Copyright Act extended to internet broadcasting but confusion still remains?

Though it is still early days, this move could potentially benefit online audio streaming providers by making music rights holders more accountable and reducing cost of music acquisition

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Sep 14, 2016 8:04 AM
Copyright Act extended to internet broadcasting but confusion still remains?

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has recently stated that even internet broadcasting would be considered under the ambit of the Copyright Act. This move, say some broadcasters is expected to benefit broadcasters like Saavn, Gaana and radio operators who run online radio platforms, for example, Radio City.

However, others opined that this is just a matter of the DIPP clarifying the interpretation of the term ‘broadcasting’ in the Copyright Act and this does change anything legally. Under the earlier provisions of section 31D (of the Copyright Act,1957), the term ‘broadcasting organisations’ covered only radio and television. Audio streaming sites have had to independently negotiate with music rights owners, usually from a disadvantageous position.

Tarun Katial, CEO of RBNL, said bringing internet broadcasting under the purview of the Copyright Act will be extremely beneficial for the entire music entertainment industry. “It is only fair for artists to get the due they deserve and the sole ownership with respect to royalties should not lie only with the music rights owners. This is an effective step by The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), supporting the music industry at large,” he said.

Rachna Kanwar COO (Digital) at Jagran Group, which runs, called it the “first step” towards “some semblance of fairness” in the minimum guarantees that are paid by online music streaming players. “We have seen many twists and turns in the last 7-8 years, from getting licenses from a single licensing authority, PPL to individual labels demanding exorbitant pricing and unfair license structures that were becoming extremely difficult to maintain. The music industry needs to realise that there are huge opportunities provided we all work together as a team,” she further added

Prashan Agarwal, COO of Gaana, also welcomed the clarification, further stating, “We are not surprised at this extremely logical clarification issued by DIPP. Our industry association IAMAI had made several representations to the government on this subject.”

However, as mentioned earlier, it is not clear how much will this change the on-ground realities.
“It (the DIPP decision) has no value and no legal standing. Internet broadcasters do not fall under GOPA; they cannot be considered broadcasting organization. Section 31D specifically talks about radio and TV so no one can change it except the court. That is the law,” said Neeraj Kalyan, President of T-Series.

Rahul Ajatshatru, Managing Associate at law firm Anand and Anand, was of the opinion that the formats and platforms are not properly defined within the Act, leading to confusion. “’Broadcast’ is too vast. The definition could apply to radio and television as well as internet broadcasting. The DIPP is probably just trying to clarify this definition.” He also agreed with the view that till the Copyright Act was not changed to specifically include internet broadcasting via a legal process, nothing much would change.

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