Credit for music scores remains a jarring note in Bollywood

LiveMint | 1st September 2023

While composers and lyricists are granted rights under the Copyright Act, legal experts point out that labels often manage specific agreements where they remain sole owners of the work in question

New Delhi: A recent social media uproar against audio streaming platforms that did not credit music composer duo Nadeem Shravan for old T-Series productions such as Aashiqui and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin has brought to light Bollywood’s mixed track record in this respect.

While composers and lyricists are granted rights under the Copyright Act, legal experts point out that labels often manage specific agreements where they remain sole owners of the work in question. While artistes and composers can take objection to not being credited, streaming services are under no obligation to change or incorporate details.

T-Series did not respond to Mint’s queries.

Music labels generally sign a music production agreement to record and produce songs. The composer of the music is included in the definition of “author” under Section 2 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and, as a moral right, can contest if he or she isn’t given due credits on the streaming platform if it is prejudicial to his honour and reputation. However, the explanation provided in Section 57 also states that “Failure to display a work or to display it to the satisfaction of the author shall not be deemed to be an infringement of the rights conferred by this section.”

“In the present example involving T-series, the movies and the music were produced by T-series, and therefore, T-series will remain the first owner of the copyright,” Gaurav Sahay, partner, SNG & Partners, Advocates & Solicitors said. The ownership of the copyright is subject to the arrangement between the composer, the producer, and the record label. However, in this instance, the record label is also the producer of both the movie as well as its music, and in consequence, it owns the copyright to the songs, Sahay pointed out.

Dhiraj Mhetre, partner, Khaitan Legal Associates said it is a common practice that music labels and film producers commission composers for music composition, known as ‘work for hire’, a concept recognized by the Indian Copyright Act. “Such contracts give the music label or producer all the rights in the works created by the composers. Such agreements generally have clauses which give the composers credit for their work, however, the same can also leave it to the final discretion of the music labels or producers. Accordingly, Nadeem-Shravan do not cease to be the composers of the albums; however, T-Series has the ability to decide if they can get credit for their compositions,” Mhetre said.

On the film producer and record label front, it is a common practice for authors to be asked to agree to contracts that involve waiving moral rights to their work and therefore not pressing for charges if the work is deemed distorted or mutilated in the future, said Priyanka Khimani, media and entertainment expert and founder, Khimani & Associates.

Distortion is especially common in cases where a song has been remixed or rebooted by a new artiste, Khimani explained.

In a recent case, music composer Uttam Singh accused the makers of period drama Gadar 2 of using his songs from the original film without his permission.

“Post the Copyright Amendment Act of 2012, a music composer enjoys the right to be credited for his original work as well as the right to protect the integrity of his creation. Distribution of a copyrighted work without valid consent of the author or licensee is in itself a copyright infringement. When a composer signs a contract with a music label or publisher, the terms of that contract will generally dictate the rights in the composition,” Meghna Mishra, partner, Karanjawala & Co agreed.

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