On Saturday, local musicians and music composers called upon fellow artistes, fans and media to support their fight against the widespread culture of music piracy in Bangladesh.
The call came at an event – Music Piracy in Bangladesh: Challenges and Remedy – organised by Bangladesh Copyright and IP Forum (BCIPF), Bangladesh Musical Bands Association (Bamba) and LCS (lyricists, composers, singers) Guild, held at the Edward M Kennedy Centre.
Representatives from various organisations attended, including LCS Guild’s President, singer and composer Alauddin Ali, BCIPF Chairman Kazi Zahin Hasan and CEO ABM Hamidullah Mizbah, Bamba President Hamin Ahmed, Co-President Fuad Nasser Babu and former president musician Maqsoodul Haque.
Haque said since 2007, major bands had stopped releasing albums because they were not given the proper rights to their music.
Music piracy in Bangladesh currently costs the industry $180m (nearly Tk14bn) in lost earnings, with only 5-10% of the total market consisting of legal music purchases, according to a 2008 research by Havocscope, a global black market data provider.
The debate swings both ways, with retailers often claiming they have full rights over the music, if it is bought by then from musicians. On the other hand, musicians and composers argue it is their creative and intellectual property, and so, the credit must be attributed at all times.
“Our right to creativity is absolute,” said Hamin Ahmed. “You must acknowledge the rights of the musicians. Just because we give them the rights to sell, [it] does not give them ownership over our work.”
Fuad Nasser pointed out that the battle against music piracy had been ongoing for a while now, “but no one has won so far.” He added that the existing laws could protect musicians’ rights.
“But we are not being able to emphasise strongly on these laws,” he said.
Speakers, however, lauded a recent report on the music trade by Channel 24, which documented details of how musicians are robbed of due credit to their music.
Hamidullah said Bangladeshi music was imbued with the spirit of liberation, and so performers from all fields must unite to fight this battle.
He said: “We cannot compromise on the existence of our music industry.”
Copyright Adviser Manzur Rahman focussed on the lack of awareness about the issue, and urged fans and the media to collaborate with the BCIPF to support artistes to retain their rights to their creative works.
Musician Manam Ahmed, who has been involved in the industry for over four decades, said: “You support us, and we will keep singing for our people. We will not stop.”
Responding to a query from an aspiring musician in the audience who had an unfortunate experience with a producer, artist and singer, Biplob said: “It is time for us to stand up and develop ourselves!”
Imran Rabbani, a musician who was involved in the industry for 10 years and was in the audience, said egos stood in the way of band members. “It often leads to tensions and makes it difficult for musicians to also deal with external problems.”
He added: “This battle of copyright needs to be fought globally, because the music industry has evolved from vinyl records to cassettes, to CDs and Mp3, and will continue to develop. If the big players do not take action globally, there can only be temporary solutions.”
Globally, the music industry is now dominated by digital music formats, revolutionised by Apple Inc with the introduction of iTunes and the iPod music player, which has negated the concept of albums and turned the focus on earnings from singles released by artists and bands.