The Government has come in for a lot of flak from television and radio broadcasters over the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act of 1957. What has irked the broadcasters even more is that they were consulted even once by either the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) before proposing the amendments.
The proposed amendment is said to have been made to the effect that till the time the compulsory licenses are granted by the Copyright Board for airing the contents, (which generally takes a very long period of eight to ten years), the broadcaster would be required to pay the amount demanded by Copyright societies, owners, lyricists and music companies which is not seen in good light by broadcasters. The fear is also that this amendment will only allow the music industry to demand more music royalty.
According to government sources, “The decision on the Copyright Amendment has already been taken and now hardly anyone will be consulted on it as the bill will be tabled in the parliament within 1-2 weeks of time.”
Rakesh Nigam, CEO IPRS said, “This whole issue on copyright amendment is blown out of proportion, infact this amendment has been pending since 2004 and why make this hue and cry at the last moment. This is a pressure tactic by the broadcasters to show the copyright society in bad light as the government in only trying to tighten the norms for version recording. These amendments were put up by the government along with the core group and this amendment has been pending from 2004 and nothing new has been added.”
“I don’t see why people need to worry about this amendment however no one has raised the question of cross media ownership which balances the whole system. With this amendment the government is trying to protect the interest of the owner, author, creator and also strike a balance with the user by trying to protect the interest of the user. Section 52 on the other hand is a whole lot of clauses whereby there can be exemption to the copyright but, all those are primarily driven for non- commercial utilisation ” said, Nigam.
Jawahar Goel, IBF President stated, “In last few years, almost Rs 200 cr has been given to the copyright societies, out of it only 2-4 per cent share artist could get. Before proposing this amendment irrelevant people have been consulted but, broadcasters have not been consulted even once. We have our representatives in HRD ministry and even they have not been consulted by the ministry for the proposed amendment. We have sent broadcaster’s concerns through a letter to HRD ministry, Prime Minister and to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi also.”
“We will protest against it and we will talk to our members in IBF on our further move. If needed, we will go for strike also. It is unfortunate that some broadcasters are not realising the dire consequences of this amendment in future and are not seem to be very active” added Goel.
Apurva Purohit, President AROI and CEO Radio City observed, “In the proposed Copyright Amendment Bill 2009, detailed provisions have been made to the effect that till the time compulsory licenses are granted by the Copyright Board for airing the contents, which generally takes a very long period of 8 to 10 years, the broadcaster would be required to pay the amount demanded by Copyright societies/owners/lyricists/music companies. This will be a draconian provision which will completely wipe out the private FM radio stations.”
Purohit further explained, “Such an unjust dramatic increase of rates for an industry which is already reeling under very high royalty rates shall spread doom for the radio industry. The common man will be deprived of one of the only entertainment options that are easily accessible to him and available to him free of cost. Along with IBF and NBA we have already approached the Ministry of HRD and the MIB and have lodged a strong protest. We would like to be part of the process when any discussions are taking place on the Copyright Act since it affects us materially, which has surprisingly not happened this time.”
Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India said, “I am not fully versed with this amendment. However everybody should be taken into the consideration before any such amendment by the government. We are committed to the protection of intellectual property but, as a matter of fact such amendments should be shared with key stakeholders before proposing it any further.”
Prashant Panday, CEO ENIL, “As an industry, we have not even been consulted in the last so many years. Secondly, I want to clarify, that we are very pro-artist. It is the artists who deserve every bit of royalties that we pay out. The radio industry alone pays out as much as about Rs 100 crores a year as per the Copyright Board order. Radio Mirchi alone pays Rs 18-19 crores a year. I don’t know how much of this reaches the artists. I believe very little. Artists are suffering because they are not getting a share of the royalties collected. I believe there are some reasons for this. Radio has nothing to do with these reasons. So to repeat, any amendments which make more royalties go towards the makers of music is very welcome from our point of view.”
What broadcasters want
Purohit pointed out, “The current music royalties are approx. 15% – 18% of the revenues of the FM Radio operators while in case of smaller cities they are nearly 70- 80 per cent of the revenues and in some cases higher than the revenue generated. This makes the FM business unviable .We have proposed firstly, a revenue sharing arrangement on royalty instead of the current flat fee structure and secondly, payment to one common body instead of the multiple players who currently demand royalty for the same copyright.”
According to Panday, “First, we want the Copyright Board to sit for as many days as required and bring out the new rates. I am afraid this is ending up like the Liberhan commission report. Long delayed and losing value. Second, we want a full time Copyright Board, like the TDSAT. We believe that the usage of music is now happening in various manners – thanks to the good work of publicity done by radio – and such issues of royalties need to be settled quickly.”
“Thirdly, the basic balance between rights holders and users of music should be there. There should not be any draconian clauses which shift this towards the music industry. Lastly, this myth that the amendment helps the artists needs to be exploded. It only helps the music industry, not the artists. We want this addressed” added Panday.