Violation Of Moral Right In Light Of ‘Ghar Se Nikalte Hi’- Will This Be An Eye Opener For The Trend Of Remixes?

Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.” [1]

The foundation of this concept was laid in the case of Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India[2]. This was a landmark judgement delivered by the Delhi High Court thereby setting precedent and contributed in increase in understand and scope of moral rights given under Section 57[3] of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. Moral rights are generally meant for protecting the work of the author and maintaining its integrity which essentially means preventing it from getting mutilated or distorted or altered in any undesired manner which may result in hampering the image of the author or its use in such a way that it may hurt the sentiments of the author.

The latest Bollywood glitch between Javed Akhtar and Armaan & Amaal Malik has been with respect to the same. The renowned Bollywood lyricist Mr. Javed Akhtar has issued legal notice against Armaan & Amaal Malik and Super Cassettes Industries Pvt. Ltd., for violation of his moral rights by recreating the song ‘Ghar Se Nikalte Hi’. It is alleged by Mr. Akhtar that the newly created version has used the original “mukhda (first stanza)” of the song repetitively. Although it is combined and mixed with different composition and different lyrics, the essence of the song remains the same. Mr. Akhtar further claims that the new version infringes his “moral rights” under Section 57 of the 1957 Act and aggrieved by the fact that ‘Kunaal Verma’ has been credited as sole author for the recreated version denying Mr. Akhtar, his statutory right of authorship.

There is no doubt that ‘Mukhda’ is the soul& essence of a song to which we all shall agree and so Mr. Akhtar has every right to be identified and credited for the same, especially when the original track bears his name in bold. Further, the fact that his right to royalty (Section 18[4] and 19[5]of the 1957 Act) in respect of using of lyrics which were originally given by him, has been jeopardized as they will not be able to receive royalty without the recognition of authorship. Even the Apple’s Itunes does not recognize him as the original lyricist which has further aggravated the entire situation.

However, the anomaly which can be observed in this notice is that it has been issued to Armaan Malik, who merely is the performer and singer and had nothing to do with the authorship of the song and in my opinion, it should have been issued to lyricist of the new version who has in fact distorted the entire song. Other shortcomings of the legal notice may be that-

  • There was no legal notice issued to Apple’s Itunes for having failed to mention Mr. Javed Akhtar as the lyricist of the song, although they have specifically violated Section 52-A[6].
  • Legal Representative of the author can exercise the rights conferred upon the author of a work, other than right to claim authorship of the work. The proper body to allege on the recreated version as trying to escape the payment of royalty is IPRS (Indian Performing Rights Society), to whom Mr. Akhtar has assigned his rights.
  • Notice issue to Armaan Malik for simply making a public comment on You Tube page in which he failed to acknowledge the original authors seems senseless and baseless.

There have been several cases with respect to moral right &recreated versions, but a penumbral area exists as nowhere the term ‘recreation’ has been defined in the 1957 Act per se, but if we go by the definition of the word ‘adaptation’, Section 2(a)includes in relation to any work, any use of that work involving in its alteration and rearrangement. Section 14 also confers such type of right to the owner of any literary, dramatic artistic or musical work. If we comply with these provisions, then T-Series, being the owner of the original work has the right to make an adaptation or recreated version. But the question arises that whether recreation of original work amounts to violation of moral rights of the original authors of that work?

Section 57[7]of the 1957 Act provides two rights to the author i.e., of paternity (right to claim authorship) and integrity (to claim damages for any mutilation, distortion, modification of the work prejudicial to his honor or reputation). These rights are also protected under Article 6bis [8] of the Berne Convention where under the right to Paternity, author can claim due credit for any of his work.

But the catch here is that Section 57 protects the right of authors only when it is established that the alteration or modification of the work is prejudicial to author’s reputation and also there is some relation between the original and recreated work. This view has been reiterated by the court in Manu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures.[9]

From Amarnath Sehgal’s case[10] the Indian Copyright legislation has moved further on broadening the scope of artist’s reputation and interest and the outcome of present matter will also add up to it.

With respect to integrity rights, I am of opinion that on comparing and reading the lyrics of original and recreated version there is nothing dishonorable or prejudicial which can damage the reputation of the original authors. If this is treated as violation of moral rights, it would send a signal of warning for music industry and the trend of making remixes. As nowadays with increase in number of remixes or recreated versions, this issue of moral right will be one of the major debates in India and even though it remains unsettled, it is essential to protect the interest of original writers so that their music does not wither away with the modern remixes.

Author: Prashant Arya, Intern at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at swapnils@khuranaandkhurana.com.

References:

[1]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27(2)

[2]Amarnath Sehgal v. Union of India,2005 (30) PTC 253

[7]Supra, fn.4

[8] Independently of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation.

[9]Manu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas Pictures,AIR 1987 Del 13

[10]Supra, fn.3

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