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“Difficult Chasing People On The Net” – Saregama MD Apurv Nagpal On Mobile, ISP Liability, Torrents

In Part 1 of our interview with Apurv Nagpal, the Managing Director of one of India’s largest music labels Saregama India, he spoke about the company’s plans with in Timbre Media, minimum guarantee deals, compulsory licensing and the FM Phase III auctions. In Part 2, he speaks about the agenda behind legal action, Internet Service Provider liability, relationships with telecom operators, video upload sites like YouTube and Metacafe, among other things:

MediaNama: From what we’ve seen, T-Series has been incredibly active in case of going after music piracy online. Aren’t you?

Apurv Nagpal: We’re doing it through PPL, and we are as active as the next man including T-Series. In fact, T-Series participates with us.

MediaNama: What’s the driving force? One gets the sense that the agenda behind going after one company is at times to induce a license from another.
Apurv Nagpal: It’s the same. We would look to make every body legal. When we go after phyiscal piracy shops, the goal is not to shut the shop, which is happening in the industry any way, but you want them to do business, but do it legally. We try and talk sense into the party, but unfortunately today people seem to think that music is free and their birthright, and it is bloody difficult chasing people on the net. Recently there was a site with a registered address in the US, and then we found that it was being run by college kid studying in Ahmedabad in an engineering college. Just to trace him and get to him took the better past of six months.

The issue is that the governemnt continues to sit and refuse to act upon on several recommendations given by every music body, where we are talking about bring in Internet Service Provider liability. Something akin to a 3 strike rule for blockage and removal of a site. The government has already demonstrated that it can do so, and it has show the will to do so by blocking a site called SavitaBhabhi.com. Why then do they refuse do the same for music pirate sites? Why are they happy to let a Pakistani site continue to be one of the most listened to sites for Hindi music. Why will it choose to get into contentius copyright amendments without first checking the beast which is killing the entire industry.

MediaNama: Why do you think that ISP liability would resolve this issue? Sites can be accessed through proxies.
Apurv Nagpal: Most people don’t do so. That’s for the tech savvy people and it’s a very small number.

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MediaNama: What about torrents – that’s a distributed format.
Apurv Nagpal: Yeah,but that is not one site where you can go and listen to music. And again there will be one site that contains the torrent link. If you block the site, it will be a huge step forward. Is it going to be foolproof? No, but it’s going to be a huge step forward.

MediaNama: But what about instances of legitimate file sharing sites being blocked, for example in case of Singham?
Apurv Nagpal: I’m not against sites which are social networking sites of filesharing, but against sites which are music driven and primarily music driven. There are sites that is making its business around showing illegal clips from movies, illegal song downloads, illegal song sharing, listening, streaming, any way or form. Lets shut these down.

MediaNama: What do you think of YouTube, Dailymotion, Metacafe which have both legitimate and illegitimate content?
Apurv Nagpal: If I look at YouTube – they have time and again and talked to us and every stakeholder in the industry on ways to make themselves legal. Metacafe has not, but it continues to be small, and I would love for them to reach some sort of an agreement. YouTube has, and we are one of the three music labels to partner google for their music player, and I don’t have any issue against Google per se.

MediaNama: How do you view online streaming sites in comparison with other modes of distribution of your music?
Apurv Nagpal: Without sharing an exact number, but without having advertised Saregama.com, we’re probably one of the biggest with the traffic we’ve managed to generate, and surprised by the numebr of people we’ve subscribed and the amount of e-commerce we’ve managed. But I think our site is cluttered and it’s not mobile friendly and I don’t think the user interface is the best that it can be. However it is our first, and I don’t think you get perfect at the first release.

We are looking that by January, we would want our revamped site up, and we are in talks with several vendors to make that happen. I think given the size of the catalog, it will be a shame if we don’t have our website. Why wouldn’t I want my own? Having my own doesn’t preempt me from talking to aggregators like Google etc.

MediaNama: So the question is why you wouldn’t be an aggregator?
Apurv Nagpal: We are, and even today on Saregama.com, Universal (Music) content is up. Why we’re not going aggressively after other labels because I’m not comfortable with the level (of the website) that I would feel comfortable with.

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MediaNama: What are your views on the relationships with the mobile service providers? How’s the transparency in terms of reporting?
Apurv Nagpal: It takes too long. We are working with them to improve that. There are some things which don’t make sense entirely. I’m just baffled by how low one telco operator continues to be despite a sizable subscriber base. I think there are issues, and we’re talking all the time to try and resolve it.

MediaNama: What would be the revenue share that you think is fair to you?
Apurv Nagpal: I think a content source should get at least half of what the consumer is paying, including what he is paying for subscription of that service. We are a long way from there. Abroad it is 70% for the content person. In Japan or anywhere in the far east, that is the norm.

MediaNama: What do you hear from the operator side?
Apurv Nagpal: They have their own compulsion – they are also a profit making body. I think there were some things that the labels also did when the services first came up…

MediaNama: Did the entry of new telecom operators have any impact on the revenue share regime?
Apurv Nagpal: No, they are all quite small.

MediaNama: Is there a plan to launch applications and go direct to consumer on the iPad?
Apurv Nagpal: That is the thought process behind taking some of the rights back from PPL. We do want to be in touch with the business platforms, the consumer (saregama.com and Worldspace). The idea is to help better program, and have better marketing efforts.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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