Utpal Borpujari

February 19, 2010

Copyright Act: It’s time to give creative talents their due

By Utpal Borpujari

The spat between Aamir Khan and Javed Akhtar over who can take more credit for the success of a film song – the star or the lyricist/composer/singer – actually takes away from the larger issue of the amendments that have been proposed to the Copyright Act, 1957, giving the latter the long-denied ownership of the music they create. In fact, the proposed amendments, cleared on December 24 last by the Union Cabinet for introduction in Parliament, aim at removing some glaring lacuna in the Act that did not give any ownership right to Indian film directors, lyricists, singers and composers over the magic they create. Because of this, only the producer of the work, that is film producers and music companies, earn all the royalty year after year from the re-runs, telecasts and DVD / CD sales of films and music albums even as the creative talent gets a one-time payment foregoing any right over what they have created.

The proposed amendments envisages making a film director “joint author” of a film along with the producers and giving “independent rights” to authors of literary and musical works in films, who, as the Cabinet note had said, “were hitherto denied and wrongfully exploited by the producers and music companies”. Any right thinking person would welcome this, since it is the talent of these creative people that give shape to either a film or a music album. The present lacuna in the Act can be best described by the example of composer A R Rahman. He holds the rights to all his compositions in the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire”, which means that he would earn royalty whenever a CD of the film’s music is sold anywhere, or a song or a part of it is downloaded legally onto a laptop, a mobile device or an iPod, or played on television or radio. On the other hand, he would not earn a single paisa in royalties however much his work in Indian films or private albums sell, and he would have to be contend with the one-time fees he receives as the producers would take home all the royalty.

This lacuna has resulted in cases in which music companies continue to make money out of classic songs of yesteryears played and replayed on radio and even restaurants, but the families of their singers and composers are forced to live in penury. Quite understandably, the lyricists and composers are supporting the proposed amendments wholeheartedly, and film producers would only earn everyone’s appreciation by not opposing the amendments, more so since they will only have to share the earnings from royalty with the former, and not absolutely forgo it. The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the Paris-headquartered global body representing composers and lyricists, has also backed the amendments, saying they go with the international copyright norms. Quite clearly, it is time to give the creative talents their rightful due.

(Editorial published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 19-02-2010)



1 Comment »

  1. Relished every tiny bit of your remarkable article post.Really anticipating read more. Much obliged.

    Comment by Lottogewinn — April 20, 2012 @ 3:04 am | Reply

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