Copyrights Enjoyed By Musicians

Sanyukta Biswas, an intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys, looks at the rights of singer, lyricist and composer that have been incorporated by the 2012 amendment.

Once upon a time in India even the most noted of film artists and musicians could not secure themselves financially despite their brilliance. In an infamous legal battle, in the dark ages, the rights of royalty of the performers were offered to the producers in a platter. In the recent years, the likes of Javed Akhtar, lobbied for securing the rights of people associated with the entertainment industry. The amendment saw light 7th June 2012 when it received the assent of the President on. The amendment did bring the Copyrights Act in confirmation with the WIPO Copyrights Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty and reach way beyond that. This article specifically deals with the rights of singer, lyricist and composer that have been incorporated by the 2012 amendment. The main objective behind the article is to describe and reflect upon the newly acquired copyrights of people related to the music industry and why is it a reason to rejoice.

Q1. What is a live performance and who is covered under it?

Answer: The definition of a performance in Section 2(q) of the Copyright Act is: ‘performance’, in relation to performer’s right, means any visual or acoustic presentation made live by one or more performers. The terms ‘made live’ are not defined in the statute. Hence the meaning of live performance is completely dependent on the interpretation that is done by the judiciary when it comes to recorded performance of a singer in a film. The definition of a ‘performer’ in Section 2(qq) of the Act as amended by the 2012 Act contains an inclusive definition which stated that a performer ‘includes an actor, singer, musician, dancer, acrobat, juggler, conjurer, snake charmer, a person delivering a lecture or any other person who makes a performance’. The 2012 Act added a Proviso to the Section which would disable those performers not mentioned in a film’s credits (including film ‘extras’) from being able to claim all but one of the rights granted to performers by the Act. They are entitled only to the protection accorded under section 38B. The Amendment Act 2012 has also sought to amend the definition of ‘Communication to Public’ (Section 2 (ff)) extending the right to performances. The definition explicitly states that it does not matter whether the communication is simultaneous or at places and times chosen individually. The rights under this head hitherto limited to authors have been extended to performers by the present amendment.

Q2. What are moral rights of performers and how are they protected?

Section 38B is a new provision in the Act which deals with the moral rights of performers. Moral rights of copyrights creator are recognized in civil law jurisdiction and also to some extend in common law jurisdiction. Moral rights of a copyright owner includes incidental rights such as right to attribution, the right to have worked published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work. The preserving of the integrity of the work bars the work from alteration, distortion or mutilation. It must be noted that moral rights associated to copyrights work, is different from the economical rights. Even when assignments are made moral rights of the copyright owner remains. This particular provision — Section 38B(b) of the Act — states that ‘the performer of a performance shall, independently of his right after assignment, either wholly or partially of his rights, have the right to restrain or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation or other modification of his performance that would be prejudicial to his reputation’. The other right which a performer would have — under Section 38B(a) of the Act — is the right to claim to be identified as the performer of his performance except where omission is dictated by the manner of the use of the performance. This right under the proposed Section 38B(a) obviously cannot apply to extras in films as they are not credited by definition.

It is pertinent to note that the provision also contains a safeguard against abuse of moral rights in the form of an Explanation which would state that ‘the mere removal of any portion of a performance for the purpose of editing, or to fit the recording within a limited duration, or any other modification required for purely technical reasons shall not be deemed to be prejudicial to the performer’s reputation’. This too is analogous to the rights granted to authors: the moral right of an author would not be considered to have been violated merely because his or her work has, not been displayed to his or her satisfaction.

Illustration 1: A is the original singer of a certain song “ Gullu ke gubbare” who was appointed by the music company XYZ. He assigned his rights to B. Despite the assignment, A would have the rights to be acknowledged for being the singer and he can also prevent others from distorting it.

Illustration 2: P sang in the film “Cocoa” about addiction of chocolate. Later on it was decided by the production unit of the film that due to the entire length of the movie, some scenes containing songs of P had to be modified. Due to this modification, the moral rights of the singer would not be effected.

Q3. What are the positive rights of the performers now and how can they be enforced and protected?

Answer: Section 38A of the Act enumerates acts similar to those listed in Section 14 which defines copyright, but instead of stating that performing them without consent would cause one to violate the performer’s right, it states that it is the exclusive right of the performer to perform or authorize the performance of these acts or any substantial part thereof. So it can be conclusively stated that earlier the rights were proscriptive in nature and now it is prescriptive. Earlier the performers were not entitled to royalties because they only had a negative right to prohibit ‘fixation’ of their live performances. A work is “fixed” in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, revproduced. The fixed work does not have to be directly perceivable by a person but can be one that requires some machine or device for its display.

The Act, however, does not completely do away with the performer’s right. Firstly, it contemplates that the consent of a performer for the incorporation of his performance in a cinematograph film would be in writing, and would not merely be oral.

Further, once a performer gives valid consent for the incorporation of his performance in a film, he would not generally be able to object to the enjoyment by the film’s producer of his performer’s right in it. There are two important caveats under the Act though: firstly, the performer may enter into an agreement to the contrary i.e. there would be no statutory prohibition to his entering into an agreement which stated that he could object to the producer enjoying his performer’s right in the film. Secondly, the producer’s enjoyment of the performer’s right in the film may be interpreted to be limited to the film, so that the producer would not be able to enjoy the performer’s right for the purpose of retaining all the revenues generated through the commercial use of a performance (assuming the performance was live).

Further, the prohibition on the producer’s enjoyment of the performer’s right in respect of commercial use is buttressed by a Proviso which states that ‘notwithstanding anything contained in Section 38A(2), the performer shall be entitled for royalties in case of making of the performances for commercial use’. It thus appears that the intention is to accord to performers the benefits analogous to those which the 2012 Act accords to the authors of underlying works incorporated in sound recordings for live performances. This would make available to performers revenue stream which has thus far not been known to have been accorded to them, particularly since applying the provisions of Sections 18 and 19 to the performers right would give performers an ‘equal share of revenues’ for live performances analogous to the ones which the authors of underlying works in films and sound recordings enjoy.

Illustration 1: S, an upcoming singer was performing at a Christmas party. The audience cannot record the song without taking due permission from S.

Illustration 2: A certain producer can generate revenue through the signing performance of a certain singer, only limited to the film or the album. He is prohibited from generating revenue through using the song as ringtone and caller tune.

No Work Person Amount Use
1 Film (and possibly sound recording) Performer Unspecified Commercial use of their perfomance
2 Non film sound recordings LyricistComposer Royalties to be shared on an equal basis with the assignee of the copyright Any utilization on the underlying works in any form

Q4. What are the relevant provisions with regards to assignment?

Answer: Under Section 18(1) a second proviso has been inserted. It provides that no such assignments shall apply to any mode of exploitation that did not exist or was not known in commercial use when the assignment was made. This amendment strengthens the position of the author if new modes of exploitation of the work come to exist and prevents them from being misused. Section 18(1) provides that the owner of a copyright in any work or prospective owner of a future work may assign the copyright, and the proviso to this sub-section clarifies that in the case of future work, assignment will come into force only when the work comes into existence. Another proviso under S. 18(1), provides that the author of a literary or musical work incorporated in a cinematograph film or sound recording shall not assign the right to receive royalties in any form other than as a part of the film or sound recording. Section 19 relates to the mode of assignment. Sub-section (3) has been amended to provide that the assignment shall specify the ‘other considerations’ besides royalty, if any, payable to the Assignor. Therefore, it indicates that only monetary compensation by way of royalty could lead to assignment. A new sub-section(8)has been inserted making the assignment of copyright void if contrary to the terms and conditions of the earlier assignment to a copyright society in which the author of the work is a member. This amendment is an attempt to streamline the business practices.

CONCLUSION

It is pertinent to note that the lobbyists for the amendment were artists associated with Bollywood. As a result of which the amendments, as time would tell, would probably be beneficial for performers of Bollywood. Following the amendment there have various petitions filed challenging its validity by composers and lyricists themselves. A certain association of Bhojpuri singers claimed, that the said amendment would harm their interests. This is because of the provision for mandatory sharing of royalties with the performers. This would actually in practice reduce their single lump sum advance payment.  The reason would be the fact that regional and classical songs do not enjoy the kind of popularity Bollywood songs do. For similar reasons, people associated offbeat Hindi movies and music would also suffer, as they would have to be commercially successful in order to earn any profits. This would result in ruining of a rich and diverse culture of movies and songs in the country. The only way to avoid compulsory sharing of royalty provision seems to sign a contract which would be governed by the copyright laws of another country.  The chances of this condition being of any help to regional composer and lyricist is slim. The term “equal sharing of royalties” is also vague in the sense that it does not provide for any specific method of for computation of the share of royalties of each one involved in the process. Compulsory joining of copyrights societies is also a coercive measure and its ambiguous if the society is Indian or international.

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