Almost two years later, India’s new copyright law makes no difference to music industry

downloadAlmost two years after it was enacted by Parliament, the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 has proved to be quite a non-starter due to both the incompetence and impotence of all major stakeholders.

Forget the operationalisation of royalty sharing arrangements, which was in any case a distant dream as demonstrated by Abhay Deol’s recent experience, the biggest failure is the fact that not much has changed with IPRS.

As I had reported a few months ago, IPRS had amended its Articles to bring them in line with the new amendments i.e. both authors and owners would have control over IPRS. However, from what I hear, these amendments to the articles are not translating into changes on to the grounds.

The litigation before the Barasat court continues to drag on. The governing council of IPRS is ruled by the same old faces and its CEO Mr. Rakesh Nigam, who has been at IPRS since 2004, when the litigation started in Barasat, continues to head IPRS with an annual gross salary of Rs. 59 lacs, according to its Annual Report. On the other hand the revenues of IPRS are growing at a pathetic rate.

In the last financial year, 2012-13, IPRS earned just Rs. 44,57,27,256 (Rs. 44.5 crores) from royalties. Three years ago, for FY 2009-10, IPRS had reported earnings of Rs. 42,07,41,040 (Rs. 42.07 crores). Thus in three years, IPRS managed to grow its revenues by a miserly Rs. 2 crores. This, when music is one of the hottest selling products in the world.

As for the re-registration of IPRS and PPL as copyright societies, the less said the better. Despite the reams of controversy surrounding both societies, the Registrar has failed to inject even an ounce of transparency into the re-registration process. Let’s not forget that the entire reason for the fiasco at IPRS was because the Copyright Office failed to do its job in the first place in 1996. How difficult is it for him to make public the applications for re-registration?

Such action or lack of action fails to surprise me anymore since the Copyright Office has been an oasis of arbitrary action for the last several years.

Take for example the rules creating the Copyright Board. In 2011 when SIMCA challenged the constitutionality of the Copyright Board, the Copyright Office and its Registrar got a crash course on the Supreme Court’s judgment on an independent judiciary in Union of India v. R. Gandhi after which they decided to amend the law.

One would have presumed that the purpose of amending the law was to comply with Constitution but despite repeated reminders on this blog that the draft rules creating the Copyright Board were unconstitutional the Copyright Office went ahead and notified the same version.  What can one say about such capricious behaviour? The natural result was a whole litany of challenges against the constitutionality of the Copyright Board.

The Copyright Office has never really covered itself with glory in the past. From losing crucial files regarding India’s International Copyright Order, 1999 to not acting firmly on complaints made by several authors and composers, the Copyright Office has under-performed consistently.

Forget IPRS, which is in the middle of controversy. Why is the Copyright Office holding back the re-registration of PPL? Why was IRRO’s application for re-registration denied? Why is the order not posted on the website of the Copyright Office? Why the secrecy?

I could go on about the sins of omission and commission by other stakeholders in the music industry but in this season of indifference, it is perhaps best to turn a blind eye as the music industry once again heads into another season of ruin. To quote Edmund Burke’s oft-repeated cliché, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Right now, there are a whole bunch of good men just sitting on their backsides.

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Prashant Reddy

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).


  1. AvatarFamiliar Stranger

    Isn’t the absence of any concrete copyright policy contributing to the list of failures, arbitrary actions and carelessness on the part of Copyright board and concerned authorities?


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