No thank you for the music

Arts & Culture Law

Independent artists stumble upon copies of their work used without credit on social media and other platforms.

Independent musicians, bands, and new entrants to the music industry do not register their work for copyright and then find that it has been used without credit to them. High financial expenditure and lack of clarity about copyright laws are the main reasons why they don’t file for copyright.

Chancing upon their work being used on social media and other platforms without credit is a common occurrence. Manuality (stage name), a member of the band Brainbow said, “I see my music published on Soundcloud, or uploaded on YouTube with some random pictures throughout the video.” And, it had been shared without credit.

“There is a common fear that someone will copy my music on the internet and I won’t know about it,” said Ashutosh Jamadagni, an independent musician from Bengaluru. The costs to hire a lawyer put Jamadagni off the legal recourse.

Aakash, a vocalist said, “Fortunately I haven’t had to go through anything like that, but getting legal aid for things like this costs a lot of money, and new musicians who are just entering the field cannot bear the cost.”

The story is a little different for the band The Cypher Project. They said that they have faced incidents wherein, their music was used for some content and then, it was attributed to them after a confrontation on social media. They added, “As the band is gaining popularity, it has been easier to deal with such issues.”

Shrija Verma, a lawyer who deals with media and entertainment law said, “There have been several cases where the artist or lyricist’s work had been used by well-known entities without attribution to the original creator.”

She added that it is important for artists to be aware of their rights. “In the era of connectivity and social media, it is difficult to keep track of every possible case of copyright infringement. It is always better to register one’s work under copyright to get better remedies under jurisdiction.”

However, there are new musicians or artists who prefer not to register their work under copyright through lawyers because the fee to register one’s work is quite significant. Rather, they prefer to market their art through distributors.

Shivam Kale, a musician from Mumbai, explained,“To register any song or work, we have to pay around Rs. 10,000. Budding artists don’t have that much money. So, another option is distributors. The distributors help us to distribute our work on various platforms, and we have to give a small amount of money to buy the package.”

Another reason for non-availment of copyright is the lack of awareness amongst them regarding copyright laws and their rights. Ashwini Arun, an IT lawyer said, “Artists have not been registering their work, and in most situations are also not aware of the kinds of works over which they may own rights and thus may be registered. Most artists do not know the effect of including copyright notice, and therefore do not even take simple steps like this which may be useful in establishing their rights over their original content.”

In this age of social media, there are other remedies such as these social media platforms having their copyright terms on which they censor contents. Manuality said, “There are artificial intelligent (AI) bots of big labels that skim through every music and if any pattern similar to their work is found, they force the distributors to delete the music from the platform. It however gets reinstated by contacting them but it can be a hassle and loss of revenue for streams during that time.”


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