Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18, talks about maximizing Intellectual Property Value of the nation at the Global Exhibition of Services in Delhi and how India’s IP regulatory framework must be based on core pillars of fairness & equity, national interest and being future-ready.
Below is the full text of his speech:
I’ve just flown down from Bali in Indonesia – I was at a conference there and learnt something very interesting: I had a couple of hours to myself and went to a very inviting coffee-shop. The waiter looked at me, noted my order in broken English and kept smiling. Before leaving, he looked at me, smiled and said ‘Maston – Maston’. I assumed it was some way of saying thank you or just taking my leave. I sipped the lovely, refreshing Indonesian coffee and started to relax. When he got me my ‘Tahu Bacem’ (fried Tofu), he again said, ‘Maston- Maston’. It almost felt sounded like he was singing! I was perplexed. I called a colleague of his since she had spoken to me in clear English when I had entered the coffee shop. I asked her to explain what he was trying to say.
After an animated conversation in Bahassa she finally revealed the answer to me: that, had thoroughly enjoyed Bhaag Milkha Bhaag – our motion picture studio had released the film in Indonesia. On noticing that I was Indian, he was trying to speak out the lyrics of the song - ‘Maston Ka Jhund’ – the song in which a young Milkha Singh dances in a bar in Melbourne! I was pleasantly surprised, and with his colleague’s help, I conveyed to him that it was our movie. He was thrilled! They waived off my bill and when I was ready to leave, walked me to the exit and waved till I was out of sight. That is the power of our country’s cultural products.
In light of this year’s theme at the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) – ‘Get up, stand up. For music.’, I think this anecdote is particularly relevant.
Last year we launched MTV Indies – a music channel aimed at bringing the power of commerce to independent artistes and musicians who’ve stayed away from the mainstream for years. As the private sector, we too have a responsibility towards ensuring that a strong commercial platform is made available to creative professionals.
I truly believe that our country is a global cultural powerhouse. Our ethos, our values – the ‘creations of our minds’ – have served as excellent ambassadors of what we stand for. It is extremely important for us to create a high-growth environment for our knowledge based industries.
Our respected Hon. Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji has articulated his vision of a Digital India – India as a knowledge economy. It is extremely critical for us to understand how we can achieve this vision. What is the regulatory framework for an IP regime that can unshackle our true potential?
This is a complicated question and has many answers. I’m no expert – far from one actually- but here are a few insights I’ve gained from my own professional experience. India’s IP regulatory framework must be based on 3 core pillars:
1. Fairness and equity:
For a strong IP ecosystem to thrive, we must ensure that all the stakeholders in the value chain are adequately rewarded and recognized. Take the creative industries for instance. Since we started off with music, try and imagine the number of people and entities it takes to get that song from someone’s mind to your ears. Lyricists, singers, composers, performers, technicians – all need to come together in that perfect ‘orchestra of actions’ and create a timeless masterpiece. They need to be adequately incentivized and given due recognition. Fair ‘benefit-sharing’ and unconditional market access must be guaranteed. There has to be that perfect marriage of creativity and commerce.
2. National interest:
This is the cornerstone of any public policy. We operate in a globalized world where one man’s crime in one country, is another man’s entertainment in another State. Piracy is just one aspect of this phenomenon. The other is harmonization with global best practices so that the nation does not lose the larger race. Some research studies – including one by WIPO – peg the contribution of copyright industries to GDP from 10% in countries like USA to 2% in countries in Brunei resulting an average of 5.4%. Clearly, the reasons for this variation have much to do with policy formulation, its implementation and the larger ecosystem. India must get this balance right.
Finally, it’s extremely important that the benefits of innovation accrue to the country in which it has originated. The guiding principle is simple: low cost of enforcement with high cost of infringement. In this context, I find it highly commendable that our country is currently in the process of formulating an exhaustive ‘National IPR Policy’.
3. Being future-ready:
Intellectual Property, in the broadest sense, refers to ‘creations of the mind’. It is an ever-evolving, dynamic space. Any framework has to be future ready, in that, it must recognize ‘new IP forms’. The other side of the coin is about being ‘future-ready’ in terms of how we use advancements in technology to prevent infringement and piracy.
Specific policy options need much debate and deliberation by all stakeholders. These could range from the creation of a dedicated nodal agency, consolidated registries, copyright boards, and perhaps even dedicated IP courts and so on. While the question is fraught with complexity and the answers come in multitudes, eventually all of these should be based on the three pillars I mention above: fairness & equity, national interest and being future-ready.