Singapore: When Music Artists Can No Longer Sing The Same Tune

Last Updated: 18 October 2019
Article by Gretchen Su

The multi-million dollar award issued against Katy Perry for copyright infringement in her chart-topping hit “Dark Horse” now has many music artists on edge. With the spotlight now on legal issues in the music scene, music artists need to become aware of legal pitfalls which could waylay their best-laid plans.

“Us against the world”

Starting out, most artists have limited repertoires of original works and usually perform covers of famous hits to build a following. Many, however, do not realise that they need to obtain licences from collecting societies to perform cover songs each time they perform a live gig or post a video on social media platforms.

Even after having created their own original compositions, music artists may find out the hard way that their signature song is not as 'original' as they think. Sobering lessons on copyright infringement abound, from the sampling of a few bars of music in The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, "subconscious copying" in George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, or even mere musical inspiration or influence in Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams. Popular artists such as Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith have since tried to pre-empt or settle copyright infringement claims by crediting writers of 'sound-alike' songs.

“Rage against the machine”

A professional record label or savvy agent can clear the path and prime an artist for success by managing permissions and licences, shouldering risk, and undertaking distribution and promotional activities.

However, they can sometimes be the artist’s worst enemy, as may be seen from Taylor Swift’s bitter struggle with her former record label, which held the rights to her earliest albums. Despite her enviable financial resources and bargaining power, she failed to seal a deal for the rights to be assigned back to her.

With management agencies and record labels holding the keys, it is easy for young and inexperienced artists to feel powerless, angry but resigned to signing their rights away in exchange for a chance at a major label debut.

However, with the rise of digital platforms such as Spotify and TuneCore, artists now have an opportunity to self-publish music and take matters into their own hands, even as they balance the benefits of autonomy carefully against the loss of having professionals and industry heavyweights supporting their career.

For such independent artists, social media platforms are a cheap and effective way of promoting their work and building a fan base. However, artists should always pay attention to the terms and conditions before posting their musical works.

Typically, an online platform such as YouTube or Facebook is granted a licence to use content posted by any user, and the usual ways of terminating the licence are by deleting that content or by terminating the user account permanently. It is difficult to control the use and reproduction of content once posted online and it often becomes a case of 'whack-a-mole' for anybody trying to police unauthorised infringement.

Certain platforms have particularly egregious terms and conditions, notably TikTok, which expressly warns users not to post commercial content because user content on TikTok is fully open to reproduction, adaptation and modification by all users in any format and on any platform.

“You’ve got a friend in me”

Friends, business partners, creative muse and family all rolled into one, bands have an additional complication to handle – their relationship vis-à-vis one another.

One of the first things they need to come to terms with is that they may not have equal rights to their music. Getting songwriting credits doesn’t just mean recognition as a creator, it also means an entitlement to creator royalties. A band member who only plays the music will be entitled to less royalties than the band members who also write the lyrics or compose the music. However, if the band is an equal partnership with each member improving the song as they practise and rehearse the song together, they could agree on co-ownership over the work.

Bands which are serious about turning professional would also do well to enter into a band partnership agreement. This will deal with issues such as ownership of the band name, money management, major decisions that require majority vote or unanimous vote, and most importantly, consequences of members leaving the band.

Save for precious few examples such as Aerosmith or U2, which have enjoyed longevity with the same line-up over decades, instances of members leaving the band are so common that it would be foolish not to plan for it. Uncomfortable issues are best not left until members are no longer on speaking terms. Does the band retain the right to the band name and to play the same songs? What if the departing band member was the key songwriter or is leaving for another band?

These issues may well dampen a budding artist’s enthusiasm, but armed with talent, passion and good legal advice, the music scene is still alive and well for those who have the thirst for success.

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.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions