ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Copyright in Classical Music

Composition and improvisation are the essential aspects of Indian classical music. Our copyright law frowns upon both.

In recent weeks, the Carnatic music world was jolted by a hypothetical controversy: an allegation, completely unfounded, that prominent Carnatic musicians were singing compositions of the 18th-century saint–composer Tyagaraja, who composed largely on Lord Rama, by replacing the word “Rama” with “Jesus.” As an intellectual property lawyer and a Carnatic musician, I found myself at the intersection of allegations of both, Christian “appropriation” and copyright violation. Copyright in musical and lyrical works extends for 60 years from the death of the author. Thus, the simple legal answer to whether changing Tyagaraja’s compositions constitutes copyright violations is that it doesn’t.

But, Indian classical music raises other deeper questions for copyright law.

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Updated On : 31st Aug, 2018
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