He kept the entire music industry glued to the Rajya Sabha proceedings during his 20 minute speech on the Copyright Amendment Bill. “We got very emotional seeing Javedji speak in the House. It was a proud moment for authors and composers,” composer Sulaiman Merchant told Sound Box.
Javed Akhtar, the face of the royalty crusade ended his speech with the lines “Yeh Bill aaj pass hona hi chahiye” and miraculously enough, the bill got passed within four days in both houses of Parliament.
Some attribute the passage of the bill to his clout in political circles in the capital, but he believes, “If the cause is just and the resolve is firm, nothing is impossible!”
After the bill was passed by both the Houses, the visibly relaxed lyricist conversed with Anita Iyer on the grey areas in the Copyright Amendment Act, touching upon the restructuring of the IPRS and the rightful share for statutory licensing, among other things.
- Hailed by the creative fraternity, the bill hasn’t gone down well with music companies and the producers’ fraternity…
This Act has not created or invented any royalty; it has just created a fence around the existing royalty, which was earlier hijacked from the authors and composers. And obviously, they were not in a position to have their conditions set as it is a small industry, with few music labels and a small number of producers making films regularly. As the condition was either to sign on the dotted line or opt out, creators had no choice.
All over the world, it becomes the responsibility of the government to bring in regulations to create an even field when there is any imbalance of power between two parties and this amendment does that. For any expanding industry you need more just, fair and all gratifying regulations beneficial to all the stakeholders. Some people are skeptical about this change and they are looking at these amendments with great suspicion. But once these new rules come into practice, even the skeptics will realise that actually it is in their benefit.
- How do you see the bill benefiting the small composers as they no longer have the freedom to give away their right? Didn’t the 94 amendment have that provision?
On the very first interaction, the right of the creators is taken away, whether he is a big composer or small. As a matter of fact, the smaller one needs more protection as invariably he had to surrender all his rights in perpetuity. If the government has taken away this right to surrender from him, he is being saved from himself.
- Do you see a model with creators reducing the initial signing amount and entering into a revenue share now?
Why would they? These are two different things. First of all, we are not taking royalties from the producers – this royalty is not going from his pocket. If I am doing a film, I am being paid to write the song for the film, I am taking the money to give the copyright to the producer for synchronization in the film. As long as the song is in the film, it is the producers’ sole property. But when the song is played on radio or television, the users will pay the producer 75 per cent and 25 per cent towards the creators. Since when the film works, the profit belongs only to the producer, when it doesn’t, it is understandably only his loss.
- So, you don’t see the dynamics of the industry changing much with this new law…
The fact is, producers deserve much more money than what they are getting today. Our music is making lot of money but it is not reaching them, nor us. Producers were taking everything from us and giving it to music companies. Now it seems they will have second thoughts and retain their position as music publisher – most probably they would only sell sound recording, which gets 50 per cent of the royalty. Music labels might not give the kind of upfront money they were giving to some producers against owning everything but that doesn’t matter. Because by retaining publishing rights, producers will get much more in the long run than they have ever received from a music company.
- Copyright societies have to get themselves re-registered within a year. As composers and authors were unhappy with the current functioning of IPRS, what are the plans on that front?
Indian Performing Rights Society is the only performing rights society in the world that is run by the music companies and not by authors and composers. That will change in light of this new law. At the moment, all the artists are not even full-fledged members; they have been demoted to associate members. Now since it is established beyond any doubt that our royalty belongs only to us, every artist has to be accepted as a full-fledged member. IPRS will have to change its laws, its constitution. This may sound laughable but it is true that they had a so called Annual General Meeting with perhaps 27 people or less, now we will have a real AGM, where along with publishers, all authors, composers too will be invited. The structure of the board of directors will also change.
- So will the administrative role of IPRS change as the new law demands more accountability?
Of course. Because till now, it was only one group controlling IPRS. They had totally marginalised the writers and music directors.
- How do you see composers and authors taking rightful control of IPRS now?
Let the government make those changes. There would be some provisions on rules and regulations of IPRS, how IPRS has to be shaped, how authors will get their positions into it. It will happen with time, things will follow.
- Amendment to Section 33, talks about exploitation of work only through a copyright society. So, does that restrict authors from monetising their rights via publishers?
Absolutely not. I can exploit my rights as an individual and take a stand to collect my royalty on my own. But there cannot be collective collection apart from copyright society, individually composers can. Music companies can collect their royalty for sound recording but not for publishing. Labels, including the ones currently not members, will have to come and join IPRS.
- How do you see publishing shaping up in the Indian film industry?
We believe that in all fairness in a film, the producer should become the publisher. Whether the producer wants to retain his right or give away to the music company, that’s a call he will take as a publisher. Authors and composers should agree upon producers automatically becoming publishers, if he agrees to retain his rights. If he prefers to give them away to labels, then even the authors and composers should have the right to give away their rights to independent publishers. It cannot be one-sided. In any case, the institution of publisher will definitely emerge in India because there is and there will be a lot of non-film music.
- Statutory licensing is another contentious issue the industry is worried about… what’s your take?
It depends on what kind of percentage is being offered. For radio broadcasters, the two per cent order has been passed by the Copyright Board and we don’t find it fair at all. Personally I feel that the minimum sound recording royalty from radio should be four per cent and another four per cent for works. And for television, it must be higher.
- What per cent would you peg for the television industry?
The more the merrier! Obviously, much higher than the FM radio industry.
- But don’t you think the percentage fixed by the Copyright Board will affect the share coming the creators’ way?
I don’t see a reason why the board will be unfair to us. We have to give proper presentation on what sort of profits these companies are making on our content. The Copyright Board will definitely call us and hopefully this time the producers, the companies, the authors and composers will all be on the same page. Let’s hope that the music companies will have the wisdom to join us in this endeavour.
- But they are already planning to challenge statutory licensing…
I have come to a conclusion – There might be a limit to knowledge but there is no limit to ignorance. Any law passed by the Parliament is considered to be good, till proved otherwise. You can go to the Supreme Court but while the case is on, the law will not be on hold. You can’t bring injunction against the law passed by the parliament; it will be effective and implemented nevertheless. After many years, when the contestants will get any conclusion from the courts, the industry would already be in the habit of working in accordance to the new law. They need to understand that in Rajya Sabha the bill was presented by HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who is considered one of the finest lawyers of India and supported by leader of opposition Arun Jaitley, who is another legal genius of our country. Those who have some imaginary problems with the law need to understand that the Government of India and Parliament have made this law, the writers and composers have not.
- The telecom sector forms a major chunk of revenues on the digital front. Shouldn’t the music industry be concentrating on better revenue share?
I agree, but again, it is important for labels, creators and producers to get together and discuss these issues to develop a common point of view. This could have been done earlier also if we were on the same page. I hope better sense prevails now and they sit across table and discuss things.
- Do you see that happening? You met the producers but are there any attempts to meet other stakeholders?
Well, we for that matter are open to meet anyone. The producers had very graciously invited us for the meeting and the talks went on in an extremely amicable atmosphere. Actually there is no hostility between us and the producers. There is an atmosphere for understanding and now since the new law is in place, we will find ways to function together and offer the best to each other.
- And what about a share of performers – does that come from authors and composers?
No it won’t. The royalty collected by IPRS is only for publishers, authors and composers. In case of the performers, their percentages are yet to be decided and there needs to be more clarity on the revenues coming their way, administrating body, modes of exploitation etc. I think that will happen in Copyright Board and they have to form their own society.
- With the new law seeing the light of day, what happens to anti-IPRS judgments passed in Delhi and Mumbai high courts?
Those judgments are history now. They were passed in the light of a certain law and obviously now there is another law, so any verdict will be given in the light of this law.
- Another ambiguity in the law is its periodicity… do labels have to pay for exploitation of past works?
The law is not retrospective and irrespective of the year the song was made; now whenever it is performed, royalty will be generated. Royalty gaane pe nahi hai, bajaane pe hai. Ab bajaoge toh royalty hogi.
- You have been firmly stating that the pie of the music industry would increase with amendments to the Copyright Act. How do you see that happening?
The revenues of the industry are bound to increase. There has not been a serious effort on part of IPRS to expand the market and find new avenues. According to a survey done by CARG, with advent of new technology, the industry is expanding by 17.6 per cent per annum. The FICCI report forecasts that the size of the industry will grow to Rs 2000 plus crore by 2015 from the current size of Rs 900 crore. If the IPRS functions in a much more professional manner, revenues would grow. Instead of trying to poach into each other’s territory, the industry should work with each other, find new markets, exploit the present market in a better manner, get better prices for our work and better percentages for stakeholders.
- Lastly, not many people believed the bill would be passed in the foreseeable future. The bill got passed within four days in both the Houses. How did that happen?
Well, if the cause is just and the resolve is firm, nothing is impossible!