Shehzad Roy sends legal notice to beverage company

Intellectual property rights

ISLAMABAD: Renowned singer and musician Shehzad Roy has sent a legal notice to Coca Cola company and Soho Square advertisement company for infringement of intellectual property rights as Coca Cola has an unauthorised use of his song ‘Laga Rahe’ in its advertisement campaign.

Referring to his legal notice, Roy from the opening lines of his popular song ‘Laga Rahe’ said that, “Mujhay fikar sirf yeh nahi ke Coca Cola nay kya kiya, Mujhay fikar yeh hai ke kahien aisey hee na karta rahay.” (I don’t care what Coca Cola Company did, but I am worried if this attitude may not kept going unchecked.”

As per details of this matter Coca Cola Export Corporation Company for the advertisement of its product ‘Sprite Refreshment 2017’ acquired the services of Soho Square ad agency. The said agency then approached Shehzad Roy and his team expressing its willingness to use his song ‘Laga Rahe’ for the campaign. Both parties then started working on agreement for mutual understanding.

As per Shehzad Roy, Soho Square and his team had exchanged drafts of the tentative agreements but the final contract with Soho Square had not been concluded and signed, owing to the fact that Roy had to further review and revise a few clauses. In addition, Roy’s team had also strictly conveyed to Soho Square that since the licensed song contained a very powerful sociopolitical message, it must not be distorted in any way or conceptually changed for the advertisement campaign. Roy’s team also stressed that Soho Square must have to get an approval from Shehzad Roy for the concept of the advertisement before using the licensed song for the advertisement.

Despite all these pre-conditions, Soho Square and Coca Cola Company went ahead and developed the advertisement of the brand ‘Sprite’ with the licensed song even though Roy was still reviewing the agreement. “To our shock and surprise, the said advertisement was aired on all TV channels, on the instruction of Coca Cola Company, and was repeatedly, vigorously and heavily displayed for a continuous period of (7) seven days i.e. from 3rd April, 2017 to 9th April, 2017. To add insult to injury, the powerful sociopolitical message contained in my song was completely distorted through the visual representations contained in the advertisement. To stress once more, both these violations occurred without my consent,” Roy said and added that it was obvious that the use of his licensed song by Soho Square and Coca Cola Company for the purposes of the advertisement campaign of the brand ‘Sprite’ constituted a violation and infringement of his intellectual property rights. Both Soho Square and Coca Cola were equally responsible for this infringement since Soho Square developed the aforementioned advertisement on the instructions of Coca Cola Company.

After the ad campaign was launched, Shehzad Roy team expeditiously informed Coca Cola Company regarding the violation contained in the aforementioned advertisement, but Coca Cola Company failed to ensure that the advertisement would be taken off air immediately. Instead, the Coca Cola Company deliberately, willfully and in collusion with Soho Square continued to display the said advertisement with his song for a few more days, during which time the Coca Cola Company continued to benefit from the display of this advertisement. The fact that the advertisement with song was halted from display after 9th April, 2017, confirms that both Soho Square and Coca Cola Company accept and admit their liability of intellectual property rights infringement.

Roy said that he made ‘Laga Reh’ in 2008 to highlight the injustices in Pakistan but he could never imagine that this same song would become a victim of injustice later on.

He is quoted as saying, “In this last decade, I’ve stood up against many social injustices but when my own intellectual property (IP) rights were violated, I was advised by my friends and colleagues not to get into a legal battle with a giant corporation like Coca Cola Company. They felt that powerful individuals and organisations in Pakistan get away with illegally occupying people’s material property, so what hope would I have with claiming my intellectual property rights. But such arguments have only motivated me further to take up this case and fight for my rights, so no other artist in Pakistan has to face such blatant intellectual property rights infringement again. Corporations like Coca Cola are very cautious with intellectual property rights issues in western countries and even in India because they know they will be held accountable for any infringements. Yet these same corporations act with complete impunity in Pakistan, believing that they are above the law and can get away with any infringement of intellectual property rights. Such an abuse of the basic rights of artists has resulted in a decay of the arts, which are a hallmark of Pakistani culture. Hence, this is no longer only a personal fight for me but is a fight for the basic right of every artist, writer and performer in Pakistan”.