The music company T-series has an interesting story. Once upon a time, Gulshan Kumar rose from being a mere fruit juice seller to a major music retailer. T-Series was built by stretching the legalities of copyright law in India. They took commercial songs, got it sung by several lesser known singers creating a ‘version recording’ of the song and sold them at much lesser prices. They had legal backup- the void in the copyright act, which allowed such ‘version recordings’ on the service of a notice on the rights holders and payment of a statutory compulsory licensing fee. Making hundreds of such ‘cover versions’, they often made more sales than the rights holders themselves!
It was only with the launch of ‘Hum aapke hain kaun’, when T-Series greedily went beyond its conventional piracy strategy and not only created a ‘version recording’ but also had the lead stars of the movie printed on its inlay card along with the title of the movie. Here trademark law stepped in for the rights holders where copyright law deserted them and as expected, T-Series was sacked. The business model of T-Series changed henceforth. Today, they hold thousands of copyrights on their name. They have even grown to be a full fledged film production company.
Now lets face the reality! It is truly ironic that a company that allegedly violated copyright laws to build his music empire, now leads the battle against piracy and copyrights infringement. They have raged a battle against youtube, myspace, ibibo- to name a few. It is to be understood here that transformative business models and services naturally offend copyright law! And copyright laws, no matter what they intended to be, have only increased monopoly to increase revenues for the people at top. Now it all boils down to one question- Hum aapke hain kaun? A past “pirate”? A present major music label ? Or a future roadblock to innovation?