This piece has been authored by Aditi Singh, 4th year, The National University of Advanced Legal Studies(NUALS)


Amidst the recent strikes in the film and music industries in the USA, it is imperative to shed light on the challenges faced by musicians in the Indian music industry. Notably, India’s film industry boasts a significantly higher valuation than its music industry, which lags behind with a valuation of only Rs 1,500 crore.

While India recently passed the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, introducing stringent anti-piracy measures and penalties to combat film piracy, the same level of attention and reform has not been extended to the music sector, which remains in dire need of similar changes, as it faces substantial potential revenue losses ranging from Rs 867 crore to Rs 1,200 crore. One of the primary factors contributing to these losses is the increasing prevalence of digital music piracy.

This article delves into the dynamics of digital piracy in India, exploring its root causes, its impact on the creative community, potential solutions, and the valuable lessons that can be drawn from anti-piracy efforts in other countries.


Online piracy encompasses the unauthorized sharing, downloading, distribution, or streaming of digital copyrighted materials over the Internet, conducted without the necessary permissions from copyright owners or any legal authorization.

Stream-ripping is one of the commonly used ways. This practice entails copying content from streaming platforms, even those with legal licenses, and transforming it into a downloadable file, thus creating a permanent offline copy accessible to any user. Another avenue for online piracy involves the utilization of cyber lockers and cloud services.

India has the third position on the list of the most substantial contributors who visit content piracy websites in 2022 as per a report released by the advisory firm Ankura, which reveals that India recorded a staggering 7 billion visits to torrent sites during the year.

Torrents are platforms that enable users to share information about, exchange, and download files containing copyrighted content through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

A recent study conducted in India reveals that a significant 76% of surveyed internet users confessed to obtaining music content through unauthorized methods, highlighting the widespread issue of piracy in the country.

The prevalence of digital piracy in India can be attributed to the allure of inexpensive or free content, especially considering the limitations imposed by geographical location on legal access. With a substantial population of internet users and the widespread availability of high-speed internet, more people turn to pirated content for their online consumption.


Shifting our focus to YouTube, a dominant force in India that enjoys immense popularity; with a 2019 music survey revealing, that 94% of surveyed individuals relied on YouTube or Vevo for their music consumption. Its position was further reaffirmed as one of the world’s largest digital content platforms in 2023 when Zee Music Company, known for its extensive music collection, announced the renewal of its licensing agreement with digital content-streaming giants YouTube and Meta. However, despite its influence, a persistent threat to the music industry is in the illegal stream ripping of content from platforms like YouTube, facilitated by websites such as Y2Mate and SaveFrom, as well as mobile apps like SnapTube.

Aside from the big music and record labels, illegal streaming negatively impacts artists and creators who invest their passion and effort into their work. When content is enjoyed illegally, it goes uncompensated, undermining their income streams and fair compensation.

The 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy report by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) highlights an issue: while previous research has mostly focused on piracy’s impact on large corporations and the economy, it has paid less attention to how it affects individual creators and professionals. Online piracy harms these dedicated individuals who create films, music, books, and more. Pirated content leads to sales loss, reducing income for salaries, residuals, pensions, and healthcare benefits.


In India, where piracy causes a significant loss of revenues, could substantially improve its global music market position from 19th to 10th by implementing effective copyright administration similar to China. The Chinese government holds the annual SWORD Net Action from July to August, allowing copyright owners to report piracy and illegal activities, which has led to a reduction in piracy.

China’s recorded music revenues grew by 28.4% in 2022, driven largely by music streaming, which accounted for over 89% of total revenues.

According to a WNS article discussing solutions to combat music piracy, redefining the business model can be effective. Late adopters, often more attuned to pricing, may perceive fewer reasons to upgrade. Early adopters, however, eagerly embrace premium offerings.  Innovations that introduce exciting features can drive new conversions and expand the customer base.

The article also delves into the “Freemium” model, which involves differential pricing or cross-subsidy. In this model, a few paying customers cover the costs of serving the broader audience.
However, accomplishing this in India is more demanding than it sounds. A recent study conducted by Deloitte and The Indian Music Industry (IMI), revealed that an overwhelming majority of Indians, specifically nine out of ten, exhibit reluctance to pay for a music or audio subscription service. This reluctance stems from the fact that a significant majority prefers to use YouTube for music consumption or access free pirated content.

One potential solution for success in India’s music streaming sector is the implementation of a hybrid model that blends elements of both subscription and advertising.

This approach is acknowledged and embraced by major players like Spotify. In India, Spotify offers a range of 15+ subscription plans, including free (ad-supported) and premium options, with a unique mix of mobile-only, annual, mini, weekly, and daily plans. They also provide a Lite version for areas with poor internet connectivity, expanding their reach to smaller cities.

Meanwhile, YouTube has taken measures to block MP3 stream ripping sites to address concerns surrounding stream-ripping of content on its website and protect content licensors, demonstrating its commitment to combat piracy while preserving its digital music presence.

Indian courts also have made commendable efforts to combat stream-ripping by ‘rogue websites.’ A significant example of this is the High Court of Delhi’s action against the illegal downloading of primarily YouTube content, where they ordered internet service providers to block access to 20 such sites.


Recent successful anti-piracy efforts in Indonesia and Brazil provide valuable insights for addressing piracy in India. In January 2019, Indonesia witnessed a staggering 53 million monthly visitors to its top three piracy platforms, IndoXXI, LK21, and bioskopkeren. To tackle this issue, Indonesia implemented two key strategies:

  1. Government-Creative Sector Collaboration: Recognizing that effective piracy reduction requires cooperation among various stakeholders, Indonesia took a collaborative approach.
  2. Website Blocking: Indonesia significantly curtailed piracy by efficiently blocking infringing websites and platforms.

Additionally, a media campaign was initiated to provide the public with information on potential dangers, such as the risks associated with malware. The strategy proved successful, as indicated by a 2020 YouGov survey, which saw a massive reduction in the percentage of people using piracy streaming platforms.

Recently in Brazil, IFPI and Pró-Música Brasil joined forces with the Ministry of Justice’s cybercrime unit for over a year to combat the illegal distribution of MP3 singles and albums by leading Brazilian artists.

In their most extensive crackdown on music piracy to date, Brazilian authorities also took action against 461 illegal download applications and shut down 11 websites that had amassed a total of 10.2 million downloads.

This operation exemplifies Brazil’s heightened efforts to combat digital piracy, which has adversely affected the legitimate music industry.

Additionally, German record labels have also initiated legal proceedings against the stream ripping software known as YouTube-DL.

These initiatives underscore the importance of collaboration and proactive measures to combat digital piracy.


India still faces significant challenges in curbing digital piracy, particularly in terms of the sheer volume of instances. To support musicians and artists, India must ensure they receive due recognition and compensation for their outstanding work. This will motivate existing talent and encourage new entrants into the music industry, fostering growth and innovation while thwarting those who exploit artists’ success. Implementing policy reforms and strengthening laws, guided by international experiences, can help India improve its global ranking and create a sustainable music industry that benefits creators and consumers alike.

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