Iconic Bollywood songs like ‘Hawa Hawa’ and ‘Haseeno Ka Deewana’ from the 70s and 80s are now appearing in movies of recent times in the form of remixes. These were some of the popular and immensely successful hits of their times because of their unconventional dance choreography and catchy tunes. At present, we are bearing witness to a trend of remixes of these iconic Hindi songs of the yesteryears. Have you ever observed whether these modern remixed versions of iconic melodious songs are in violation of copyright laws or not? In launching a remixed version of the song that is an original work of another individual, is a person having any legal right or protection?
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT LAW?
Before we discuss copyright law, let us briefly understand what Intellectual Property (IP) is. IP, in a nutshell, means ‘creation of the mind’ or ‘a creation using one’s intellect’. A creation could mean an invention for example the telephone, the internal combustion engine, Bluetooth to name a few, then design and symbols, artistic, musical and literary works, etc. Copyright law is that side of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that protects a creator’s literary and artistic works. This includes musical works. As per the the Copyright Act, 1957, various sections grant certain rights to the various stakeholders involved in the creation of a musical work such as:
- The lyricist – protected under sec. 13(1)(a) for their original literary work.
- The music composer – protected under sec. 13(1)(a) for their original musical work.
- The performer – protected under sec. 38 (“performer’s right”)
- The producer – protected under sec. 17 if the musical work has been commissioned by them for a film for example.
Hence, it can be seen that there is a bundle of rights that encompasses just a single musical work. Copyright law can therefore be said to be an indispensable tool for the creator(s) of musical work as it allows them to be rightfully credited for their work, they can monetize it, and they get legal protection if anyone attempts to infringe their copyright by illegally replicating it, misusing it, make a remix version without giving prior notice to the original creator of the music work, etc. If we discuss specifically makers of remixes then even they are protected under sec. 51 of the Indian Copyright Act. Remixing or making an electronic alteration of a musical work by isolating certain parts of the song such as the rhythms, and slowing, speeding, or blending them makes it an adaptation of the original composition. Remixers must ensure that they give prior notice to the actual author of the work who holds exclusive rights over it. It is also important that they are paid royalties in advance. A prime example from recent times is the song ‘Muqabla’ from the movie Street Dancer 3D (2020) which is an adaptation of the song ‘Mukkala Mukkabla’ from the hit Tamil film Kaladhan (1994).
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF COPYRIGHT LAW IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Music in film is of significant importance as it helps to establish a tone, enhance the atmosphere, and intensify certain emotions. It is a very important tool in a filmmaker’s toolkit. It can really add an extra dimension to a film which can create the difference between a legendary film and a good film. If we take the example of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the animated musical drama The Lion King, the music composer is Hans Zimmer, arguably the best film composer of our time. These two films would have been great on their own, but as per movie critics and the public, the musical scores are what took the status of these films to a different echelon. Therefore, it is clear that the music industry and the film industry have a fairly intricate relationship with each other. What this signifies is that both industries function side by side both benefit immensely from each other. However, in recent years widespread exploitation of this has become somewhat of a pandemic in the music industry. One of the ways this exploitation is taking place is through remixes. Few massive corporations and music labels are depriving smaller entities and independent music creators of the money they should have been earning by using their large teams of lawyers and other means. This and the rising echo of more and more independent music artists, smaller music labels, and the general public, is signaling for this ‘remix culture’ to be put to a stop or continued in a more controlled manner to reduce exploitation.
Music can be considered a sine qua non in many of our lives. We listen to it on music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, we hear it playing in gymnasiums and clubs, and we hear it in the background of films which gives us that extra feel, especially in horror films. Therefore, we must appreciate the efforts of the creator of musical works and give them due respect. There is a strong set of laws present to safeguard the rights of musicians and there has also been an amendment to the Indian Copyright Act in 2012 where creators were given un-waivable rights to receive royalties, however, there is still plenty of exploitation going on especially with the big music labels and them churning out remix after remix of hit songs of the yesteryears which are quite worrisome from a creative standpoint. Hence, solutions need to be thought of and implemented to protect the rights of creators and give them the motivation to create new music and also encourage up-and-coming independent music artists.
Author(s) Name: Debarun Das (Amity University, Kolkata)
Intellectual Property Talent Search Examination, ‘The Great Eight – Eight Wonders of the World of Patents’ (IPTSE) < https://iptse.com/famous-patent-invention-examples/ > accessed 21 July 2022.
The Copyright Act, 1957, s 13(1)(a)
The Copyright Act, 1957, s 38
The Copyright Act, 1957, s 17
The Copyright Act, 1957, s 51
 Bharat Sharma and Safal Sethi, ‘Copyright Issues In The Music Industry’ (Zest IP, 28 June 2022) < https://zestip.com/copyright-issues-in-the-music-industry/ > accessed 22 July 2022
 Sort of…Films, ‘The Intricate Relationship Between Music and Film’ (Sort Of Films) < https://www.sortoffilms.co.uk/2018/02/intricate-relationship-music-film/ > accessed 22 July 2022
 Sugandha Rawal, ‘Manj Musik calls out Bollywood’s remix culture and monopoly in the music industry’ (Hindustan Times, 2 November 2022) < https://www.hindustantimes.com/entertainment/music/manj-musik-calls-out-bollywood-s-remix-culture-and-monopoly-in-the-music-industry-101635857745966.html > accessed 22 July 2022
 Pranesh Prakash, ‘Analysis of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2012’ (The Centre for Internet and Society, 23 May 2012) < https://cis-india.org/a2k/blogs/analysis-copyright-amendment-bill-2012 > accessed 22 July 2022