Copyright Amendment Bill: Lots of hits, some misses too

The Bill provides for the availability of content to any broadcasting organisation (both TV and radio) through the mechanism of statutory licensing. But it has bypassed the piracy issue

BestMediaInfo Bureau
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Copyright Amendment Bill: Lots of hits, some misses too

Copyright Amendment Bill: Lots of hits, some misses too

The Bill provides for the availability of content to any broadcasting organisation (both TV and radio) through the mechanism of statutory licensing. But it has bypassed the piracy issue

Ananya Saha | Delhi | May 24, 2012

publive-imageThe Government has made it clear that it is serious about solving the copyright issue bedevilling the Media and Entertainment industry. The Copyright (Amendment) Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha has not only elated the M&E industry but is also being appreciated for the significant changes it will bring to the broadcast, music and film industry as a whole.

The Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill passed by Parliament amends the Copyright Act, 1957. It tackles seven broad areas that include right of author and music composer, right to visually impaired, extending compulsory regime to unpublished work and imposition of punitive action. It will now become mandatory for broadcasters – both radio and television – to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art is broadcast. The Bill, thus, expands definition of copyright to protect owners of literary or musical works and allows performers to make sound or visual recordings of their performances and reproducing them in any medium. Currently, the copyright of a film rests with the producer for 60 years.

The Bill extends copyright to a director as well, but for 70 years. It also makes special provisions for those whose work is used in films or sound recordings (e.g., lyricists or composers) and allows for the production of copyrighted work in special formats (such as Braille), for use by persons with disability, without infringing copyright.

The amendment provides for the availability of content to any broadcasting organisation (both television and radio) through the mechanism of statutory licensing on the payment of royalty to be determined by the Copyright Board which will fix separate rates for radio broadcasting and television broadcasting. This is to ensure that the content becomes available to everyone desirous of the same without any discrimination and on reasonable royalties to be fixed by the Copyright Board and, at the same time the owners of copyright works are also not subject to any disadvantages.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has wholeheartedly welcomed the amendments made in the half-century-old Copyright Act. IBF applauded all those who have been relentlessly working for the passage of the Copyright Amendment Bill, especially Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resource & Development, Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha in getting this historical Bill passed by both Houses of the Parliament. IBF also expressed its gratitude to the Union Minister of information & Broadcasting, Ambika Soni.

“The amendments will benefit every creative person in India, be it an author, composer, writer, etc., who has hitherto been deprived of his/her due. With this Bill, the creator's rights are upheld and respected and the amendments are a positive step in the right direction. It will beyond doubt help a large chunk of creative people in the country, where largest number of movies and television programmes are made,” said the communiqué from IBF.

Rabe T Iyer, Business Head, BIG FM, commented, “The Bill is a positive, constructive and beneficial step in truly recognising the real owners of music and not just the labels that pitch and buy them. It will lead to fair distribution of rights, increase in the talent pool, greater accountability of quality and continued effort to innovate. It will also give greater flexibility to radio stations to play music recomposed or readjusted by creators of songs, thus ensuring that more music and more musicians get their dues.”

Shridhar Subramaniam, President, India and Middle East, Sony Music India, said, “This amendment is an extremely positive move and we are very supportive of this Bill. We are delighted that going forward, composers and lyricists will get a share in royalties. This was long awaited and we believe this will help the overall artiste 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.”

Harrish M Bhatia, CEO of 94.3 FM, said, “The news is positive one for the radio industry. This move would have a dual impact on the radio industry. First advantage is that the radio companies will be saved from operational difficulties. They no longer have to chase music labels and seek permission for playing songs. Second advantage is that radio companies now have to connect with only Copyright Board .This would stop unfair practices and all players would be equal.”

Radio and television broadcasting is a fast growing sector in India. They are important mediums to disseminate information, education, news, views and infotainment to the masses. As programmes relating to music competition, talent hunts, reality shows, etc., have become quite popular on both television and radio, Copyright legislation in India needed to ensure that the public interest is not compromised so far as 'public access' to information and entertainment in literary and musical work is concerned.

It is for serving this larger public interest of unhindered access to 'information' in a smooth and non-discriminatory manner that Section 31D has been incorporated in the Copyright Act.

Piracy issue overlooked

But the Bill has left the industry disappointed too, especially on the piracy issue. Sony Music's Subramaniam pointed out, “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 licence for broadcasters. This is a matter between two businesses and should be negotiated between themselves.”

Filmmaker Ken Ghosh tweeted, “All who are part of creative process should benefit from the Copyright Amendment (Bill), which is sadly not so. Film directors, writers, choreographers and art directors don't get any benefits from this amendment to Copyright Act."

Well, at least a start has been made, and a strong one at that.