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Copyright Act: Rational Assumption Of Ownership Of Music Rights?

The baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. While the proposed amendments to the copyright act haven’t been made public yet, the HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, after a meeting with a committee of film producers, lyricists, music composers and labels, has stated that the amendments will “ensure that authors (lyricists and music composers) will not be able to assign intellectual rights to the film producer.” The reason: the prevailing situation in the film industry does not do justice to the creators of music, specifically lyricists and music composers. Sibal has said that the changes in the Act would be in accordance with the TRIPS Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights.

There are two ways of looking at this – the first is that lyricists and music composers will be able to monetize their rights for the entire span of the copyright period, and will be able to also make money from usage other than the film – Caller Ringback Tones, public performances, radio, TV, DTH, IPTV, Mobile TV, Mobile Radio etc. This provides them with an income over a longer period of time, rather than a one-off income.

On the flip side, one can argue that composers and lyricists own the copyright, and as owners of that property, they should have the right to sell it. This amendment to the copyright act can also been seen as a disabling provision, preventing artists from perhaps getting a lump-sum amount by selling the rights. Even if they need the money, they will not be allowed to sell the rights. For all you know, with long term rights coming in, earnings might be restricted to a trickle over a long period of time, even if in total, the returns are higher.

Our take is that the authors must be given the right to choose – whether sell the rights, or license it, instead of forcing them to retain ownership. What’s your take?

What’s Next? Is The  Committee Representative Enough?

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The committee that has been formed to resolve differences on this issue comprises of lyricists Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi, music directors Vishal Dadlani and Ram Sampat, Film makers Aamir Khan and Ramesh Sippy, script writers Anjum Rajabali and Saket Choudhary and music companies T-Series and Sa Re Ga Ma.

Shouldn’t the HRD ministry have an open process, and invite public comments from anyone and everyone on this issue, the way the TRAI approaches its consultation process? Why should the discussion be limited to a chosen few, large and influential entities, until after the bill is introduced.

Update: All is not hunky dory between committee members: According to Mumbai Mirror, actor Aamir Khan and lyricist Javed Akhtar disagreed about the importance of music composers and lyricists, with Khan taking the side of film producers.

What’s Next?
— Committee Meetings: Feb 28, March 2 and 3, 2010
— Introduction of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill: Budget Session of Parliament.
— Then the bill will be referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament
— The Standing Committee will hold public hearing and make suggestions.
— The HRD Ministry would examine the suggestions and seek Cabinet Approval
— The bill will be introduced in Parliament.

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