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October 8, 2014 | International

New Horizons for India's Music Industry

The Recording Industry Association of America is very pleased that the Indian and U.S. governments appear to be moving forward on a path that recognizes our mutual interests in securing the effective protection of intellectual property. The respective U.S. and Indian music sectors have long recognized this commonality, and we have strongly supported the efforts of our colleagues in India to secure the kind of protection that would permit expanded investment in cultural production.

India has become a global cultural actor notwithstanding the challenges posed by piracy to the vitality of its cultural sector. One can only start to imagine the impact of India’s cultural producers under conditions that would permit greater risk-taking by reducing the unfair competition posed by piracy in physical and online marketplaces. The past few years have witnessed the failure of a number of innovative online music platforms—unable to operate profitably in an environment so dominated by piracy. This may be beginning to change as we have seen several court decisions that reflect an understanding of the true nature of Internet piracy and its impact. For example, just weeks ago, Justice Manmohan Singh of the Delhi High Court said that online theft of copyrighted material “is almost equivalent to duplicating currencies.” He added: “If this is not fraud what else? In fact, piracy in copyright cases is a curse to well-established system of the country and it should be curbed.”

This is reflective of a broader recognition of the economic and cultural harms associated with piracy, and hopefully signals a sea change in the approach of the Indian government. For far too long, Indian government policies seem to have been premised on the notion that India’s interests lay primarily in securing limitations and exceptions to protection, and have failed to reflect India’s clear interests in promoting creativity through effective copyright protection. Under the leadership of Smriti Irani, India’s new Human Resource Development (HRD) minister, we look forward to a new vision and adoption of policies that foster India’s cultural production and economic competitiveness. The government has launched a Digital India initiative that thus far focuses primarily on the infrastructure for digital communications. But modes of communications are only as good as the quality of the content that traverses them, and we strongly encourage India to consider building effective copyright protection into the Digital India initiative as a core pillar of the digital environment.

The music industries of India and the United States are excited about the potential of digital technologies to expand the diversification of products and services, while simultaneously enhancing access. But to capture this opportunity, we and our licensed digital partners must not be forced to operate in environments dominated by piracy. Governments around the world, and in particular the governments of leading cultural producers like India and the United States, must lead the way in developing policies that will capture this potential. We may be standing at the precipice of a true cultural Renaissance of unprecedented scale and diversity. But whether we get there is wholly dependent upon whether governments take responsible action to promote creativity and sustain creators. We look forward to a strong and dedicated India-U.S. alliance to realize this vision.

Neil Turkewitz
Executive Vice President, International, RIAA