Remixing an original soundtrack has been going on for a while. It has been described as “a reinterpretation of a pre-existing song, meaning that the “aura” of the original will be dominant in the remixed version”. With the advent of this new way of song-making, an interesting copyright law question has also emerged – who owns the copyright of a remixed song?
The copyrights laws of Bangladesh are governed by the Copyright Act 2000 (“the Act”). The term “copyright” means the right to copy or reproduce the work in which copyright subsists. The term ‘work’ (কর্ম) means any of the following, namely, (a) a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work; (b) a cinematographic film and (c) sound recording.
There is no copyright in a song as such because a ‘song’ is not one of the types of ‘work’ (কর্ম) in which copyright subsists. A song has its lyrics written by one and its music by another – its words have a literary copyright and so has its music (Section 15(1) of the Act). These two copyrights are entirely separate from each other.
In the context of music (as opposed to lyrics of a song), the term ‘musical work’ (সঙ্গীত কর্ম) means a work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work, but action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. The definition of ‘musical work’ (সঙ্গীত কর্ম) gives copyright protection to a musical work which has not been reduced to any material form.
The term ‘remix songs’ has not been defined in the Act. However, remixed songs may come within the ambit of ‘adaptation’ (অভিযোজন), which means, in relation to a musical work, any arrangement (বিন্যাস) or transcription (নকলj) of the work (Section 2(3)(Gha) of the Act). Adaptations of musical works are usually called arrangements. Copyright subsists in arranging music by adding accompaniments, new harmonies, new rhythm, and the like and transcribing it for different musical forces. Each such adaptation or arrangement may become a ‘musical work’ (সঙ্গীত কর্ম) provided there is sufficient element of intellectual creation or originality.
There remains, however, the obligation upon the remix musician to obtain copyright permission from the original composer of the music. If the original composer is dead, then the copyright shall vest in his legal heirs or representatives, if any. The effect of not obtaining the permission of copyright holder of the original music is that the copyright holder may issue civil proceedings against the remix musician by way of injunction, damages and/or accounts. Further, criminal proceedings may also be initiated against any person knowingly infringing copyright in a musical work.
Music business industry in Bangladesh has taken a positive turn with the arrival of various FM Radio stations where numerous remix songs are being aired regularly. It is important for these radio stations to know their exact legal positions before airing any remix songs, particularly, whether the remix musician obtained prior permission from the original composer of the music.
Written by Junayed Chowdhury, Managing Partner
† Disclaimer: The opinions and comments expressed in this Blawg are not to be regarded or construed as legal advice by and from Vertex Chambers or any of its members. It is highly advisable that any person should seek independent legal advice before relying on any of the contents of this Blawg.
 See http://remixtheory.net/?page_id=3/
 Section 2(11) of the Act
 Section 2(37) of the Act
 Section 15 of the Act
 Section 76 of the Act
 Section 82 of the Act