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'Composers and lyricists too need to benefit from success'

Last updated: 01 April, 2010
The Inquirer 22:23 IST

For his legions of fans, Robin Gibb is a member of the legendary band Bee Gees. But he has another identity that is keeping him probably as busy as his performing avatar. Gibb is also the president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the body representing three million lyricists and musicians worldwide.

CISAC has strongly supported the proposed amendments to India’s Copyright Act which aims at giving a right to royalty to lyricists and composers. Gibb terms it ‘unacceptable’ that composers and lyricists of Indian film music do not benefit from the success of their works because of an ‘outdated system.’ In an exclusive interview with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari, Gibb articulates on the issue.

What prompted CISAC to write to the Indian government on the issue of the amendments to the Copyright Act?
In India, film and recording companies claim ownership of all copyrights to musical works used in films, arguing that this is standard practice in the industry. As president of CISAC, an international organisation representing creators and their societies across the world, I know that this is not true. In fact, this practice, which is extremely detrimental to creators, is at odds with the way the rights of composers and lyricists are managed elsewhere in the world. Just as concerning to me is the status of film directors, who are still not considered co-authors of their films. .

What are the main issues that you have raised in your letter to Kapil Sibal?
Our letter points out that these amendments would bring the Indian film industry in line with international treaties as well as legislation and practices of other major film producing countries. Creators and their societies all over the world fully support the proposed amendments and are urging the Indian Parliament to pass them. Our letter provides examples of major film composers like James Horner (Titanic), and Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) who have retained the rights to their musical compositions and thus continue to get a share of royalties earned from non-film uses like ring tone downloads. We also emphasise that it would be unfair for Indian creators to be deprived of the financial benefits made possible by new media and technologies that rely so heavily on creators’ works.

Film producers in India are opposing the changes to the Act. As a representative body of authors and composers worldwide, what would be your message to producers here?
In the name of the three million creators and 225 authors’ societies in 118 countries that CISAC represents, my message is this: we encourage Indian film producers to look beyond their immediate financial interests and adopt the international practice of sharing the rewards with the creative people whose talent brings these works to life. Practices in other countries have shown that sharing royalties is not a zero-sum game. It recognises the entrepreneurial spirit and the critical investments made by film and sound recording producers as well as the indispensable contributions of creators.

Apart from the proposed amendments, do you see any other lacunae in the Indian Copyright Act?
The Indian government needs to bring the Copyright Act in line with the requirements of major international treaties, especially the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). We would also like to see India adopt effective anti-piracy measures like the ‘graduated response,’ following the example of France, Taiwan, South Korea and more recently the Digital Economy Bill in the UK.

How would you compare the Indian Act with the copyright laws of other countries that you consider are among the best?
The Indian copyright law is well-crafted piece of legislation. The real challenge, in our view, relates to industry practices which, as in the current debate, require that additional provisions be expressly written into the law to maintain the delicate balance between creators and those that use their works.

Q: Why do you think India remained oblivious to the need for these amendments all these years?
I do not believe that India was oblivious to these issues. CISAC’s understanding of the situation is that changes had been difficult to push through due to political pressure from the powerful film and sound recording industries. That is why we are so encouraged by the current Indian government’s efforts to enact the provisions under discussion in Parliament.

Q: Does CISAC plan to give more support in any other form to the composers and lyricists in India? If yes, how?
It is difficult for me to give a specific response here as any next steps really depend on future developments. I can however say that CISAC would be prepared to organise a delegation to meet with the minister and relevant parliamentary committees to further explain the practices in other countries and enable the Indian government to enact its proposed amendments to the law.

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