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The Game of Intellectual Property Rights in the Music Industry


Music label T-Series has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Roposo, a short-video app owned by advertising technology company InMobi. The lawsuit, filed in the Delhi High Court and reviewed by ET, alleges that Roposo is “blatantly, extensively and wilfully” infringing on T-Series’ copyrighted works. The music label has sought a permanent injunction to stop Roposo from using its copyright material. When contacted, Roposo declined to comment. “The app is infringing content under the user-generated content,” said T-Series president Neeraj Kalyan. “They are offering our music in their library and enticing users to upload our content in exchange for cash rewards.

 Their venture capitalists have not done due diligence, they are hand in glove.” The lawsuit has also named Roposo investors Tiger Global and Bertelsmann. Like wise there are several copyright infringements across the music industry which are only acted upon when they are identified. Before identifying, they need to be copyright protected. It’s like a vaccine taken for prevention and immunity to a disease. Music is the line that connects all the dots. Individuals of different cultural background perform together and music is heard by people no matter the language or any other cultural barrier.
 Pandit Ravi Shankar, the great Indian Sitar maestro performed with the legendary band The Beatles. George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the band was a student of the Pandit, who was a major inspiration for the music composed by the band. India has contributed maestros and inspirations for the western fraternity. Indian classical is also used and made a fusion of Indian classical music and western pop music and EDM.
Indian musicians worked with the western music fraternity like A.R Rehman and Hariharan. There are a lot of western musician who contribute songs in the Indian music industry which is a treat for audience of both the backgrounds to enjoy their respective musician in a different zone and avatar. Songs and musician do not have any geographical and language barrier. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is one such example, also can be Despacito, a fusion of American Spanish by Luis Fonsi featuring Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee.
Some of the examples of the fusion of Bollywood and foreign musicians are:
1. Tata Young, Dhoom
2. Kylie Minogue, Blue
3. Akon, Ra. One
4. Snoop Dogg, Singh is Kinng
5. Rishi Rich, Hum Tum
It is important that something as precious as music should be protected and conserved. Intellectual property is the saviour.

Aspects of IPR related to Music:


In the music industry, in order to protect their work, they must obtain a copyright. Music has been around before anyone could obtain a copyright and after the invention of computer, it made it easier for someone to steal another artist’s intellectual property with the help of the internet. When the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted works created after January 1, 1978, are automatically given statutory copyright protection for life of the author plus 70 years[i]. For someone to go against the rules of a copyright this is called a copyright infringement.


[ii]A trademark is a type of intellectual property consisting of a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others, although trademarks used to identify services are usually called service marks. The trademark owner can be an individual, business organization, or any legal entity. For the sake of corporate identity, trademarks are often displayed on company buildings. It is legally recognized as a type of intellectual property.
The question arises that why is the role of intellectual property rights extremely important when it comes to the music industry:

1. Source of Income:

The main source of income for a musician or for the producers is via sales of their produced music or piece. The merchandise generates the most income where they value their piece in terms of monetary value for their work and creativity. The music industry is another type of “industry” where business is done. The artists and musicians have different businesses, better put it as more than one source of income which is because of the volatility of the industry. They also earn money by performing live and appearances. So, what is the role of IP in this source of income factor is the curiosity aroused. Put is straight away, music is their money earner, their music will work for them earning them money. When they produce a music or piece, they are creating a product out of their time, efforts, creativity and experience which is valued for monetary gains.

 If that music is been copied by anyone and sold, the product for which they were going to gain profit or on which they had rights is robbed. This is a theft of their production piece. Piracy is highly prevalent in the entertainment industry and especially in the music industry. Copyright, extremely important helps in protecting the musicians and the producers from being robbed. The recording studios usually hold the rights over the material and as they have the distribution rights. The major share is earned by them and at the same time the loss suffered is majorly felt by them.
 Copyright protection even protects the sound and the written work of the musician for the lifetime of the owner of the copyright and then an additional sixty years after the owner’s death. It is just like a security plan for any of your material. In the case of a group of owners, the sixty years are added after the passing of the last owner.
The materials in the Copyright protection radar includes books, songs, poetry, sound and video recordings, and more. For a music creative, this is extremely important. It serves as a proof of ownership and prevents producers and musicians from being robbed of their own work. It gives the right to the owner to claim rights for use of it.

2. Distribution and Broadcasting:

The music created by artist is not willed to be trapped with them just like a fixed deposit, left to be untouched and unobserved. The creative material created by the artist or musician is objectively made to be heard by the people across various platforms. Method of making it available to the people across various platforms is Distribution and broadcasting. Distribution is a way in which the material is made accessible to the consumers. This makes it possible for the music to be purchased in stores or downloaded or streamed online. Distribution companies sign deals with record labels, which gives them the right to sell that label’s products. 

Traditionally, the distributor takes a cut of income or commission from each unit sold and then pays the label the remaining balance. After the 20th century, the game of distribution has changed after the arrival of internet. Downloading brought radical changes to the music industry at the turn of the 21st century. Fans downloaded millions of tracks from a wide range of artists at no charge through companies. The composer can choose to broadcast his creation and distribute it as he is willing. This is a source of revenue for the composer.

3. Licensing and Assignment:

You would have heard the remix and recreations of old 90s songs. The song which was made in the 90s can be recreated by a person after taking the permission, paying the royalty charges to the owner. The songs of the independent singer’s and artist’s albums are used in the movies because it already has a fan base. Giving authorization for any person to make use of the composition can be done in exchange for money. This is part of a licensing agreement which helps the composer make maximum use of his creation. After the royalty charges are paid, with terms and conditions and certain limitations, song can be reused, recreated, and remixed.

4. Make it common:

The more the restrictions are placed on the material’s uses, the less it will be accessible and usable and in fact used by the people. The lesser the exclusivity the easier it is for customers to obtain. If you want to earn more money then this can be done. There are various songs used in the background music and memes. In the world of social media, memes are used where, certain songs are used extensively, making it available to every person penetrating deep into the ecosystem of consumers. For example: iTunes helps in collecting music by providing an easy platform to collect music. A percentage of the sales goes to the creator, this way all parties are benefitted.
With changing world which is dynamic in nature, the habits change, so do the ways of loot of creative pieces change. With each changing way of the working of the industry and the introduction of the trends, then the ways of protecting it too change. Changing with the waves and trends in the dynamic world is the key. 


[i] (Miller R. J., 2011, pp. 125-126)
[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark

Author: Saptak Pandya,The Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda 

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