Changes to copyright act pit musicians against producers


New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) A bill to amend the over 54-year-old Copyright Act, proposing more rights to creators than the owners of musical and literary works, is expected to be tabled in the budget session of parliament. While the music fraternity in Bollywood is hoping for its quick passage, film producers are fuming.

The amendment is expected to usher in a new era for not just composers but also creators of literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works in India. The new bill proposes that producers share profits with lyricists and composers.

For a year neither lyricists-composers nor producers were able to agree on profit sharing. But this month, T.P. Aggarwal, president of the Film Federation of India (FFI), was asked by Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to come to an agreement on how to split the profits.

"We met Sibal and he said we would have to share some percentage with the musicians. He had said by Feb 15, we have to give him a final percentage that we are willing to share with the artists; otherwise he will go ahead and table the bill," Aggarwal, who met Sibal along with other delegates, told IANS.

"We have submitted the paper to him Feb 16 and we are now waiting for the time when we meet him. His office has said they will let us know," he added without divulging information about the content of the papers he has submitted.

The bill aims to amend the Copyright Act of 1957 to allow artists, singers and performers to demand royalty, which earlier used to go only to the producers' pockets.

It has kicked up a storm.

"A wrong perception has been built up, giving an impression that composers do not make money from a hit song. The fact is that the composers and singers make millions by performing on hit songs by way of live shows," filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who is on the producers' side, said in a posting on his microblogging site Twitter.

"Whereas the producers take the entire commercial risk, how can you ask for an equal share in the profit when you don't share the loss?"

The Copyright Act came into effect in January 1958 and has been amended five times - in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994 and 1999. In 1991, a Copyright Enforcement Advisory Council (CEAC) was formed to review the progress of enforcement of the Copyright Act periodically and to advise the government about measures to improve the enforcement of the Act.

Copyright in a film currently rests with the producer for 60 years. But the bill extends it to a director as well, and for 70 years.

Lyricists and composers have welcomed the government's move to secure them their rights.

"This is the best thing that has ever happened to music directors, singers and lyricists. These three categories are the basic owners of any chartbuster because they are the actual creators. Others only market their creation to fetch loads of money," Irshad Kamil told IANS.

"Firstly, I would thank the government, especially Kapil Sibal, who is concerned with this. This is the only solution to help us. We are asking for our due, nothing extraordinary. It's not only in India but is a worldwide phenomenon. Once the government passes the bill, we can expect relief. I want to thank Javed saab and the federation who have supported us, writers, actors," said lyricist Sameer.

Award-winning writer lyricist Javed Akhtar has been pushing for an amendment in the Copyright Act.

Singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan told IANS: "We are looking forward to it. We are almost there - but with parliament getting pushed every time, it's getting delayed. I think it's the best thing that has happened in the history of Indian music."

"We are in mainstream Bollywood and it is going to help us, but not now. It will help our children, grandchildren. But what about those musicians whose music gets played everywhere and they get paid nothing. For them, it's a fantastic thing.

"Do you know how Bismillah Khan used to stay? If you had ever seen the conditions that he stayed in, you would get the answer to what I am saying. There are great artists who don't have money to have food - that is the condition."