Music Industry - advantage Internet and digital technology


Internet and other digital technologies have created new opportunities for the resurgence of the Indian music industry. Mobile phones and broadband connections have facilitated consumption of online digital music among the Indian consumers. But the sustained growth of this new industry is dependent upon consumer confidence and trust. The legal rights and protections which consumers of music traditionally enjoyed in the form of first sale doctrine, consumer rights and fair use rights are presently being denied to them in the digital environment. By means of various technological protection measures and other means the music industry is controlling the fundamental right of an individual to listen to music as well as her ability to creatively deal with it. Such control mechanisms are having a chilling effect on individual freedom as well as on the cultural growth of a society. The need of the day is to confer the internet consumers with specific rights and freedoms which help to create a level playing field for both the consumers as well as the copyright holders. 

The advent of Internet and digital technology has revolutionized the way in which people enjoy and access different forms of entertainment. The traditional television, movies, music, radio and book industries have all undergone transformation in the past ten years through the process of digitization. Amongst all these industries, it is the music industry which has been in the forefront of adapting itself to the demands of the new technology. With the help of new technologies and through the process of new business models the online digital music business generated global revenue of USD 4.6 billion in the year 2010, which is 29 percent of the overall recorded music revenue. It is estimated that there is immense potential for further increase in the sale of digital music as the percentage of digital music consumers is still less than 17 percent worldwide Indian music industry is one of the largest entertainment industries of the world. The rich cultural heritage of the country puts India in the unique position where 94 percent of the market is based on sale of domestic and regional music. The music industry in the year 2009 earned revenue of INR 7.8 billion, registering a growth of 7 percent increase from the previous year sales.  This significant increase in revenue was despite the fall in the music sales of physical formats like audio cassettes and compact discs in the country. The fundamental reason for the increase in the revenue was due to the development of online music market in the country. Innovative digital distribution models and increase in the sales of mobile handsets has facilitated the growth of the digital music sales in India. The KPMG-FICCI 2010 report on the music industry – ‘Digitization striking the Right Note’ predicts that the Indian digital music market will continue to make significant growth due to the ever expanding telecom market. Mobile phone and broadband penetration will facilitate increase in sales of ring tones, caller ring back tunes, full track downloads, streaming and music subscription sales. The increasing mobile phone subscriber base of 729.57 million will be the primary cause of digital music revolution in India. Keeping in view that 83 percent of the young Indians consider music as an integral part of their lives and 61 percent of them use mobile phones to access music, different mobile phone companies, internet service providers, telecom operators and the music companies are coming together to provide the Indian consumers a large variety of digital music services. In the year 2009 Nokia had launched its first online music store in India called the ‘Ovi store’ to help Indian consumers download a large variety of music by registering on its website. Airtel by launching its mobile entertainment divisions, Music Bharti, became the largest music company in India and surpassed the revenue of Saregama, the largest music company in India. Other instances of mobile music initiatives are the UTV music video channel on mobile, ‘Music Connect’ - music based social networking site by Aircel, ‘Music Box’ by Reliance Communications and ‘Mirchi Mobile’ by Radio Mirchi and Airtel. Thus it can be seen that access to digital music is on the rise in India. But in spite the growing popularity of online distribution of music, there is a critical gap in the legal regime applicable to consumers of such music. The traditional protections which consumers of music enjoyed in the form of first sale doctrine, consumer rights and fair use rights are denied to them in the digital environment. By means of various technological protection measures as well as fear of litigation the digital industries are controlling the fundamental right of an individual to listen to music as well as her ability to creatively deal with it. Such control mechanisms are having a chilling effect on individual freedom as well as on the cultural growth of a society.

In order to sustain the benefits of Internet and other advanced technologies, and promote the growth of online market it is necessary protect the interest of the copyright holders as well as internet consumers. It is important to confer certain rights and freedoms to the consumers so that they will have adequate confidence to take full advantage of the various benefits of online technology and participate fully in the online marketplace. Conferring the consumers with specific rights and freedoms would give them the authority to demand access to new technologies for better enjoyment of Internet without fear of litigations from the copyright holders. Such new legal regime would ensure better growth of online distribution of music.

It is being argued that music being part of the great Indian cultural heritage needs protection as well as promotion in the digital era. Music industry is primarily a consumer driven industry which will grow so long as the consumer is granted certain rights and is able to protect those rights through legal actions. In this new market place it is essential that the economic interests of the copyright holders are protected without compromising with the needs of the consumers.

The paper has been divided into five primary parts, in exclusion of the introduction and conclusion. The first part discusses the importance of music in human life and traces its transition from being an element of ancient Indian religious rituals to being an essential component social and cultural life in modern times. The second part traces the impact of technology on music. It discusses the propertization and commodification of music from a community art form due to the impact of recording technologies and the growth of music industry. It further discusses the impact of internet and other digital technologies on music and the development of music in the clouds. The third part of the paper discusses the various advantages and the disadvantages of online distribution of music and analyzes their impact on the different actors of the music industry including the musicians, recording companies and the consumers. The fourth part of the paper discusses the transformation of passive consumers to active users of the digital medium and frames the foundational arguments for recognizing the rights of the users in the digital environment. The fifth part of the paper analyzes the Indian Copyright Act 1957 and the Copyright Amendment Bill, 2010 and attempts to charter out a set of internet related user’s rights.  

Music is an integral part of social and cultural life of mankind. In the course of history every human settlement had developed its own unique and individualistic music. It is a reflection of a society’s way of life and culture. Eminent ethnomusicologist Jeff T. Titon observed that “Music symbolizes a people’s way; it represents a distillation of cultural style.”.

The origin of music in India can be traced to the ancient Indian religious and cultural tradition. On one hand music was considered as a form of art for the purpose of human entertainment and on the other hand it was considered as a tool for spiritual development of man. In ancient India chanting of religious hymns in a melodic manner was considered essential to attain spiritual well being. It was believed that the ultimate goal of music was to help the individual achieve liberation or moksha from the endless cycles of life and death. The Upanishad states ‘Manayeva Manushyanaam Bandha Moksha Yoh Kaarnam’ that is ‘it is only music and nothing else can save the mind from bondage’. The history of Indian music is almost 4000 years old. Musicologists tracing the origin of Indian music generally locate them in the Vedas and other religious scriptures of ancient India. The earliest Indian treatise on musical works was written by Bharata in between 200 B.C. and 200 AD and was known as Natya shastra or the ‘Science of Theatre’. This treatise is deemed to be the primary source for the evolution of classical Indian music. The other important ancient texts on music are Naradiyasiksha or ‘the Phonetic Manuel of Narada’ written by Narada in the first century B.C. and Brihaddeshi or the Great Treatise on Desi’ written by Munni Bharata Matanga in the ninth century B.C. But the most important treatise on classical music - Sangeet Ratnakar or ‘the Jewel Mine of Music’ was written by Sarangadeva in the year 1240. This encyclopedic work dealt with a broad range of subjects including musical theories, singing techniques and different forms of talas.

The Indian classical music underwent a significant transformation during the medieval period. The invasion of Muslim infiltrators in the northern part of India had a profound impact on the existing musical tradition and over a period of time two distinct forms of music developed in the northern and southern regions of India. The northern school of music was deeply influenced by Persian and Arabian forms of music and came to be popularly known as Hindustani classical music whereas the southern musicians retained the traditional classical form of music and were referred to as the Karnataka sangeeta or Carnatic classical music. The two schools differed in their presentation and approach towards music while Karnataka sangeeta retained the purity of the original classical form, the Hindustani music blended in the spirit of Persian and Arabian music with the Indian traditional music. The distinction between these two schools of music continues till this day. Indian classical music in spite of its rich tradition had limited popularity amongst the people. Both Hindustani and Karnataka sangeeta were patronized by the rulers and the nobility and were considered as an exclusive form of art protected by the system of guru-sishya parampara. The vast majority of the Indian population was exposed to other forms of popular music like devotional songs, folk music, life cycle songs and musical dance dramas. People living in different geographical areas had their own linguistic, ethnic and cultural identities, and music was an essential part of their lives. Each community had their own musical tradition and heritage. However these forms of music in spite of their popularity had not attained universality because of religious and linguistic differences amongst the people. In the early twentieth century ‘cine music’ or the Indian film music was the first to assume popular acceptance across the whole country. Along with cine music, the other forms of popular music are bhajans, qawalli, ghazals, regional folk music and contemporary pop music. The growth of popular music in the twentieth century is primarily due to the development of audio recording technologies in the late nineteenth and twentieth century.     ---- compiled


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