Music label T-Series appears to have begun a significant offensive against music streaming sites streaming music, unlicensed. The company informs us that Anil Sharma, the managing director of GNN Show 9 Infotainment, which runs radiomaska.com was arrested in New Delhi for alleged copyright infringement following their complaint; Sharma had been denied bail and sent to two day police remand. Apart from the arrest, equipment used in the infringing broadcasts including hard drives containing the copyrighted works of T-Series was also seized by the officers of the Crime Branch of the Economic Offenses Wing, following an FIR was lodged. This is reminiscent of the arrest of Guruji.com executives last year, which eventually led to Guruji shuttering its music search business.

In addition, T-Series has said that they managed to get Dishant.com, a US based streaming site, shut down for copyright infringement, via a DMCA complaint. This doesn’t appear to be the case, since we checked Dishant.com is live and still has music available on it. Perhaps only T-Series content has been removed following the DMCA notice.

Carrot & Stick

This approach is typical of that being adopted by music labels – they try to legitimise sites streaming their music illegally by getting them to buy licenses, and if they refuse, they take a legal route and get them shut down. The incentive here is that they will be allowed to function if they buy the license. In our opinion, publicising these legal initiatives (especially arrests) helps the company spread the word that they’re going to go after potential pirates, by getting them arrested, their sites shut down, or slapping a big lawsuit against them, thus making negotiations easier or favorable.

This approach is evident from a statement that T-Series’ President Neeraj Kalyan makes in the press release: “The proprietor of the website www.dishant.com flatly refused to take a license for the use of our copyrighted works and was confident that we wouldn’t take him to court. We hope that this will serve as a warning to all those who are engaged in brazen infringement of our works that T-Series will deploy all available remedies to protect our valuable repertoire.”

In the past, T-Series has also gone after MySpace (the case is still on), Yahoo, YouTube (settled, is what we’ve heard) and Ibibo.

This carrot and stick approach has also being replicated offline by the music industry body IMI, which has an initiative called MMX, which involves taking an annual license fee from local stores who were earlier illegally side-loading music. By offering them an annual license, the industry body ensures that at least some money is made via physical retail.

We wonder if things will change after Flipkart launches its digital music distribution business.