by Arpan Banerjee, Jindal Global Law School (India)
from Volume 5, Issue 1 (Spring, 2015)
Abstract: This article traces the history of how Western rock musicians and hip-hop musicians, separated by many decades, have borrowed elements from Indian music. Conversely, the article also discusses how Indian film music composers have frequently, and rather blatantly, copied Western melodies. While cross-cultural borrowing raises complex socio-political questions, this article focuses on some practical legal questions that arise from such borrowing. The article discusses lawsuits filed by artists in India and the United States — from a much-publicized lawsuit against Dr. Dre by the Indian film music composer Bappi Lahiri, to a more recent lawsuit against another Indian film composer by the Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt — and compares Indian and US law on musical and sound recording copyright infringement. The article also discusses legal strategies that might be employed by litigants in India. The article argues that, contrary to popular perception, plaintiffs in India enjoy a number of advantages.