Why on earth is everyone suddenly going jhing-a-la-la-ing about copyright? All talk shows and news-hour debates have suddenly discovered the importance of copyright and a proposed amendment to the Copyright Act. After all, copyright and the proposed amendment have got to be important issues if you have Aamir Khan, the quintessential jhing-a-la-la man, himself embroiled in a celebrity spat with Javed Akhtar over the issue. These, unfortunately, are the parameters by which we now judge whether or not an issue is important enough to be featured on prime time news. Now that the celebrities have kissed and made up, the issue too has become passé and need no longer be discussed hotly. Well, that’s the way it is folks. We are, finally, a nation that is completely in awe of Bollywood and its celebrities, and to a lesser extent, television celebrities.
If that isn’t true, then we need to holler out to dear Sib and say “Wake Up Sib” because you need to reassure us that there’s more to the amendment than just the jhing-a-la-la brouhaha. But to give dear Sib his due, I’ve got to stop being irreverent and get down to brass tacks. So this is the last time you will hear me Sibbing away irreverently about Mr Sibal, our hon’ble minister for human resource development and one of the leading legal experts in the country. My apologies, hon’ble minister, sir, and ne’er again shall I err as I have in this column. Not unless you stick to your inexplicable decision to include only representatives from the film industry in the panel that is said to have been formed to discuss and sort out differences between producers, record labels, artistes and creators, all of whom will be affected by the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act.
I’m hoping that the hon’ble minister will forgive my momentary lapse into irreverence because, you see, the issue isn’t about who’s mad at whom, and who’s not talking to whom, but one that is about protecting and empowering creative people—people who compose, write and script the music, the songs, screenplays and plots that we so love and cherish. The proposed amendment is about strengthening the rights of creative people by ensuring that their right to profit from any exploitation of their creative genius is non-assignable and cannot be waived in toto. Crudely explained, this would mean that if your favourite composer or lyricist were to write a new song, either for a film or for an album, or for any other commercial purpose, he or she would not have to assign all rights, in perpetuity (or forever more), worldwide (even in the universe and the galaxy), contrary to current practice thus far. Therefore, if a work is to be exploited commercially in any other format, but for which permission was granted or licence given, due permissions/licences would have to be sought from the creators, who would also be entitled to a reasonable share of the profits to be made from further exploitation of their works. So if you took permission to incorporate a song in an album, and you now wish to sell it as a ringtone too, then you would need to get permission from all the parties who made the song in the first place, and also share profits from the sale of ringtones with them.
Biased: Is the copyright debate film-focused?
It surprises me then that people from the film industry (who work as an ensemble with specialists and artistes from different genres joining hands) should be opposing this fair and reasonable sharing of revenues. It surprises me even more that a discussion on an issue of such abiding importance should be convened officially with a panel that does not include representatives of different forms and genres, including art music, folk music, ghazal and regional music. Further, the opinions of producers and artistes from different parts of the country must be taken into consideration or else, life will definitely not be jhing-a-la-la!
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org