Impact of Copyright Laws on Remix Songs
This article is written by Saptarshi Roy, a 2nd-year student of Xavier Law School at St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata. The article talks about the impact of copyright laws on remix songs.
The 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 there has been a massive rise in remix songs in 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 Nowadays remix songs have superseded original songs, especially in the Bollywood industry.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 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 as 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 that forms a part of the 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. The 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 need 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 that constitute any songs with or without music and may include podcasts, audios, or speeches. If we take the example of Spotify, all the audios and podcasts are copyrighted.
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Remix Songs and Copyright Law
Another field that forms a part of the 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 of, 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 the same as the song, ‘Tamma Tamma loge’ in the 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.
About 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 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.
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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 the 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 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 that 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 because 50 Cent had no copyright on the beat, but that it included Shady/Aftermath Records.
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So if anyone without obtaining any license from the owner of the 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 number of royalties that are given to the owner.
– Edited by Mahek Raval
(Editor, The Legal State)
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 Jatindra Kumar Das, Law of Copyright (PHI Learning Private Ltd. 2015) 88
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 ‘Scroll’, available at https://scroll.in/reel/873364/raabta-partner-kaante-how-bollywood-has-dealt-with-plagiarism-cases, accessed 2 March 2021
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 Veerendra Tulzapurkar, Remix and Copyright Law, 10 JIPLP. 106 (2005)
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 ‘Exclaim’, available at https://exclaim.ca/music/article/deadmau5_reaches_settlement_with_play_records_over_unauthorized_remixes, accessed 19 January 2021
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