Bollywood Reaction to Indian Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2012

The new Indian Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed last week by the Indian parliament amid its drive to solve some of the copyright issues that dog the media and entertainment industry in India. 

Broadly the Bill strengthens copyright protection across traditional and digital media and the internet and introduces royalty payments through statutory licensing rather like the PRS/MCPS. One issue that the bill has sought to address with is protection of the rights of authors of literary works like lyrics or scripts and musical works and to grant them an equal right in the royalties earned from exploiting these works by granting powers to the Copyright Board to set interim tariffs although it is not clear how this will work. The bill also bans cover versions of copyright work for five years from the date of first recording giving an almost ‘first to market’ advantage for the original creation, but arguably preventing re-use of the work and closing down certain revenue streams.

Whilst politicians herald the bill as championing artisans, at the other end of the spectrum film and producers such as Ken Ghosh believe it to be unfair. Ghosh tweeted: “All who are part of creative process should benefit from the Copyright Amendment (Bill), which is sadly not so. Film directors, writers, choreographers and art directors don’t get any benefits from this amendment to Copyright Act.” Others in the industry claim that the issue of piracy has been almost completely overlooked.

Gowree Gokhale of leading lndian law firm Nishith Desai commented “The Amendments were much awaited and now that they are almost a reality, it will be interesting to see how the industry will deal with the impact of the changes. While this may be the genie’s lamp gifted to the lyricists, music composers, artists and the likes, it may prove to be a pandora’s box to the producers with the legal and business paradoxes that it is likely to create.”

Gowree offers insight into the practical aspects of structuring arrangements between the creative individuals;  The agreements will have to be carefully drafted to allocate the price for various rights so that the exact amount to be shared with the composers, script/screenplay writers lyricists and performers can be allocated at the first instance.” Despite this, even top lawyers at Nishith Desai concede that it is not clear at present how the commercial arrangements would work.  Ms Gokhale goes on, “It appears that copyright societies will have to play a more pro-active role by first providing a detailed tariff card for all types of exploitation and secondly by collecting and enforcing the underlying rights. The Amendments have certainly given room for using creative lawyering skills to develop and structure innovative business models to help the industry effectively deal with the changes.”

I will watch this new law with interest. For advice on Media Law, media funding and technology or branding please contact Justin Stephenson on cjs@jgrlaw.co.uk or Joanne Frears on jef@jgrlaw.co.uk. For expert advice in connection with the Indian film industry, we are very pleased to refer work to Gowree Gokhale at Gowree@ nishithdesai.com

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