In the ever-evolving realm of the music industry, copyright issues stand as a significant concern for artists, record labels, and digital platforms.

The harmonious interplay between creators’ rights and technological advancements has given rise to both opportunities and complexities.

This comprehensive article delves into the multifaceted world of copyright issues in the music industry, addressing the challenges, legal nuances, and protective measures that shape the landscape.

Copyright Issues in Music Industry: An Overview

Copyright issues in the music industry encompass a spectrum of challenges that arise when it comes to ownership, distribution, and utilisation of musical content.

From unauthorised sampling to streaming rights, these issues can impact creators’ income and artistic integrity. Let’s explore some key facets:

Navigating Licensing and Royalties

One of the foremost challenges in the music industry is navigating the intricacies of licensing and royalties.

Artists and record labels often grapple with questions regarding who has the right to use their music and how they are compensated for its use.

The Rise of Digital Streaming

The advent of digital streaming platforms has revolutionised music consumption.

However, it has also brought forth complex copyright challenges related to fair compensation for artists and determining the legality of streaming copyrighted content.

Sampling and Copyright Infringement

Sampling, the practice of incorporating portions of existing music into new compositions, raises significant copyright concerns.

Determining the boundaries between creativity and infringement can be a legal minefield.

Suggested Reading: Is Music Sampling Copyright Infringement?

Protecting Musical Compositions

Safeguarding musical compositions involves ensuring that the original creators receive recognition and compensation for their work.

This extends to preventing unauthorised covers, remixes, and adaptations.

Global Copyright Standards

Navigating copyright in a globalised music industry requires understanding international copyright treaties and agreements.

These standards influence how music is protected and monetised across borders.

Copyright Disputes in Music

Chuck Berry vs. the Beach Boys

The clash between Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys presents an intriguing episode in music history.

Chuck Berry’s iconic guitar riffs have frequently served as samples and inspirations for other artists. However, the Beach Boys took a rather audacious step.

They not only incorporated Berry’s guitar riffs but actually borrowed an entire song – Chuck Berry’s 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

This song was transformed with altered lyrics and released as “Surfin’ USA” in 1963 by the Beach Boys.

To avert a possible lawful conflict, the manager of the Beach Boys, quickly transmitted the publishing rights to Arc Music, which is Berry’s publisher.

This arrangement ensured that both Berry and Wilson received due recognition for their contributions to the song.

Though a full-blown lawsuit was averted, this incident marked one of the earliest and most notable instances of alleged plagiarism within the music industry.

Rolling Stones vs. the Verve

There is a clash between the Rolling Stones and the Verve. Back in 1997, the Verve came out with their song “Bittersweet Symphony.”

This track actually used a part of the 1965 Rolling Stones song called “One Last Time.” Now, here’s the twist: The Verve did get permission from Decca Records to use that part, but the Rolling Stones weren’t too thrilled.

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They argued that the Verve went beyond what they were allowed to do. On top of that, there were issues with the rights to the actual composition.

The Stones’ ex-manager, Allen Klein, wasn’t pleased either. He said that his company, ABKCO, owned the rights to the song.

Because of all this, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones were credited as songwriters for “Bittersweet Symphony.” And that’s not all – the Verve had to hand over $1.7 million in royalties.

This legal tangle went on for quite a while, showing just how complicated things can get when it comes to copyrights and the various rights tied to a single song.

Masakali 2.0 Controversy: Rights and Originality Concerns

The track titled ‘Masakali 2.0’ underwent a recreation and composition process by Tanishq Bagchi, without obtaining prior approval from its original creators – the composer, Mr. A.R. Rahman, and the writer, Mr. Prasoon Joshi.

The original rendition, ‘Masakali,’ found its place in the movie ‘Delhi-6,’ which debuted in 2009.

The reimagined version of the song was brought to life by T-series, the very same record label responsible for producing the original song in the movie ‘Delhi 6.’

This situation ignited a debate on the boundaries of a record label’s authority over a musical piece.

All individuals involved in the creation of the song, such as the writer of the lyrics and the composer, have their rights protected according to section 13(1)(a) of the Copyright Act.

In the context of initial literary creations, the singer’s rights are covered by section 38 of the aforementioned act, extending up to 50 years.

The release of ‘Masakali 2.0’ casts a shadow over the essence of Originality and its appreciative value, which forms the foundation of the Copyright concept.

The second provision added to section 17 through the 2012 amendment dictates that even if a musical composition is deemed commissioned or produced under a service contract, the composer retains the status of the primary copyright holder for the compositions integrated within a film.

As a result, T-Series lacked the authority to recreate the song without obtaining consent from Mr. A.R. Rahman, who holds copyright not only as the original composer but also as the producer of the initial ‘Masakali’ composition.

Consequently, unless he willingly transferred or licensed his copyright, the label was devoid of the right to remake the song ‘Masakali’ or grant authorisation to others for such a remake.

“Pandey Ji” from Dabbang

In this case, the claim is that the film “Pandey Ji” from the movie Dabbang draws inspiration from the song “Chalat Musafir” in the film TEESRI KASAM.

Musical compositions have evolved into a form of art represented through graphical notations, conveying musical ideas using visual symbols.

The composer serves as the originator of a musical piece.

However, delving into sound recordings leads us into the realm of copyright law, encompassing various forms such as songs with or without musical accompaniment, podcasts, audio content, and discussions.

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All these creations are safeguarded by copyright protection.

The role of a producer comes into play as the individual responsible for creating or owning a sound recording.

This extends to platforms like Spotify, podcasts, and all narrative content, which are also subject to copyright regulations.

Legal Battle Over “Stairway to Heaven” Allegations

Back in 2014, a lawsuit emerged from the estate of the late musician Randy California against both the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and their record label.

The focal point of contention was the legendary track “Stairway to Heaven.”

The copyright infringement claim put forth the argument that Led Zeppelin’s iconic composition bore striking similarities to the song “Taurus,” a creation by the 1960s group Spirit, in which Randy California held the role of lead guitarist.

The accused members of Led Zeppelin vehemently refuted these allegations. The lawsuit navigated its way through the intricate legal channels over the course of several years.

Two years prior to the present, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury’s verdict, affirming that “Stairway to Heaven” had not unlawfully drawn inspiration from “Taurus.”

Addressing the matter, Led Zeppelin’s frontman, Robert Plant, reflected in a 2021 interview on BBC Radio 4’s “Loose Ends”: There are countless songs that share the same chord progression, so it was an unfortunate situation, and it proved to be an uncomfortable experience for all parties involved.

Vanilla Ice’s Legal Clash Over “Ice Ice Baby”

Vanilla Ice, a rapper, argued that the beginning of his song “Ice Ice Baby” from 1989 wasn’t too much like a song called “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen from 1981.

He said he used a part of their song but changed it enough.

The lawyers for David Bowie and Queen didn’t agree with him. They settled the argument outside of court by giving some money to them and also giving them credit for writing part of the song.

Copyright Act’s Section 51: Addressing Breach of Copyright

Section 51 of the Copyright Act pertains to instances of copyright violation.

Should an individual wish to create a remix of an existing old song, certain procedures must be followed in accordance with the rights of the original author.

These steps include:

  1. Prior Notice of Intention: The person seeking to create a remix must provide advance notice of their intention to the original author.
  2. Advance Royalties: Royalties must be paid in advance to the rightful owner of the original work.
  3. Inspection of Accounts: The owner of the original work retains the right to scrutinise the financial records and accounts associated with the remix project.
  4. Launch Timeline: The launch of the remix is permissible only after a period of 2 years from the completion of the original work.

These regulations serve to maintain the rights and interests of the original creators while allowing for the creative transformation of their works through the creation of remixes.

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Authorised Individual

Individuals with rightful authority possess the ability to reproduce their original creations.

They also retain the freedom to sell and distribute their work across various formats, such as CDs, cassettes, and more.

Owner:

The originator of a creation is designated as its owner. The ownership of intellectual property, however, can differ based on the nature of the property and varying circumstances.

For instance, when a creation is produced for an employer, the copyright ownership may lie with the employer.

Creator:

An individual who brings about intellectual property is known as a creator.

For instance, in the realm of content creation, anyone who imparts information to various forms of media within a specific context is recognised as a content creator.

Author:

An individual responsible for generating original content in a particular medium, be it a book, journal article, computer program, photograph, artwork, or other forms of creative works, holds the title of an author.

Composer: Musical Notation

In the context of musical compositions, the word “composer” refers to the individual who created the music, regardless of whether they recorded it in a visual notation.

Authorised Individual:

This term refers to an individual or a legal entity that possesses legal recognition as the copyright owner of a safeguarded intellectual property right.

It encompasses successors in ownership, duly authorised exclusive licensees, as well as individuals, corporations, or associations authorised by any of the aforementioned parties to safeguard their rights.

Conclusion

Navigating the intricate web of copyright issues in the music industry demands a blend of legal acumen, creative ingenuity, and technological innovation.

As artists, labels, and platforms continue to adapt to a dynamic landscape, protecting creators’ rights remains paramount.

By staying informed, collaborating responsibly, and embracing emerging solutions, stakeholders can contribute to a harmonious and thriving music industry.

FAQs

Can I use copyrighted music in my YouTube videos?

Using copyrighted music without proper licensing or permission can result in content removal or copyright strikes. Consider using royalty-free music or obtaining the necessary licenses.

How can artists protect their music from unauthorised sampling?

Artists can register their copyrights, use licensing agreements, and employ digital tools that track unauthorised use of their music.

What is the “public domain” in music?

Music in the public domain is not protected by copyright and can be freely used by anyone. This typically includes music whose copyright has expired or was never subject to copyright.

Can I cover a copyrighted song and post it online?

Covering a copyrighted hit song may require obtaining a mechanical license, especially if you plan to distribute the cover on platforms like YouTube or streaming services.