Singapore's music industry fights back

Tougher copyright laws and high-profile police raids beat down illegal music downloads

The ongoing battle against illegal music downloads in Singapore is slowly turning in favor of the music industry, thanks to tougher copyright laws and a series of high-profile police raids.

"It's having the desired effect. The number of people using P-to-P protocols have dropped off," said Edward Neubronner, the chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of Singapore (RIAS), an industry group comprised of local and multinational record labels. That decline can be measured in the number of warnings sent by RIAS to Internet users in Singapore, which has dropped from more than 800 in October 2005 to 32 last month, he said.

Singapore's latest crackdown on illegal music downloads started on Oct. 8, when police raided the homes of seven Internet users accused of downloading music via online file-sharing services and seized their computers. The raids, which relied in part on information provided by RIAS, targeted five men and two women, ranging in ages from 14 to 32 years old.

The raids grabbed headlines in local papers and on the evening news. But more was to come.

On Tuesday, the RIAS filed police complaints against 25 more people, each accused of illegally sharing thousands of music files over the Internet. The charges came as part of a wider offensive against illegal music downloads launched by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which brought suits against 8,000 people in 17 countries.

The penalties are heavy for the people named in these suits. Under Singapore's updated copyright law, which took effect last year, any person convicted of downloading or sharing copyright music faces up to six months in jail and a fine of S$20,000 (AUD$16,775). In February, two young men, aged 22 and 21, became the first to be sentenced to prison under the law, receiving four months and three months, respectively, for illegally sharing music files over the Internet

"When we file these cases with the police, it's always as a last resort," Neubronner said. But when users ignore warnings from the RIAS, the group has little sympathy for them, especially given the high-profile coverage that Singapore's press gives to the consequences of illegally downloading music. "We've given them the benefit of the doubt, there's nothing left for them to say," he said.

Sudhansy Sarronwala, chief executive officer of SoundBuzz, which offers legitimate music downloads in several countries, including Singapore, India and Australia, credits RIAS with doing a good job under difficult circumstances, saying that progress is being made. "It's a really tough gig," he said, noting digital music sales have risen steadily since 2004.

But while the RIAS and Singapore's police have made headway fighting illegal downloads, music piracy is far from being eliminated. "For kids, I don't know if they see it as legal or illegal, it's just something they do. For them it's like jaywalking, it's not such a big deal," Sarronwala said.

Internet users in their in their late teens and early 20s are particularly resistant to buying digital music. "That's the group that grew up during the early days of Napster and P-to-P. You're never going to be able to sell to them," Sarronwala said, calling them the "lost generation."

By comparison, older users can be won over to legitimate download services more easily because they are not price sensitive. "For them, S$1.99 or S$2.99 per song is nothing," he said.

Fighting the problem of music piracy requires lawsuits and police raids to underscore the seriousness of the problem, but this approach must go hand-in-hand with efforts to offer legitimate music-download services. "You need to tell people that what you're doing is illegal, but there are legal alternatives," Sarronwala said.

"It's getting there," he said.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?