Impact of Copyright Laws on Remix Songs
Bollywood industry has become the new hub of remix songs. But in the present times, these remix songs have not been put to a stop, in fact there has been a massive rise in remix songs in the recent times. Nowadays remix songs have superseded original songs especially in the Bollywood industry. But a thought never crossed our minds while listening to these songs, like whether the ones who launched these remix versions of the original songs, have any legal authority to launch these remix songs? In case, there is no legal authority taken, then it totally falls under a copyright violation.
In the Copyright Law, any writer, creator, owner, composer or any authorized person has the right to remake their original work like they can sell, record or they can distribute in different formats in CDs or cassette tape. In India, the concept of Copyright was introduced in 1847 and the legislation regarding Copyright Law was bought in 1914 with numerous amendments adopted later. These copyright laws from 1914 were put under Copyright Act, 1957. The Copyright Act, 1957 governs all other copyright laws in India. Copyright Act includes, Literary works like newspapers, magazines, journals, computer program software, dictionary meanings and many other documented works.
Another field forms a part of Copyright Act is Dramatic works which include dances, operas, dramas, screenplays. Now if ‘Gangnam style’ was made in India, then the famous step of ‘Gangnam style’ would fall under Owner’s Choreographic Works which is a part of Dramatics under the Copyright Act, 1957. Third important field which comes under the Copyright Act is the Cinematograph film which encompasses visual recordings as well as sound recordings. So, during the pre-production stage of any film, all the stages like scripting, casting, crewing, shooting schedule, locations and rehearsal needs legal protection to prevent copying.
During the post-production stage of any film, the broadcasting rights and reproduction rights and such other rights need legal protection and the Copyright Act, 1957 aids the following. Unlike others, the Copyright Act also includes sound recordings which constitute any songs with or without music and may include podcast, audios or speeches. If we take the example of Spotify, all the audios and podcasts are all copyrighted.
3. Remix Songs and Copyright Law
Another field which forms a part of Copyright Act is “musical work”. Now we all know that all musical works are copyrighted. If we take the example of the song, ‘Masakali 2.0’ in 2020 which was released by Tanishk Bagchi, there was no consent taken from the original owners of ‘Masakali’ from the movie, ‘Delhi 6’ in 2009. There is a lack of enforcement mechanism in India irrespective of the Copyright Act, 1957 and as a result of this, producers without any fear launch remix songs of any original songs.
The song, ‘Masakali’ from the movie, ‘Delhi 6’ in 2009 is protected under the Copyright Act, 1957 and any person without taking the permission of the original owners of this song, publishes a remix version of this original song, violates the Copyright Act, 1957. But even if we leave this ‘Masakali 2.0’ song, there are many other Bollywood remixes where the permission from the original owner was absent. So there are many copyright violation cases and allegations against the Bollywood industry.
Under the Copyright Act, 1957 the ‘remix’ word is not defined. The alteration of original songs gives birth to remix songs. The lyrics from the original song are either reduced or new lyrics are inserted or new beats are added to make a remix version of the original song. If we take the example of ‘Tamma Tamma again’ in ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ in 2017, the lyrics are almost same to the song, ‘Tamma tamma loge’ in 1989 movie, ‘Thanedaar’ but there are some modifications made in the remix version like the rapping of Badshah, some new beats and changes in the lyrics. So after all these changes the remix version of the original song was created.
In reference to this, reliance must be placed on Section 51 in the Copyright Act, 1957 which lays down conditions of copyright infringement. Indicating thereby, that any person, who wants to create a remix version of the original song, has to give a prior notice of intention to the owner and has to pay charges in advance to use his original song and the owner has the right to inspect books of accounts regarding the remix version of the original song. The remix versions have to be launched after 2 years of making the original work. So by this, the remix songs will be protected under the Copyright Act, 1957.
4. Concept of Remix Songs across the Globe
A remix is a medium that adds, removes, and replaces parts of an item that has been changed or altered from its original location. The unique feature of a remix is that it assigns and converts other content to create something new. Many famous artists were involved in remix controversy. In 2015, Jay-Z went on trial over a controversy over the use of a sample of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy’s “Khosara Khosara” in his song “Big Pimpin.” Hamdy’s nephew, Osama Fahmy argued that although Jay-Z had “economic rights”, he did not have “moral rights” to sing.
In the contemporary times, these kinds of remixes often include “featured” artists, adding new singers or composers to the original mix. Remixes are also widely used in hip hop and rap music. An R&B remix which has elements of pop, soul, funk, hip hop and electronic music, usually has the same music as the original song but has verses added or changed by rap or sung by pictorial artists. It usually contains some of the original verses of the song, but they are being arranged separately from the original. In 2015, EDM artist Deadmau5, who worked with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, tried to charge his former manager for remixing his songs without authorization, stating that he gave his manager the consent to use his work for some remixes.
Deadmau5 demanded a refund for remixes made by his manager, as he severed ties and claimed that it was his “moral right” to return these remix opportunities in the future if he wanted to. Both parties reached an agreement in 2016, which barred Play Records from creating any new remixes. 50 Cent tried to sue rapper Rick Ross in October 2018 for a remake of the “In da Club” beat because of his public controversy. However, a judge dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that 50 Cent had no copyright on the beat, but that it included Shady/Aftermath Records.
5. Reasons for Copyright Protection
As soon as a work is written on paper, digitally recorded or electronically typed, or any work that can be heard, seen, read or touched, gets copyright protection. Copyright infringement involves using someone else’s original creative work or copyrighted work without permission. There are many types of copyright infringement like record a movie in a cinema hall, post a video on your company website that contains copyrighted words or songs, use copyrighted images on your personal website, use copyrighted songs of any music group on your company website, edit an image and then display it on your organization’s website, create copyrighted words or images on merchandise for sale, download music or movies without paying for their use, write any literary or artistic work without a license or contract.
So these are the reasons as to why copyright protection is needed. If we have a real idea, it is still a potential resource and should be considered as it is regardless of what others said. If they use our work without our knowledge, we have the right to prevent them from doing so and to compensate us for the earnings they got from our work. If we have copyrighted works that attract the interest of other parties, we can explore our licensing options so that we can financially benefit from using it. The license is a legal approval for the other party to use some of the copyrighted work.
So if anyone without obtaining any license from owner of original work or without paying charges in advance to use his original work makes a remix version of the original song, then the copyright is being violated under Section 51 of the Copyright Act, 1957. However, there is a need for amendments in the Copyright Act, 1957 to strengthen the proper statutory licensing system and to specify the amount of royalties that are given to the owner.
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Author: Saptarshi Roy,
2nd year law student in Xavier Law School at St. Xavier's University, Kolkata