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Amendment to Indian Copyright Act Passed In Parliament

Composers, lyricists and musicians to now get a share of all royalties

Shawn Fernandes May 23, 2012
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Lyricist Javed Akhtar, who has been spearheading the campaign to pass the Bill

The Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill 2012 was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, May 22nd, with all of Parliament united in their support of the bill that seeks to redress the imbalances in Indian copyright law, especially to songwriters, composers and musicians working in the Indian film industry.  The bill declares authors as owners of the copyright, which cannot be assigned to the producers, as was the practice till now. It will now be mandatory for broadcasters – both radio and TV – to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art was broadcast.

 The amendment also brings into place a ban on cover versions of any literary, dramatic or musical work for five years from the first recording of the original creation. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who pushed for the bill’s passage through Parliament, said that the new bill would ensure that artists are able to live off the proceeds of their work that until now had been completely appropriated by producers. Sushma Swaraj, current opposition leader and former Information and Broadcasting Minister, had said in news reports that film producers had lobbied her to oppose the bill but she decided to support it just as she had supported filmmakers when they had just causes.

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 Vishal Dadlani, Pentagram frontman and one half of film music producers Vishal-Shekhar said, “The new Copyright Law Amendment is a very welcome step, and will benefit everyone in the music business (including producers and music labels, whether, or not, they realise it yet). Before we get euphoric about it, though, I think it’s important to figure out and clarify the systems for collection and monetisation of the royalties that this law bestows. However, modalities aside, I’d like to convey thanks to all the Members of Parliament who voted to pass this Bill, especially Mr. Javed Akhtar and Mr. Kapil Sibal for empowering musicians/songwriters with dignity and recognition.”

Speaking on passing of the Bill, Shridhar Subramaniam, President, India and Middle East, Sony Music said, “This Amendment is an extremely positive move and we are very supportive of this bill. We are delighted that going forward the composers and lyricists will get a share in royalties. This was long awaited and we believe this will help the overall artist development and align us with global practices. We now need to wait for the law to be signed by the President and then begin the process of interpreting and implementing the new developments in a broad and consensual manner to develop healthy new practices. The only thing that we are disappointed with is not much has been done about the piracy issue that we all are struggling with and also the issue of statutory license for broadcasters. This is a matter between two businesses and should be negotiated between themselves.”

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 Interestingly, the late Bee Gee Robin Gibb who passed away this week was also part of the campaign to pass the amendment act. Gibb had written to Sibal two years ago as president of the Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), stating “Indian film producers exploit works of creators through blanket buyouts, depriving them of their rights to control further use or collect royalties. Indian movie and record moguls launched a relentless lobbying campaign against the proposed amendments after their approval by the Indian cabinet in December 2009”.

 Gibb became involved in the issue after hearing Javed Akhtar speak at the World Copyright Summit. “I have witnessed with great pleasure that India has taken major steps forward towards the recognition of authors’ rights, and I salute Javed Akhtar who has led the fight for this recognition,” Gibbs had said.


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