A Crackdown on Pakistani Media Sharing Websites?

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Are Record Companies sponsoring it, the Gainers or the Losers?

by Havi Zayed

To increase profits by cutting down on the inevitable costs related to the breakage of Copyright Laws certain Record Companies in Pakistan have taken up an almost barbarous campaign to stamp out the sharing of Pakistani media completely.

Fire Records (Owned by Geo Tv) has asked FIA to launch a major crackdown on Pakistani Music Websites. 3 directors from the www.mag4you.com website have even been arrested by FIA and the server confiscated. Such heavy handed action has been taken in the blind hope that somehow the coverage of this event would instill fear in people involved in sharing Fire’s videos and audios and somehow there and then result in an end to all their problems.

Difficult to Implement!

Unfortunately the Record Companies don’t seem to understand that they are going after a lost cause. It is like a snake going after its own tail. If you arrest one person for breaking copyright laws by sharing media there is always another to pop up sharing the very same media (and newer ones) again.

A CD can be ripped or burned and passed on to a friend or a family member while people share music on Msn messenger and messages by passing along tracks that they enjoy every day. Such minor breaches of copyright occur every minute across the World but are almost impossible to trace and stop.

Copyright infringement laws are too difficult to implement. More so in a Country like Pakistan where laws are made but are never followed. How many times have we seen people drive right past a red signal light? Or how many times have we seen them choking up traffic and endangering their lives by going the opposite way on a one way road? Or how many times have we seen people stealing electricity in order to fulfill their household electricity needs?

Insignificant compared to other issues

Copyright seems like something extremely insignificant when it is compared to the more major problems in the country such as rampant corruption, a terrible law and order situation, terrorism, lack of educational and healthcare infrastructure and of course the massive scale of poverty that has still not been addressed.

In this case the FIA and the Police seem more like criminals if they go after something as petty as copyright violation when such major problems exist out there.

Albums not available outside Pakistan

Several people that download copied albums or music do it because they have no other place to hear the tracks or get the music videos and other media they need. This is specially the case for many Pakistanis who live abroad but want to know everything going on in their country and wish to support it in every way possible.

Most of the records are not readily available outside Pakistan and it is impossible to find albums by artists that have failed to get much attention from a media that increasingly looks towards Indian material rather than trying to promote or stabilize their own music industry.

Loss of Consumer Confidence

Furthermore a loss of consumer confidence is caused by such a major crackdown. Not only do the consumers lose trust in the Record Company but oftentimes even artists display anguish at the closing of sites promoting them.

For example before I went to Pakistan I copied Faysal Abbas Awan’s Udasiyaan from a friend so that I could listen to it for the time I remained in Canada. Later about 2 months ago when I went to Pakistan I bought over 40 Pakistani Cd’s, Cassetes and Movies which included the Udasiyaan CD as well which I had copied from my friend.

Why did I buy it when I already had it? :

1) Because I wanted to support the Artist and Record Company and I felt it was my duty as a Pakistani to do so.

2) Because I had the money to do so and I felt it was being spent on a noble cause supporting my people.

Now if Royal Record’s would have called me a “thief” for borrowing the CD and ripping it onto my PC would I still have bought the Album out of respect for Royal Records?

No. And the same stands for any other Record Company.

Harsh action is detrimental to the promotion of new artists and talent

Just for the record 8 of the CD’s I bought on this trip belonged to Fire Records. Some of these CD’s included Zeb Alam’s Sapnay, Shahzaman’s Dhoom Tana, Jalan by Schaz and Amir Jamals Heartbeat.) These artists already have very limited marketing and just to make the point clear many Pakistani’s unfortunately haven’t heard of these artists.

Regrettably the role of Record Companies here has been counter productive not only for the artists and emerging talent but for itself as well. Instead of encouraging websites promoting these artists Fire Records has demanded the FIA, an agency with much more important work, to punish the websites just because they happen to be involved in sharing some media that they have rights over. As a result the action hurts the very Pakistani Music Industry that Fire Records is a part of.

These websites specially mean a lot to overseas Pakistanis as they are their only source of information while they are outside Pakistan. Already aching with the pain of being distant from their Nation for them it is as if their very lifeline has been taken.

What Should Record Labels Do?

Whatever the soothsayers in these companies might say about copyright infringement it is a problem that will always remain because there will always be someone willing to share files using any method. There are just too many people already sharing or willing to share their music using any median they can. It is impossible to simply implement a ban on copyright infringement particularly in Pakistan and it is a waste of money for Aag and GEO as well.

What Record Companies could invest on to increase consumption of their material and in turn increase their profits is invest on increasing Pakistani Nationalism amongst the youth of Pakistan. They should also materialize on the Nationalist sentiment that already exists among such youth as Nationalists are by far the largest market for their products.

They should also look to try and cause a shift in demand from Indian music to Pakistani music because by far the craze for Indian media is affecting the Pakistani Music Industry. Spending funds to better promote Pakistani artists can definitely help.

However the solution for Record Labels is definitely not to spend their resources on a problem that will always exist by cracking down on free media sharing and disillusion the very people that buy their Audio CD’s and Cassettes. The solution is to build such a warm bond with them that they feel guilt when they do it and a sense of responsibility towards society.

As far as websites that promote Pakistani content are concerned it is no use to bother with them and shut them down because Pakistani Music currently needs recognition and they play a major part in this filling up the promotion gap. Shutting them down will not only be detrimental but closing down one site will also make no difference as there will always be others to fill the gap.

The harsh reality is copyright infringement simply can’t be stopped and is a reality that needs to be accepted.

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I write this for the benefit of the Pakistani Music Industry and as a Diehard Pakistani Music Fan.

Note: The article posted above is written by Havi Zayed – a Proud Pakistani, student & a blogger- who loves to write about Pakistani Music. He is also interested in current affairs & politics of Pakistan & occassionally expresses his views on his own blog i.e http://dimension117.wordpress.com . You can contact the author at this email address : havi@pakium.pk

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