The Indian movie industry (and that's not just "Bollywood") is plagued with piracy of movies as well as music. I've had several friends staying abroad telling me about recent releases they saw "on the Internet". Of course, songs are always to be downloaded and not bought.

A movie I saw recently had a note at the end of the screening: "Please buy original CDs. Do not download music." There was laughter in the sparsely-populated movie hall (on the 2nd day of the screening of the movie that talked about youth and music, no less).

That got me thinking: we spend quite a lot of money these days to watch movies in multiplexes. It's about 5x-6x the cost from what I used to pay about 10 years back. And that too doesn't guarantee a seat in the "balcony". These days, the movie halls usually have flat pricing, no matter where you're seated. You could be 5 feet away from the screen or 50.

So it's no wonder people don't want to go to movie theatres. They just walk across the street and buy a DVD for Rs 30 that has 3 or 4 of the latest releases. And they can always download the music or buy MP3 CDs that cost about the same but have music from 50 recent releases. Original audio CDs cost about the same it costs to watch the movie in the movie hall.

I was thinking what can help curb this piracy, and one thing that came to mind was the distributors and producers of the movies could give away audio CDs of the movie just after the screening either for free or for a very samll token amount, like Rs 30.

If this were done, people would actually go to the theatre to watch movies since the cost of the ticket no longer only gets them the movie but also gets them the CD to the songs which they've already listened to (and liked?) (side note: movies in India usually run more because of the music and actors than the story or reviews). Also, music gets distributed and listened to legally instead of it being pirated.

The producers need not worry about losing out on income via audio CD sales. I wonder how much they make anyway. Also, if this drives more people to the theatres, it's only going to be good for them. For people who do not want to watch the movie but want the CD, they can buy the CDs as they had been buying previously. For people who wanted the music but did not buy it, there's no negative in the model for the producer, but there's a positive: enticing them to go watch the movie plus get a chance to get the CD.

So it came as a welcome surprise (though I don't know how well this idea will take off) when I saw Google announced putting links in youtube videos for songs in the video.

I've had (non-Indian) friends tell me they don't download music any more since they can get songs for just under a dollar from the various online stores. It hardly makes any difference to their bottomlines plus they get legal music and are free of any hassles they might later get into for doing illegal stuff (downloading).

This might work elsewhere, but in India, the mentality hasn't changed enough that people will buy something instead of getting it for free or from a very cheap alternative. Adding 'buy music you just liked from here' won't pick off. I'd like to be proven wrong, though.

There's a lot to be gained in this model for everyone involved. Even the movie halls will see more traffic and hence more income for the various food courts and shopping plazas that are bundled in the movie hall complexes these days.

If this is implemented and takes off, the producers can then think about giving off DVDs of the movie for let's say 50% of the original price. Why not?

Update: xkcd on piracy

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