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Now it's Lahari and Akash
versus World Space

Two Bangalore labels complain that World Space has violated copyright by broadcasting their songs

After declaring war against Sony Music, Lahari Recording Company has taken on another global giant, World Space.

Mid-December, Lahari and Akash Audio, another Bangalore label, complained that World Space, the satellite radio with worldwide operations, had been broadcasting their Kannada songs without taking their permission.

Between them, Lahari and Akash Audio own the copyright for the music of nearly all Kannada films released in the last decade. Akash is run by Madhu Bangarappa, son of S Bangarappa, Congress MP and former chief minister.

Following the complaint, a police squad went to the World Space office at Shankaranarayana Building, M G Road, and inspected its records.

We spoke to Gopal Hosur, Deputy Commissioner of Police, on December 23 to find out the status of a case that has got the music and broadcasting industry agog.

"World Space has already been asked to furnish certain documents. But they have not responded so far. Due to paucity of time, we have not been able to follow it up... the case will be pursued and a chargesheet will be filed soon," says the man in charge of the case.

"Their executives say World Space only provides a platform and that the broadcasters are to blame," says Hosur.

What do the police think of such a line of defence? "Well, we have asked World Space to furnish copies of their contracts with the broadcasters, which they haven't done till now. However, according to available evidence, we have reason to believe that World Space abetted the crime, even if they claim they have not committed it."

"Available evidence" is a reference to programmes broadcast by World Space and recorded from the satellite radio by the complainants. World Space is broadcast on to special radio sets manufactured by companies like Hitachi and JVC. These are available at many outlets in Bangalore, and were promoted for a while at the ATM cash counters of a multinational bank. Ordinary radios cannot catch World Space broadcasts. The reception on World Space radios is disturbance-free, and salesmen selling them say they offer near CD-quality. World Space broadcasts in several languages, including many Indian ones.

"Using copyright material for a commercial purpose, without permission from the owner, is definitely an offence," says Hosur.

But satellite radio and copyright are not issues that come up before the police every day. Are they equipped to handle such cases?

"There are bound to be more such cases. We cannot take action until a complaint is filed, and it would help us a great deal to have advisors on issues like copyright infringement and Internet crimes... these are techno-savvy times," says Hosur.

Kavitha Srinivas

Read about Lahari's case against Sony Music

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