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Indian Copyright Act 1958 Revisited
The Indian Music Industry is now faced with a shape-shifting issue pertaining to a proposed amendment to the Copyright Act
By Ria Shah
(more articles from this author)
2010-03-15
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The Indian Music Industry is now faced with a shape-shifting issue pertaining to a proposed amendment to the Copyright Act of 1958. The fruition of this bill would surely bring about a drastic change in the way creators and composers are remunerated for their works.

Our correspondent Ria Shah traced down the series of events over the years that led to the current scenario. To get the picture right we must take into account that music in India has been predominantly film led, and the practices followed within this fraternity have been exceptionally different than the more creator-friendly methods of the west. Typically, producers create the entire body of songs for a movie with the help of musicians, playback singers, composers and authors. The remunerative system so far has been wage-like where everyone is paid a certain agreed upon onetime fee for the work they contribute. The producer in turn sells all the rights to a music company. With an intention of generating profits and making a success of such film projects bought from these producers, the music companies invest in marketing this content. So far so good, everyone gets compensated for their inputs and the transaction appears clear.

About 2 years ago, singers had tried to form an association to protect their rights and seek recognition, but nothing materliased. Whether it was the fear of getting banned by composers or lacks of unity- the singing fraternity knows the best. They even opted out of the enraged association against music labels and licensing bodies for nonpayment f or royalty in India lately. May be the singers were not aware about such a stir or they knew it had nothing in store for themselves.

Seeing Music labels make money out of the works created by them, the authors and composers started expecting a share of this revenue. This led to a dispute between the two fractions and the collecting society Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) was formed in 1969 with an intention of protecting the interests of authors and composers. When IPRS went ahead to collect money from film producers for literary works, they were denied so. IPRS then filed a case against the film producers where they lost. In 1977, the Supreme Court under the jurisdiction of Jaswant Singh passed a judgment stating that in absence of a contract the producer is deemed as the first rightful owner of the rights.

Ria Shah was able to witness a copy of the MOU that was entered into by the IPRS and Indian Performing Industry (now IMI, the Indian Music Industry) in 1993, which confirms that Music Companies are the rightful owners of sound recording, publishing, mechanical and performing rights. IPRS and IPI agreed to part with 50% of performing rights royalty to the composers & authors (referred as ACs in the story) in the interest of encouraging them. In 1996 the government amended the copyright law and made IPRS the registered copyright society. The copyright act 1957 binds IPRS to be governed by the owners, which would be the music companies.

The IPRS Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2004 turned out to be malicious with ACs demanding royalties even from mechanical rights. The Music Companies were overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer number of representation from the ACs fraternity. Saregama filed a case against the ACs after their misconduct at this AGM. The court put a stay order on the IPRS AGMs for the next two years - Saregama won the case and as per the judgment stated that only the rightful owners of the content could be a part of the AGM and a person from the court would be a part of the AGM to ensure proper functioning of the AGM. The board of IPRS decided that 50% performing royalty to ACs would not be disbursed till they sign a letter of consent/acknowledge that implicitly states that Music Companies are the rightful owners of the content produced by the ACs.

Within the music fraternity there seems to be a feeling of confusion and furor. The composers and authors have come together to form an informal association that demand various compensations for their works. The initiative was headed by the veteran lyric writer Javed Akhtar with eminent music personalities like Jagjit Singh, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sameer, Lalit Pandit, Sanjay Tandon, Aadesh Shrivastav, Suleiman, Viju Shah & Raju Singh went knocking the doors of the Union Cabinet.

In part two of this article, Ria Shah will question veteran ghazal singer and composer, Jagjit Singh, renowned lyricist Sameer Anjan, music director Lalit Pandit of the famous duo Jatin-Lalit, CEO of Phonographic Performance Limited; Vipul Pradhan, CEO of Indian Performing Rights Society; Rakesh Nigam and Saregama Vice President A&R, Publishing & New Media; Atul Chuaramani to know their perception on the copyright amendment about to take place.


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