The Registrar of Copyrights has been the most sought-after man in the echelons of the government ever since the amendments to the Indian Copyright Act were first proposed three years ago. Any meeting in the industry after the amended Act was passed on May 22, 2012 has been incomplete without the Registrar and his opinion on the matter being mentioned.
While he has been involved in the amendments from the very beginning, G R Raghavender has however abstained from commenting on the issue in the media. Just back from Beijing, representing India at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) diplomatic conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances, Raghavender clarifies the grey areas in the Copyright (Amendment) Act, 2012 and changes in Copyright Board in an exclusive chat with Anita Iyer.
The Copyright (Amendment) Act entrusts significant powers to the Copyright Board making it a permanent body. Does that widen your power as Registrar of Copyrights?
The power of Copyrights Registrar might not have been widened but in fact, reduced with the Copyright (Amendment) Act.
Reduced because you are no longer the secretary of the Copyright Board?
Yes, that is a major change and a welcome move – something I wanted to suggest because Registrar of Copyrights is a quasi judicial power and when he passes an order; it can be challenged by the Copyright Board.
If the registrar as a secretary to the Copyright Board is presenting a case, there would be opposition against him. Moreover with the amendments in place, work will increase as the Copyright Board will become a full time board. The registrar is a full time officer here so he can’t be a full time officer at the Copyright Board as well. For a permanent board, it is advisable to have a full time officer.
Also, powers of the Registrar have been reduced through amendment to Section 53 which deals with Importation of Infringing Copies. At present, on application by the owner of the copyright in any work or by his duly authorised agent and on payment of the prescribed fee, he may request the Registrar of Copyrights to issue an order to the effect that importation of Infringing Copies shall not be allowed. As per the amendment to the Act now, the Customs Department instead of the Registrar of Copyrights will exercise such powers, as the Registrar has neither the expertise nor the instruments to take appropriate actions.
Registration of copyright societies would be renewed only after a report is submitted by the Registrar of Copyrights. How do you view this clause?
There was maladministration in the functioning of the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) and so this amendment was proposed to keep a check on the administration of copyright societies. Changes were made on the board of IPRS without informing the Copyrights Registrar or the government. One of the clauses in the formation of copyright society is equality of membership but the membership of authors and composers was changed to ordinary members without informing the government.
Copyright societies will have to re-register themselves every five years. This move will keep a check on any malpractice in the collection and distribution of music royalty. In 1994, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the authors and music companies asking the latter to become members of the IPRS with 50:50 per cent revenue share deals as authors couldn’t exploit content according to the 1977 Supreme Court judgment. Although labels became members, distribution of royalty to creators was not followed.
Last year, CISAC distributed 7.5 billion Euro as royalty to creators in 150 countries but in India, despite the claims by the IPRS, many authors and composers have not received their share of royalties. IPRS has insisted that authors and composers should sign an undertaking that they didn’t have rights in the songs to receive any royalty from exploitation in India. The international collection societies, however, have been paying 50 per cent royalty to the creators and 50 per cent to music companies without any such conditions.
Does this re-registration within a year come with any riders?
It would be a smooth registration process and societies have to get themselves registered within a year. After the amendment to the Copyright Act in 1994, societies had to get themselves registered within a year but it got delayed and they were registered in 1996.