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IPRS CEO Rakesh Nigam: livestream tariff to be rationalised, free performances won’t be charged

Following an uproar over livestream tariffs announced earlier this month by the Indian Performing Right Society, the copyright union has withdrawn its order, and will revise the tariffs, IPRS CEO Rakesh Nigam confirmed to MediaNama in an interview (below). The tariffs, which would have charged performers Rs 20,000 for performing music by IPRS members, will now be revised to no longer require licenses for free performances. As for ticketed or sponsored livestreams, IPRS is holding consultations with industry bodies to finalise a rationalised tariff, Nigam added.

UPDATE (July 25): IPRS has issued a press release announcing what Nigam told us, and added that free performances online will not be charged as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues. The collective added that devotional, classical and folk music concerts will not need a license either.

An edited version of our conversation with Nigam.

MediaNama: Do artists or organisers livestreaming on Facebook and YouTube (Google), which have signed licensing agreements with IPRS, have to pay this fee, or do the agreements signed with these platforms cover such performances?
Rakesh Nigam: Anything which is free on YouTube or Facebook is covered. That is why we clarified. But anything that is paid, where the audience pays, is excluded from the deal.

MediaNama: When the document had come out, it said free performences were covered as well, with a rate of Rs 20,000.
Rakesh Nigam: The tariff has been withdrawn, because we are coming out with a revised tariff. We had discussions with the Event and Entertainment Management Association. We will come out with the revised tariff in the next one week.

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MediaNama: Would the tariff apply to individual artists live streaming their own music, whether or not the rights belong to a label?
Rakesh Nigam: By artists, if you mean singer, he’s obviously not the creator of his own music; the lyrics and music are written by someone else. The singer is giving his voice to it. If the lyricist, composer or publisher is not a member of IPRS, or if the music is independent, we don’t charge for that. We only charge on behalf of our members.

Artists are singers, so they are not an author-composer. Even if a composer is a singer and he performs someone else’s music, and the lyrics are not his, and the publisher is someone else, he will have to get a license.

Let’s take the example of cinema. If you sing a song from Kurbaan, you go to the composer. But someone else has written the lyrics, and Sony Music is the publisher

MediaNama: What is the timeframe for granting the licenses?
Rakesh Nigam: I think maximum, it will take 24 to 72 working hours depending on what kind of license is being asked, whether they want concessions for reasons like doing a charity event.

MediaNama: Is there going to be a mandated time frame? One of the concerns we are hearing from artists is the fact that having to go and get a license and negotiation with a label is time consuming for them. Is there any standardisation you’re looking at?
Rakesh Nigam: I can only talk on behalf of IPRS. If you have to clear some rights from the label, that is not in IPRS’s purview.

MediaNama: On that note, why are synchronisation licenses required? Why can’t you have a plug-and-play system that integrates both licenses?
Rakesh Nigam: Globally synchronisation licenses are not handled by any performing rights society, because these are rights which are granted by the individual music owners. All across the world, these rights are managed by the owners themselves, because these are individual rights.

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MediaNama: For cover performances, let’s say there’s an artist who is not associated with the song in any way, and they are covering a song that already exists. How will the fee you collect be distributed among IPRS members when the rights are spread across different labels?

Rakesh Nigam: This is a good question. When a singer sings a song, for us, whether the original guy sings it or someone else does, for us whatever is collected, we will split it between the music publisher, the composer, and the lyricist. The label is the publisher; in the western world, those are two separate entities. But in India, most music is from films, so these two are the same entity.

Whatever we collect, 50% goes to the music company (the publisher), 25% as per law to the composer or composers, and 25% to the lyricist.

MediaNama: When you’re granting these licenses, what mechanisms are in place to assure transparent allocation and enforcement?
Rakesh Nigam: This is generally what happens: we always push anyone who is a user of music to please give us the log [a record of what is scheduled to be performed]. Once you give the log, only then can we make the correct decision.

MediaNama: How is that log compiled? I’m guessing it’s a little more automated in other parts of the world. How is it collected here?
Rakesh Nigam: Rather than coming to us directly, we have a portal for licensing. If you go online, fill in all the required details, you don’t need to contact anyone — it will generate the tariff details, you can pay online, and the license will be generated for you.

MediaNama: So that is instant, right? There’s no human authorisation required?
Rakesh Nigam: Yes. But the obvious caveat is please give us the correct log for what you are going to perform. That helps us to correctly give it to the right author-composer whose music is being played.

MediaNama: Let’s say there are no organisers for an event, and the singer is just livestreaming on their own. Are they required to pay this fee?

Rakesh Nigam: If he’s organising a free show, no problem. But if it is going to be sponsored or ticketed, he’s not just there as a singer, he’s also a businessman and event manager.

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MediaNama: So that is how the updated draft will be different from the initial version?
Rakesh Nigam: Yes, and we will come out with a revised tariff in consultation with EEMA. It will be quite rationalised.

MediaNama: What is the feedback you have received on the initial conditions you had put out, and what are the changes you are making here?
Rakesh Nigam: People did not ask us [before reacting], they just ranted out their anger without understanding or seeking clarification. EEMA, in contrast, reached out to us two weeks back, saying I think we need to sit across and rationalise these tariffs. They gave us suggestions, and we are always open to that.

MediaNama: Why did this consultation process not happen before the tariffs came out?
Rakesh Nigam: It happens only after— the law requires you to publish the tariff and engage with the users.

MediaNama: So that was essentially a consultation draft, then?
Rakesh Nigam: Yes.

MediaNama: Then how did it come out as ‘okay, this will be implemented from July 1’?
Rakesh Nigam: That July date was an error. That is why we changed it to September.

MediaNama: How does IPRS intend to collect fees from performers? Let’s say a performer or organiser does not approach you immediately for these rights. What process do you have in place to collect?

Rakesh Nigam: It’s the same as how it operates in the physical world, by chasing and approaching people and asking them to take a license. If it’s a major event, and they don’t take it, then we serve a legal notice. I’m not going to take legal action for a Rs 10,000 event, because the legal costs would be more.

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Our goal is not to get into more litigation. Tell us your issues, and we can work out a solution — if you’re doing it for charity, for PM-CARES, Amphan… we give you a free license for that.

MediaNama: That essentially gives you a lot of discretion that is not really cut out in the tariff itself, right?
Rakesh Nigam: How do we know if someone is organising a show for charity reasons? They have to come back to us. But it’s been working out pretty smoothly so far. Everyone knows that they can approach us.

Rakesh Nigam: If it is automated, lot of people will say an event is for charity, and take away the license. Whenever I’m doing something free, it can’t be an automated process. The company has to satisfy itself that whoever has applied has the right credentials.
MediaNama: What was the feedback from the members at the General Meeting on the tariff?

Rakesh Nigam: We still have not taken it to the AGM.
MediaNama: So it’s not approved yet?
Rakesh Nigam: Once the board passes it, we put it out for discussion, and once it is finalised, then only we will take it to the AGM, no?

MediaNama: So right now this tariff does not apply or required?
Rakesh Nigam: Yes, but whenever people want to hold a show, and it’s a commercial event, we tell them that there is an existing tariff, but that is a wide tariff. So they present their case, and we grant them a license.

MediaNama: On the Facebook and YouTube deals, does that cover original compositions only or does it also include covers that people perform of existing songs?
Rakesh Nigam: The deal is quite wide enough that as long as the member’s music is used, it is all covered. If it is being provided for free, it is covered. Only if it is a sponsored or ticketed event on those platforms, it will be charged.

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MediaNama: Outside of that, if I’m running my own site, and on that site, I stream my own video stream that is outside of YouTube or Facebook without sponsorship, how will that be covered?
Rakesh Nigam: As long as it is not making money, then it is exempted. You will get a press release that clarifies that.

95% of all events are held on Facebook and Google’s platforms, that’s why we have signed the deals with them. But if it is on a closed platform like Zoom, we will ask for prior intimation.

MediaNama: A lot of ticketed livestreaming events happening now have pricing of, let’s say Rs 200. For events like this, the revenue is often lower than Rs 20,000. 
Rakesh Nigam: We’re coming out with the revised tariffs, which is in consonance with the event managers, who are also stakeholders in this.

MediaNama: Are you disclosing the new rates under this category right now?
Rakesh Nigam: Not today; we’re in the last lap of discussions. Once that gets consented to, we will come out with this. That should take maximum one week.

Above all, we are here to help our members. Members ask us, why am I not being paid for my music if someone is making money out of it? This is why we started the #CreditTheCreator campaign. Author-composers are often left out. We are the only organisation in the music or film industry which has reached out to the 3,000+ author composers and granted them financial relief as a responsible body. How much can the government do? We also proactively helped out a lot of members. It’s not that we’re there to make money, we are also there to help.

If you look at I For India [a fundraiser concert for COVID-19], we gave them a free license because it was for a good cause. Author-composers contributed towards that.

More from this story

IPRS and online licensing

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IPRS licensing deals

Written By

I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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