Copyright

Artists unionize and register copyright societies to avail of benefits under the Amended Copyright Act.


The Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 brought about a number of changes to Indian copyright law. One significant change was allowing the authors of a work in cinematograph films, which includes singers, composers, lyricists etc, to claim an equal share of the royalties earned by producers through utilization and exploitation of their creative product. This was contrary to the industry practice till then, which involved authors of songs assigning away their copyrights to the producers for a one-time lump sum payment. In order to avail of this benefit guaranteed under the amended Copyright Act, unions have been formed by the singers and composers in the industry. They are registering copyright societies as well for the same. This has come to our attention, courtesy a story by Anita Iyer on Sound Box.
The union for the singers is named the ‘Singers Association of India’ (hereafter SAI) and that of the composers is named ‘Music Composers Association of India’ (hereafter MCAI). The unions have been formed in order to better represent the rights of singers and composers and to address their concerns. The MCAI recognizes itself as a forum for composers to voice their grievances, to conduct workshops, share legal advice and to spear head action in cases where words are ineffective. The MCAI is not limited to the Hindi film industry and includes film, television advertising and non-film industries. The SAI, on the other hand is limited to the Hind film industry as of now. However, as noted by Sound Box in their interview with Sonu Nigam, leading singers in the South such as K.J Yesudas as well as S.P. Balasubramanyam and classical singers have been contacted. SAI is especially expected to be of help to young singers who have just entered or are about to enter the industry by being a support system. SAI is also expected to be of assistance to senior musicians who have faced problems because of the lack of care and who “have been lost in oblivion.
Additionally, singers have also applied for registering a copyright society, as they can, post the 2012  Amendment to the Copyright Act, collect royalties for their performances through copyright societies. The singers have sent the papers for the registration of their copyright society, the Indian Singers Rights Association (hereafter ISRA) on March 25, 2013. Composers, on the other hand, as reported by Sound Box appeared to prefer working under a re-constituted Indian Performing Rights Society (hereafter IPRS) rather than register a new copyright society of their own. However, if IPRS fails to represent their interests, the composers through MCAI are open to the idea of registering a copyright society of their own.
Sound Box, in their article, have reproduced the testimonials of musicians such as Sulaiman Merchant,  Wajid Khan, Shankar Mahadevan and Clinton Cerejo from the Hindi film industry about the necessity
This image of Wajid Khan has been taken from Sound Box.
and the importance of these unions.  
Clinton Cerejo notes that MCAI could draft standardised clauses for contracts negotiate terms of contracts with producers on behalf of composers, especially young composers who do not have a foothold in the industry. 
Wajid Khan recognizes that while the implementation  of the Copyright Act will take time, the presence of an organisation such as MCAI to take care of the legalities helps musicians to focus on their jobs while ensuring that their rights are secure.  
This image of Sulaiman Merchant has been taken from Sound  Box.
Sulaiman Merchant notes that the MCAI can better deal with the problem of producers pre-dating contracts in order to deny the artists the benefits of the amended Copyright Act. 
Shankar Mahadevan, while reemphasizing the importance of an organization such as the MCAI, stated that they had come together as a community to get the Amendments in the Copyright Act passed and that it was prudent to ensure that the benefits guaranteed through the Amendments actually materialise.
Therefore, on the whole, the creative community appears to be geared up to ensure that they actually  receive the benefits guaranteed to them under the amended Copyright Act.
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L. Gopika Murthy

Gopika is a fourth year student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore. She was formerly the Chief Editor of the Indian Journal of Law and Technology. Her first exposure to Intellectual property law and SpicyIP was through the University Moot Rounds at NLSIU, Bangalore in her first year. She has been regularly following the developments in the field of IPR since then and she hopes to contribute to the reporting of such developments. Her areas of interest in IP include copyrights, open access, fair dealing and trademarks.

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