Tracking copycats

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HEARD THIS? Karthik Srinivasan's website lists songs with lifted tunes
HEARD THIS? Karthik Srinivasan's website lists songs with lifted tunes

Meet Karthik Srinivasan, a music-lover, with a difference

It's a familiar feeling. You listen to a new film song, and you know you've heard it before. Sometimes, you can identify exactly which song it has been copied from. You discuss it over dinner with family or friends, you shake your head over the blatant plagiarism, and you proceed to forget about it. But Karthik Srinivasan doesn't. He collects all these instances of `inspiration' and puts them up on his website, along with sample clips of the original and the copy, in case you need to be convinced.You may have stumbled upon his site. It's called, and today, through that site, Bangalore-based Karthik has `tracked' over 510 different songs in different Indian languages, especially in Hindi and Tamil.

Musical network

Of course, spotting all these instances of plagiarism and tracing the original sources would have been impossible for one person. That's where the collaborative power of the Internet comes in. Once Karthik made a start and got noticed, emails began to pour in from film music lovers across the world who had heard similarities between songs. "Without these people sharing their knowledge, I couldn't have collected this huge wealth of information," says Karthik. Indeed, he says, since he began the website, he's been introduced to a whole new world of music beyond just Indian film songs. "Nowadays, I get a lot more excited when someone identifies an exotic source from a new country or genre," Karthik says. His fascination for tracking plagiarism came from his father who was a big fan of Latin and Spanish songs and would trace their similarities to Indian film music. But he really got going when someone emailed him information about two Middle-Eastern songs that `inspired' Nadeem Shravan's Dhadkan. "I searched online for the audio files of the originals and was zapped when I heard them. It was plain, blatant plagiarism," he recalls. "That's when I uploaded clips of the originals on a free server and posted the links in some music discussion forums." The rest, as they say, is history. Starting from Hindi music, Karthik began to collect information on regional music too, especially Tamil, since that's his mother tongue. Along the way, he's learnt to use his judgement in drawing a fine line between what he considers true inspiration and what constitutes outright plagiarism. For example, according to Karthik, most of Ilaiyaraja's inspirations from Western classical music are just that inspirations, which he differentiates from Anu Malik's direct two-line lifts. Music directors of the bygone era aren't safe from the plagiarism police on either, although finding samples of the original tracks can sometimes be quite difficult in these cases. R.D. Burman's songs have been discussed in detail, while Karthik considers a 1960s music director as a plagiarism pioneer of sorts in the Tamil film music industry. In recent times, he names a couple of composers as frequent offenders. Five years down the line, Karthik still receives five to 10 emails everyday from visitors. In his small way, the MBA hopes that he can raise awareness of plagiarism in the music industry. "Given our non-existent copyright laws, I don't think the site actually can help in settling copyright issues," he says. "But it sure can create awareness. It's up to people to decide whether such lifting is right or wrong."DIVYA KUMAR




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