From allowing us to feel nearly or possibly all emotions that we experience in our lives to the songs we sing along to in the car, our favourite music has the power to bring us joy. To ensure the continuity of the music industry, the Copyright Act allows musicians to protect their original works, enabling them to control music distribution, usage and monetisation ensuring. Despite this, a lack of awareness has led to a rise in instances where singing reality shows, karaoke and radio stations use songs without the musicians’ knowledge, emphasising the need for greater awareness and respect for creators’ rights.
Music, paintings and intellectual drawings and literary compositions can be copied by someone without the consent or knowledge of the original composer. This is illegal as per the copyright act.
The Copyright Act of Bhutan 2001 gives exclusive legal rights to the creators over their original works in terms of literary works, films, musical compositions, and artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs, architecture, and sculpture. It allows the creators to control how their creations are used, distributed, and monetised.
According to the Copyright Act, any infringement if committed wilfully, or by negligence, and for profit-making purposes, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to one year or by a fine of up to Nu 1 M or both.
Since 2020, the Thimphu District Court has registered a total of five cases related to copyright infringement and piracy.
However, musicians in the country say the majority of people are not aware of copyright especially when it comes to music.
The musicians BBS talked to expressed concerns about infringement happening in singing reality shows, karaoke, and radio stations. They said there is a need for better awareness and respect for creators’ copyrights.
“So far, I have composed songs but there hasn’t been a single person who has sought my approval while using it. Even in reality singing shows, I have seen our tracks being used. Actually, in other countries, just to use the track of the creators they have to pay for it. But in our country even if it is not possible to pay, I feel it will be better if they can at least inform the rightful copyright owner but that is not happening and people freely use the music,” said Rigsel Wangchuk, a singer.
“When it comes to awareness of copyright, I feel there is a mix of both. There are people who are not aware of it and understand the concept of copyright. But at the same time, there are people who are fully aware of it and I must say they use it for their businesses. Therefore, I think it is very important to have a system where it actually protects creators and also rewards and safeguards them at the same time,” said Choeying Jatsho, a music producer.
“Without having our permission there have been a lot of songs covered and duplicated by using some software making it their own which is not at all right. By saying this, we are not trying to stop someone who is coming with their own talents and ideas, we really appreciate that part but he/she needs to understand that it’s somebody’s work,” said Ugyen Panday, a singer.
Violation of copyright hampers the growth of the creative industry.
“You must have heard about movies being shared illegally like on social media platforms such as Telegram, and WeChat, songs being used without the permission of the song owners. Movies are being downloaded and uploaded on private channels. These are all copyright violations if you strictly adhere to the Copyright Act. This kind of act is detrimental to the growth of the creative industry because when there is infringement, it discourages the creators to create further so, ultimately it hinders the cohesive growth of the creative industry in the country,” said Kuenga Dorji, intellectual property officer.
“If the copyright system is correctly in place and if we have one song that does really well suppose the radio, karaoke and the reality shows want to use that they pay a small reality then I am happy. Not only do I get acknowledgement at the same time I will be rewarded for that. That will push me to further to work on something even better than what I have just created. It is not only to me but for writers, musicians everybody else,” added Choeying Jatsho.
Meanwhile, several of the singing reality show organisers that BBS talked to acknowledged that the copyright system in the country is weak. However, they said they make an effort to consult with the rightful owners before using their music. On the other hand, some said that they use tracks easily available in the market.
According to the Department of Intellectual Property, the primary responsibility of enforcing the copyright act belongs to the copyright owner as the act is the government’s biggest support for the creators.
“It is the responsibility of the copyright owner to monitor and do surveillance of their copyright work. Many times, people think that the Department of intellectual property should be the agency going after the infringers but this is not true because we as an administrative body do not directly engage in enforcement right because we do not have the authority nor do we have enforcing rights to take up such operations,” added Kuenga Dorji.
Since 2012, more than 200 works have been registered by the creators with the Copyright Division of the Department of Intellectual Property.
To further enhance the awareness of copyright and related rights, the department is looking at effective enforcement of rights by creating robust awareness programmes for musicians, artists and the general public.
Despite challenges, people working in the music industry aim to strengthen the copyright system to protect their creations and make a positive difference. With better awareness and enforcement, they hope to foster the growth of the creative industry in the country.