Music Industry and Copyright Law in India

18 Oct 2020  Read 7257 Views

Do you remember iconic songs like ‘Tamma Tamma’, ‘Badan pe Sitaarein’, and ‘Urvasi’ of 70s, 80s or 90s? These songs were the biggest hits of their times because of their eccentric dance moves and catchy music tunes.  Nowadays, we are witnessing the latest trend of remixes of these legendary old Hindi songs in Bollywood. Did you ever notice that the remix versions of these legendary old melodious songs are in violation of copyright laws or not? Or Does a person has the legal authority to launch a remix version of the song that is the original work of an author? 

The roots of Indian Copyright Law can be traced back to the colonial rule in 1847. In 1914, new copyright law was passed in India with a few changes or modifications that are as follows:

  1. Commencement of criminal sanctions or punishments in case of violation of copyright.

  2. It widened the term ‘copyright’ and modified it as a ‘sole right’ wherein the owner or author of original work has the right to reproduce, change, produce or publish a translation of work.

The legislation of 1914 continued till the introduction of new legislation in 1957 in the post-independence era. The new legislation altogether came to be known as the Copyright Act, 1957. Before the promulgation of the Act of 1957, the said Act of 1914 was prevalent, that was basically an extension of the British Copyright Act, 1911. 

Later on, in 2012, the Parliament passed the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2012 that was aimed at bringing the Indian copyright laws to the international level and in compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaties such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performance and Programme Treaty (WPPT). The changes brought by the 2012 amendment were:

  • Amendments in the right to artistic work like cinematograph films & sound recordings.

  • Amendments in compliance with WCT and WPPT.

  • Amendments in the mode of a grant of license and assignments.

  • Safeguards against internet piracy. 

Copyright Laws in India

Copyright is an exclusive right that the owner over their literary, artistic, dramatic, sound recordings, cinematographic works. It protects the creator's work from unauthorized duplication. Copyright law in India has its importance in all these fields:

  • Copyright in Literary works: Literary works are protected by copyright. Literary works include books, newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies, novels, software and programs, letters, e-mails, poetry, lyrics of songs, tables, dictionary meanings, and compilations (physical forms).

  • Copyright in Dramatic works: Dramatic works include dance, screenplays, ballets, operas, and many more. Copyright in the field of dramatic protects the original works of creators, composers, choreographers, dramatists, poets, authors who are the owners from replication of their work.

  • Musical work means a work which consists of music and it is made of a combination of graphical notations or graphic score that represents music through visual symbols. The author of the musical work is known as a composer. 

  • Sound recordings which comprises of any person’s speech, songs sung by any person with or without music such as any audio or any podcast. These are also subjected to copyright just like musical works.

Interplay between Remix- Copyright

Copyright in musical works where the original work of a composer is copyrighted raises an issue as to the legality of remixes of their songs. The Copyright Act does not define the word “remix”. Remix is nothing but an alteration of just the beats along with minor additions and subtractions to the lyrics of the song.

Consider an example of the famous song “Tamma Tamma”. The song was an iconic number. The same song is remixed and is seen in the movie “Badrinath Ki Dulhaniyaa”. The old song was altered with new beats and modern essence. Therefore, a major legal challenge is the protection of the authors rights of the remixed work while protecting the rights of the author of the original work at the same time with no violation of copyright law.

Protection to remix makers under the Copyright Act

According to section 51 of the Act, if any person infringes the right conferred upon the owner of the copyright, it shall be noted as an infringement. However, it will not amount to an infringement if:

  • A person copies musical work, artistic work, or any other work by giving a prior notice of his intention and pays advance royalty to the owner of the original work. Just like in the case of making the remix songs, royalties are paid to the author in advance.

  • The new work must not be marketed with labels or packaging that might mislead the public about the identity of the artist.

  • The new work should not be made until the expiration of two years after the end of the year in which the original work was made.

  • The author of the original work should be given the right to inspect all the books of account related to the new work.

It is clear that remix versions of the songs in a music industry require an equal number of protections as the original works when such remix versions are launched legally by following the above-mentioned guidelines. A major issue with “remixes” is the extent of original contribution in the adaptation of older work and even the amount of royalty has not been specified anywhere that leads to the payment of paltry amounts to the authors.


The copyright protection in general, for each and every original work of an author, is lifetime plus 60 years after his or her death and Section 51 of Copyright Act governs the copyright protection but there exists a requirement for amending the copyright law to make it more relevant to the age of remixes and serve the needs of both- owner or composer of the original song and the maker of the remix version of that song. It should identify the significance of technology and provide solutions for a proper statutory licensing system along with a proper fixation of the amount as royalties to be paid.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 32 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content writer at Finology Legal, pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) from ITM University, Raipur with core interests in criminal law and IPR and had also been a judicial aspirant. she pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune; and had also undergone training as a patent analyst under IIPTA.

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