing the same picture.

Then again, maybe we should all stop trying to have a serious debate against someone who apparently has less concept of property versus intellectual rights than your average kindergartener.

squall_seawave (profile) says:

Re: You missed the "in some ways".

hmmm this is something that always bother me piracy is not theft since by definition theft is the dishonest taking of property belonging to another person with the intention of depriving the owner permanently of its possession
piracy doesnt remove the product from the owners
so piracy is not theft

basic economic facts you maximize sales lowering prices (you earn less per sale but you sell more)
price is important but not forget the quality
offer and demand too many of a product lower prices and a hight demand raises them (this is why piracy is so rampant there is an infinite suply but they arent lowering prices so they go to the next best offer)

NA Protector says:


I may have never read a dictionary from cover to cover but I know the definition of theft, steal, purloin, unlawfully acquired, snatch, burglary, robbery, and a few other synonyms that relatively mean the same thing.

What piracy is copyright infringement, violation of copyright, transgression against copyright, or in other words breaking contract.

I do believe people deserve to be paid for their work. I do believe that they have the right to state how much their work is worth. I do believe that can even state what format their work should only appear in. The problem they are running into is that people do not like the options they are given. That people like owning what they bought.

In several stories, and not just on Techdirt, it has been pointed out that there are more than one way to deal with piracy that doesn’t have to require a hunting license and shotgun filled with lawyers and lawsuits.

What Mandar Thakur just did was take a leap of faith that we, the people, will stand behind and support him and his company if he makes media more accessible and easier to obtain (and I don’t mean free). He may get heat from the IMI but if he still turns a profit and has support from his customers, the IMI can scream bloody murder and it will not make any difference. He is still in business and they are not.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Definition

The trouble is, it’s not at all like breaking a contract, you agree to contracts. It’s a regulation, so people don’t get to agree, and there is no requirement for understanding, or even imagining the terms. People (at least those who are making a valiant yet most likely futile attempt not to infringe on copyright) think they are paying for one thing, then they lobby and it changes to something else. It’s nearly impossible to even figure out what you actually paid for let alone understand and agree to it when you make the transaction.

Mel Donnelly says:

Standing up and being counted

What’s immensely refreshing about Mr Thakur’s commentary is the linking of consumer behaviour to insights. Rather than labelling the behaviour as wrong, Mr Thakur has understood that smart companies should observe the behaviour, understand the opportunity it presents their business and take action. He understands that customers – not technology, not products, not distribution – are at the heart of business. Good on him for standing up and being counted!!! To see someone of his experience speak up marks a good day for the industry.

ooo says:

First, if piracy didn’t exist then companies like EA, UBISoft, etc; would earn like loads. Which will creates imbalances in any economy!
you know, rich become more rich and poor more poorer.

will government ever try to sell a game for 100$ to a rich person and 30$ to a middle class person?

so if govt. can’t we will have to maintain the balance.

Yes, i’m justifying piracy like that.

So i’ll pay to those small developers and nuke those big ones and will buy from big developers if they only make a really really good game.

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