India: Take A Look: Music On The Infringement Hook!

Last Updated: 6 July 2006

Music seems to be one of the most susceptible areas to copyright infringement. While the music of a movie is often its Unique Selling Point (USP), upcoming release, the music to the Bollywood "Aryan - the Unbreakable" seems to have landed itself into controversy. While singer Neha Bhasin (Plaintiff) claims to have sung the track "Ek look ek look", the music director Anand Raj Anand (Defendant No. 1) along with the producer Poonam Khubani (Defendant No.2) seem to portray a different picture.

The plaintiff claims to have been the lead vocalist, while the jacket /inlay of the Audio CD (containing three different versions of the song including a Remix and a Dhol version) credits her as a Backup Vocalist. She goes on to allege that each of the three versions has been recorded and is heard in her very own voice and not in that of defendant No. 2’s. As regards the credits, she alleged her voice to be "stolen", having been falsely attributed and held out as that of the producer.

In this regard, the plaintiff has moved to court to acquire a decree of permanent injunction, to prevent the use, sale, distribution and exhibition of the motion picture as well as its audiocassettes, compact discs, or promos without putting on view the plaintiff as the lead singer. The prayer further includes an order to prevent advertising and representing defendant no. 2 to be the lead singer. An order had been issued to prevent advertising the motion picture as well as its cassettes, CDs and promos containing the song "Ek look Ek look", without the name of the plaintiff being portrayed as the ‘lead singer’.

Defendant no. 1 approached the Plaintiff, through her manager. While she gladly accepted to sing for him, no remuneration was settled, prior to the first recording. Later, a series of recordings took place, the final version containing backup vocals and a RAP piece. The plaintiff claims to have learnt of the misrepresentation made, only when she saw the song on television. She confirmed the same on purchase of a cassette and an audio CD. In this regard, a notice was sent to Defendant no. 1. It was further stated that such an erroneous depiction was in violation of the performer’s rights in terms of the Copyright Act, 1957.

In pursuance of this notice, defendant No.1 and defendant No. 2 were called upon to give the plaintiff due credit on all entities bearing the erroneous representation apart from paying an amount of Rs. 10,00,000/- as damages towards loss of reputation and imputation of a bad name to plaintiff. A written apology was also to be submitted.

Defendant no. 2 left the notice unanswered. Defendant no. 1 in his reply stated that the plaintiff was invited for an audition, after which subsequent auditions were carried out. He stated that it was decided that Defendant no. 2’s voice be used.

Replying to the matter of the use of the plaintiff’s voice in the final version, defendant No. 1 attributed it to being a result of "inadvertence". The statements contained in the plaint were said to be of material importance and were carefully scrutinized by the Court. He did not offer any written apology either.

The plaintiff responded through a rejoinder, giving details of the earlier notices. Therein, she also stated that defendant No. 1’s claim of the lot of cassettes and CDs had been stopped from entering the market and that an attempt to call back those floating there were stated to be false. This was stated on the basis of the promos being continuingly aired on various channels and the CDs and cassettes freely available in the market. With regard to remuneration, it was stated that where the plaintiff’s voice was borne, irrespective of the fact that due credit was given or not, the plaintiff was entitled to remuneration, compensation and accreditation. Further in the absence of defendant No. 1 tendering an apology in public, they stated that they were forced to seek civil and criminal remedies. In this pursuit stood the present suit.

Lacking an apology or compensation, the suit at hand prayed for an ex-parte ad interim injunction. In response to this prayer, defendant No. 1 and defendant No. 2 filed a joint written statement, which was in consonance with their earlier statement. A brief background of a recording process was also rendered in the statement. In this regard, the vocalist spoke of the two voices being layered, to enable the lead singer’s as prominent as compared to those of the back up vocalists. Stating these details, defendant No. 1 contended that the sound engineer had overlapped the two voices. In certain layers, they claimed that the voice of the plaintiff still appeared on the background. The recording of the song though prior to the suit had been altered only to contain defendant No. 2’s voice. Defendant No. 1 and defendant No. 2, in this regard, relied and referred to the affidavit filed by the Sound Engineer deposing to the use of the technology with special reference to the song. The use of a plaintiff’s voice as a back up vocal was stated to be the cause for her name to appear as a back up singer.

The affidavit further stated that two recordings were sent with instructions to make a master setting out Defendant no. 2 as the lead singer, while Plaintiff as the back-up artist. Further, a reference was made to the two annexure, including a CD labeled ‘Original CD’ containing the plaintiff’s and Defendant no.2’s voice.

Another affidavit filed by the defendant stated that the voices of three female back up vocalists, instruments and male voices had been mixed along with that of Defendant No.2. This version was stated to incorporate the voice of defendant No. 2 alone and not that of the plaintiff. An agreement between Defendant No. 1 and the female back-up vocalists was also submitted to substantiate this contention.

The Court further calling for clarification, called for the sound engineer to be present in the court. The presiding Judge, clarifying his doubts regarding recording methodology, asked the sound engineer to submit two CDs containing only the voices of the plaintiff and defendant No.2. The same were handed over promptly the very next day.

The Court held that the defendants had stepped – up a two-pronged defence: one being based on facts and the other founded on law. While Defendant No. 1 had spoken of an "inadvertent overlapping", the affidavits filed, either by him or the sound engineer did not throw any light on such a blunder having been committed. On the contrary, a proposition of having been forwarded two recordings with instructions to use defendant No. 2’s voice as the lead while that of the plaintiff’s as a back-up artist was made. As stated in the written statement and the affidavit, the voice of the plaintiff in the song was a conscious design, with elements of the plaintiff’s voice being projected and that of defendant No.2’s being prominent. The representation on the inlay card of the CD was held to be correct and the assertion regarding an "inadvertence" having taken place was negated.

The Court shifted focus to the question of the lead voice being defendant No.2’s or not. Paying keen attention to the sequencing of the song and then comparing the vocals, it was observed that the word "sajNa" used in the song was sung in a radically different style. Defendant No.2’s rendition was not the projected voice in the CD. The Court comparing the two voices and lyrics under the microscopic eye, was convinced that prima facie the plaintiff had sung all the three versions of the song, and that defendant No. 2 was wrongly projected to be the lead singer.

A new CD was produced to circumvent the orders of the court. Herein, no ID tags or titles were given to the songs. On further perusal, the inlay card was found blank while the T.V. promos were still being aired. The song being in the plaintiff’s voice was yet contended to be that in the defendant’s. An ambiguous idea regarding the forthcoming lots of cassettes and CDs was given. Questions regarding this were left unanswered. There seemed to be no evidence regarding the CDs being called back. The song having gained popularity all over the country, the Court stated that the act of introducing a New CD without acknowledging the mischief and injury to the plaintiff would be like piling insult over the injury.

The Counsel for the defendants contended that there existed no contract between the plaintiff and the defendant and that the regulations under the Copyright Act, 1957 would also be inapplicable, in the absence of a registered copyright. Performers rights were also said to be applicable only with respect to live performances and not recorded songs.

The court referring to performers’ rights as stated in the Copyright Act, 1957 referred to the definition of "performer" and "performance" as under Sections 2 (q) and Section 2 (qq) respectively. Further, a reference was made to Section 70 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Taking aid of the judgment delivered in State of W.B. v. B.K. Mondal and Sons (1962 Supp (1) SCR 876), and then Suresh Jindal v. Rizsoli Corriere Della Sera Prodzioni T.V. (1991 Supp (2) SCC 3), and considering the averments made, the Court held the plaintiff entitled to an interim order restraining the defendants from using, selling, marketing the motion picture as well as the cassettes, CDs, promos etc of the movie containing the song in issue in any of the three versions, as in the original CD. The Court further provided that in case the new CD was to be marketed, then wide publicity would be given via all media giving due credit to the plaintiff. They were also ordered to prepare a statement indicating the number of copies of the original CDs produced, released and the number recalled, within four weeks of the order.

When it comes to infringement in the music industry these discordant notes somehow need to be tuned in sync with the law. As technology sophisticates, competition rises and IPR awareness grows, it seems the music industry shall be increasingly under the spotlight.

© Lex Orbis 2006

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.