CISAC reiterates Indian copyright act

Composers' association supports amendments to IPR law

NEW DELHI -- The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers Tuesday reasserted its support of the Indian government's efforts to modify the 1957 Copyright Act.

The proposed amendments -- scheduled to be discussed for final approval in the upcoming session of Parliament after an initial cabinet approval in December -- would grant independent rights to literary and musical creators (composers and lyricists) of musical works used in Indian films and recognize film directors as co-authors with producers.

This would ultimately allow them all to receive royalties. Under the current framework, Indian film and record producers have historically entered into blanket buyout agreements with musical and other creators which CISAC said “deprive creators of their rights to control further uses of these works or collect royalties.”

CISAC cited the example of A R Rahman, composer of the Oscar and Grammy winning “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack who “kept the rights to his work on this U.K.-produced film but would not have if these very same works were included in an Indian production.”

Considering that the Indian music industry is dominated by film soundtracks, which have also made stars out of lyricists and composers, the debate over copyright has become intense in recent years, with creators challenging producers and record labels for more control and financial rewards for their work.

CISAC said the proposed amendments in the copyright bill “are perfectly consistent with established and accepted practices of the film industry worldwide, contrary to the claims of the Indian producers.”

In a letter to the copyright bill’s originator, Indian minister of Human Resources and Development Kapil Sibal, CISAC’s Director General Eric Baptiste stated, “Composers and authors in other key filmmaking markets like the United States, the European Union, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan do not lose their right to a share in the royalties when their creations are used in films, even though, like their Indian colleagues, they have been paid to compose or write for film or sound recording companies.”

Added CISAC president Robin Gibb, co-founder of supergroup The Bee Gees, “Movie music in India is a big business and it’s unacceptable that the composers and lyricists who make the music don’t benefit from the success of their works because of an outdated system. Indian producers and record companies clearly don’t want to share their royalties with creators, but the Indian Parliament needs to know that this is not the norm elsewhere.”

CISAC is headed by Gibb and Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and its members include India's Indian Performing Right Society.

In 2005, India's ministry of human resources development, assisted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, established a 30-member core group headed by the education secretary to extend copyright protection also covering digital media.

When the Copyright Act amendments were announced in December 2009, an official government statement said that the “amendment is proposed to give independent rights to authors of literary and musical works in cinematograph films, which were hitherto denied and wrongfully exploited, by the producers and music companies.”

The statement also added that the amendent “would bring the Copyright Act in conformity with WIPO Internet Treaties, namely WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which have set the international standards in these spheres.”

While India has not yet signed these two treaties, the statement added that “it is necessary to amend domestic legislation to extend the copyright protection in the digital environment.”

The WCT deals with the protection for the authors of literary and artistic works such as writings, computer programs, original databases, musical works, audiovisual works, works of fine art and photographs. The WPPT protects certain "related rights" which are the rights of the performers and producers of phonograms.