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Google Launches Legal Music Search to Fight Piracy

Update: Google has shut down this service as of August, 2013.

In a laudable move, Google announced the launch of a music service in India to help users search for legal online music streams and downloads. Given that India consistently tops the US Special 301 report for being a piracy heaven, this service could be a real game changer for India.

Our readers might remember a previous post titled ‘Copyright Infringement is not Theft‘, followed by a passionate discussion in the comments section on the ills of piracy, some suggesting that most people were unwilling to purchase music legally when it was possible to just pirate the same songs for free. I argued that this was untrue since the real problem was the lack of any viable legal alternatives online (iTunes does not allow downloads of music/video in India. Update: This is no longer the case).

The official Google India blog reports that the service is currently in labs (so there is sure to be further product development in the coming months). Google Music Search allows anyone (even those living outside India) to search for Bollywood/Hindi songs (whether current or classics) and stream it online. There are no restrictions on the number of plays. A pop-up web player will be used to stream the track so there is no requirement to download any additional software or music player. This is an important feature in terms of the ‘convenience’ factor to successfully compete with piracy since illegal downloads from untested sources typically attracts the risk of viruses and malware. In some cases, additional software or codecs may also have be downloaded to play the files locally. But with a pop-up player, Google appears to have struck he heart of the problem – convenience and usability.


Currently, Google’s partners include SaReGaMa, In.Com and The ad for the service proclaims “You can listen to songs sung by Kishore Kumar or Shreya Ghoshal or just all songs from the movie Buddha Mil Gaya’. The service can be accessed at the site  but it is likely that Google will integrate this service into its main search product as well. This would imply that a user’s search for a particular song would produce search results from Google’s partners instead of just illegal download links.

From a legal perspective, there is no doubt that the service is completely legal, since Google has entered into partnerships with the labels, and have obtained licenses to stream the music online to its users. With time, one hopes there will be more partners to expand the music database made available by Google. Notably, the service does not currently allow downloads. However, this may be a relatively unimportant factor since the service is likely directed to compete with services such as Grooveshark that provide streaming-only features. Over time, it is possible that Hindi/Indian Classical music can also be downloaded at a reasonable price.

It is quite commendable that music publishers, and corporations like Google are listening to consumers and policy makers to fight piracy with sensible business decisions such as this, by providing legal alternatives to users in India. Whether such efforts will help curb digital music piracy in India remains to be seen, but we are inching closer to a world where an illegal download is not necessarily the first choice.

Image from Google Music

This post was first published on SpicyIP.

About Amlan Mohanty

Amlan is a lawyer based in India. He engages in research, writing, speaking and teaching at the intersection of technology, law and policy.