The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) issued a meeting notice on February 11, 2020 calling for a stakeholders meeting to discuss issues pertaining to copyright, the provisions under the Copyright Act, 1957 and the rules formed thereunder. The meeting was scheduled on February 13, 2020 in New Delhi.
The list of stakeholders invited included broadcasting organizations, television and radio broadcasters, music labels, copyright societies and hotel associations.
The meeting was chaired by Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary DPIIT and attended by Deputy Secretary Mr. Ravinder, Deputy Secretary Ms. Surabhi Sharma and Registrar of Copyright Mr. Hoshiar Singh.
As per information received from reliable sources, some of the issues discussed in the meeting included the following:
1. Need for a single society for each class of work-
Several stakeholders spoke for the need of a single society in each class of work and against having multiple societies for the same class of work.
PPL, MCAI and some of the broadcasters were amongst those who voted for single society for single class of work while others like RMPL and SIMCA voted for multiple societies for same class of work.
Those who spoke for multiple societies for same class of work cited that competition is necessary and users should have the choice of multiple society. Further, that having multiple societies would enable better representation for regional players.
2. Single window licensing
Most of the broadcasters/ users/ hotel associations rooted for single window licensing regardless of the number of copyright societies for the classes of work to avoid the hassles of going to multiple owners/ societies/ agencies.
3. Injustice of exemption granted to weddings and related functions
Several stakeholders spoke against the exemption granted to weddings and related functions citing that such exemption is unjust and is resulting in losses in revenues to the owners and authors of songs.
Some contested that the exemption should only be for the main marriage ceremony and not other related functions like sangeet, etc.
4. MCAI: The Music Composers Association of India (MCAI) highlighted the issues faced by the music composers and their vulnerability. It stressed on the safeguards required for a single society for a single class of work. Some of the issues raised by MCAI include:
- Targets should be set for membership and inclusivity
- Empowerment of existing societies
- Enforcement support needed from state and central government bodies
- Safeguards against monopolistic practices and accountability systems,
- Modernization of technology
- A functional Copyright panel with stakeholder representation for overseeing the process
5. Internet broadcasting:
The digital streaming platforms spoke on internet broadcasting falling within the scope of Section 31D, urgent need for royalty rates to be fixed by IPAB.
6. Radio broadcasters:
Radio broadcasters spoke for the necessity of statutory licensing provisions due to monopolistic regime in the music industry , issues faced due to dysfunctional IPAB, single window licensing/ combined licenses and the examples of collaboration between societies in UK.
The radio broadcasters also informed the government on high operation costs being faced by them and huge payment for spectrum. The issue of not paying royalties to IPRS due to IPRS vs Aditya Pandey judgement was also raised.
7. News broadcasters:
Some of the news broadcasters spoke on fair dealing provisions being applied to music usage by news channels as the usage is minimal.
8. Television broadcasters: a member from the television broadcasting sector demanded for waiver for royalties for television channels producing their own content.
9. Screenwriters Rights Association of India: Pleaded for expedition of their registration as a copyright society.
10. Hotel Associations: Some of the issues raised by the hotel associations seemed to be on the royalty tariff scheme for hotels where they are charged on a per room basis. They mentioned that onus should be on the user and not the hotels and that hotels should be exempted. They raised issues on harassment faced by entities like Novex and coercive methods adopted by such agencies. They also contended that the royalty bills for smaller parties are at times higher than the food bills. They insisted on need for moderation and regulation of tariff scheme, redressal and appeal system to be put in place, single window licensing/ overall single society.
Some of the other suggestions include:
- Parent society that acts as an overseer
- Only registered copyright societies should be entitled to collect royalties
While such stakeholder meetings are a positive step in understanding the issues faced by the different segments of the industry, it is unclear on why such important meetings were set with a two day prior notice. Moreover, like the previous meetings, the participation seems to be limited to few stakeholders only, though this meeting saw invitations to larger spectrum of stakeholders than the previous meetings.
The Government seems to have asked all these stakeholders to give their written submissions and the next meeting would be scheduled towards end of March, 2020.
Readers may recollect that the Government had invited submissions on the draft Copyright Amendment Rules, 2019.
Most of the suggestions/ representations made by the different stakeholders can only be addressed by way of an amendment to the Copyright Act and Rules. It would have to be seen whether the Government is holding these stakeholder meetings with the intent to bring about an amendment to the Copyright Act and Rules.
The various constitutional challenges to the Copyright Amendment Act and Rules have seen no progress in the last few years since the time they have been filed. Most of the ambiguities in relation to the 2012 amendments still persist. The year 2020 would also see the expiry of the 2010 Copyright Board order on 2% radio royalties. Several litigations by IPRS which are pending before different courts would also be heard this year such as the one in relation to YRF as well as Ushodaya Enterprises matter. While television and internet broadcasters have started signing licensing deals with IPRS, the radio broadcasters are still relying on the IPRS vs Aditya Pandey judgement. A lot of these issues can be resolved by introducing a clear amendment in the Copyright Act and Rules balancing the reasonable demands and views of the different stakeholders.
As an initiative to make every stakeholder’s voice heard, we invite suggestions from all on the points you wish the Government should address.
Please send in your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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