Facing the music.....JAVED AKHTAR
Worldwide, writers and composers share royalty with producers. India has
been an exception for too long
THE entire controversy around the amendment to the
copyright law is needless -because the law is not creating or inventing any new
right or royalty for music composers and songwriters in India.
The provision already exists, accepted by producers and music companies
by signing MoUs in the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS). Since 1969, the
IPRS has been entrusted with the task of collecting royalties for artists. But,
more often than not, this has remained only on paper. The new bill is meant to
enforce it and secure for Indian composers and songwriters the royalties that
their counterparts elsewhere in the world rightly enjoy.
Across the world, authors and composers share the royalty with the
publisher, whose task is to market the music. In India, till 1993, producers
were members of the IPRS, as publishers. In 1993, music companies replaced the
producers as publishers by signing an MoU with authors and composers that they
will share the royalty on an equal basis. Meanwhile, music companies told the
producers that they would give them money upfront provided the producer got the
author and the composer to give up their rights unconditionally in perpetuity.
This is a good example of twofacedness. On the one
hand, the music companies, as part of the IPRS, are committed to share the
royalty with artists on an equal basis. On the other hand, in the comfort of
their offices and in their dealings with filmmakers, they force the artists,
through the producer, to relinquish all their rights in perpetuity. That is how
music companies are running with the hare and hunting with the hounds here. They
have to keep up this facade that they are sharing the royalties with author and
composer on an equal basis; otherwise they will not get a penny from the rest of
Now let us see how the division of royalty is
practised across the world. Suppose a song gets Rs 100 as royalty, out of this,
Rs 50 goes to the producer or the music company for sound-recording
No composer or author can claim a penny of it.
Now we are left with Rs 50. Out of this, Rs 25 again goes to the producer or the
music company. Now from the rest, Rs 12.50 goes to composer and Rs 12.50 to
songwriter. The producers are unwilling to let go of even that. They are
shouting blue murder because the new bill says they cannot take away the 12.5
per cent from the author.
Recently they have changed their tune. Now they are
saying they would give royalty after they have recovered the money spent on
recording and publicity. In other words, we write the song and compose it, and
then the recording and publicity will also be at our expense. In this situation,
one wonders what is the contribution of the producer, and on what grounds does
he claim 75 per cent of royalty? Many people are not very clear about the source
of these royalties.
Actually, these royalties have noth ing to do with
the success or failure of a movie. For instance, the film t Deewar was a hit;
its songs not so much. On the other hand, the film Papa Kehte Hain, starring
Jugal Hansraj, flopped, but its song Ghar se nikalte hi became a hit. Royalty
comes from the success of the songs -as they are played on radio t and
television and get downloaded as ringtones.
The filmmakers also argue that they cannot pay a
newcomer as much as they do a veteran composer/songwriter. But royalty is not an
amount that they pay; it is a percentage that they share. When royalty is given
by a radio station or a television channel, whether the composer is a star or an
unknown entity does not matter.
When the royalty is the same at that end, why
should it be different at another end? Also, what the producers conveniently
forget to reveal is that when a song becomes popular, their 75 per cent royalty
In the West, songs are typically not part of films;
they come as albums. The producers' revenue comes from the songs being played,
performed and downloaded. Here the songs are part of films. The producers have
an additional source of income, from the films, apart from other usages of
songs. Even then, they are cribbing when asked to share royalty. By the way, in
the West, for songs in films such as The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, the
royalty for writer and composer comes from the cinema hall as well. Leave aside
songs, even the background music of a film gets royalties.
The producers and music companies have another
argument: that the deal is between them and the author and the composer, why
should the government interfere in that? But the government always interferes
when two parties who enter into an agreement are not equally
The government always interferes when there is
injustice in the system. That is the reason government creates laws against
dowry and child labour.
Anyway, the whole conversation only has academic
interest. In an unusual move, the standing committee of Parliament has passed
the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2010 unanimously.
There was not one dissenting note. Parliament
is in one voice on the issue. It is just a matter of time now. Parliament will
resume functioning in the next session, hopefully, and pass the bill.
Javed Akhtar is a songwriter and scriptwriter
* ROYALTY HAS nothing to do with the success or
failure of a movie. Royalty comes from the success of the - songs -- as they are
played on radio and television f and get downloaded as ringtones.