Topic: Cover Versions songs - Copyright Amendment Bill 2012

The Copyright Amendment Bill 2012 brought about the following changes, which make it more difficult to produce cover versions:

1) Time period after which a cover version can be made has increased from 2 years to 5 years.

2) Requirement of same medium as the original. So if the original is on a cassette, the cover cannot be released on a CD.

3) Payment has to be made in advance, and for a minimum of 50000 copies. This can be lowered by Copyright Board having regard to unpopular dialects.

4) While earlier it was prohibited to mislead the public (i.e., pretend the cover was the original, or endorsed by the original artists), now cover versions are not allowed to "contain the name or depict in any way any performer of an earlier sound recording of the same work or any cinematograph film in which such sound recording was incorporated".

5) All cover versions must state that they are cover versions.

6) No alterations are allowed from the original song, and alteration is qualified as ‘alteration in the literary or musical work’.

7) So no imaginative covers in which the lyrics are changed or in which the music is reworked are allowed without the copyright owners’ permission. Only note-for-note and word-for-word covers are allowed.

8) Alterations were allowed if they were "reasonably necessary for the adaptation of the work" now they are only allowed if it is "technically necessary for the purpose of making of the sound recording".

This ignores present-day realities. Kolaveri Di was covered numerous times without permission, and each one of those illegal acts helped spread its popularity. The singers and producers of those unlicensed versions could be jailed under the current India Copyright Act, which allows even non-commercial copyright infringers to be put behind bars. Film producers and music companies want both the audience reach that comes from less stringent copyright laws (and things like cover versions), as well as the ability to prosecute that same behaviour at will. It is indeed ironic that T-Series, the company that broke HMV’s stranglehold over the Indian recording market thanks to cover versions, is itself one of the main movers behind ever-more stringent copyright laws.