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HC to decide if copyright can be claimed on traditional songs

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The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that it will soon consider if the reproduction of old traditional songs amounts to copyright violation and is liable for criminal action.

A division bench of Justices B P Dharmadhikari and Revati Mohite-Dere admitted a petition filed by lyricist and song writer Pramod Surya and two publishers Pukhraj Surya and Hiten Patel, seeking to quash an FIR lodged against them for copyright violation.

According to the petition, Pramod Surya had made a compilation of old Marwari and Gujarati traditional songs, sung during marriage and other ceremonies, and published them in two books.

In December 2014, one Ashadevi Sonigada had filed a complaint at the Malad police station here alleging that Pramod Surya and the two publishers had copied a song that she had already published in one of her books.

The high court, after hearing brief arguments, sought to know as to how copyright can be claimed on such songs.

“These are old traditional songs that have been played and sung at weddings and other ceremonies since generations. How can one claim copyright on it? This is like saying our national anthem and ‘Vande Mataram’ cannot be reproduced by anyone anywhere,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

While admitting the petition, the bench directed the police not to file its charge sheet in the case against the lyricist and the publishers.

“We will consider the issue whether reproduction of old traditional songs and compilation of such songs amounts to copyright violations and criminal action,” the court said.

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