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Vol. 10 (2014)

Of Bollywood Songs, Film Producers And Collecting Societies: Locating The Rights Of The Composers

Poorna Mysoor

Bollywood films are known for their songs, and in many cases Bollywood films are known because of the songs. It is not merely in Bollywood films that songs have a significant role, but also in the lives of myriad composers, lyricists, singers and so on, lending an opportunity for their creative expression in addition to serving as a means of livelihood. Ideally, it should be possible for composers to be able to earn an income by composing music for films, as well as by being a member of a collecting society in such a way as to maximize their returns. From the bundle of rights they have, the composers should be able to transact with both the producers and the collecting societies, but with rights that do not overlap. However, in reality the rights could get tangled in a legal quagmire between the collecting society and film producers, as each demands exclusivity. The article is an attempt to show how the rights of composers is meddled with by both the film producers and the collecting societies, leading to gross unfairness in the distribution of the returns from exploitation of their rights. To this end, the article examines the UK Court of Appeal decision in B4U Network (Europe) Limited v Performing Rights Society Limited, which upheld the rights of the collecting society, and compares it with the Indian Supreme Court decision in Indian Performing Rights Society v Eastern India Motion Pictures, where the rights of the film producers was upheld. This article then goes on to examine what it means to the composers if the film producers’ rights trump those of the collecting societies. The article also explores how the amendments introduced to the Indian Copyright Act in 2012 address the situation.


DPhil student at the University of Oxford.

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