The Copyright Act (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha, which witnessed unusual unanimity on the matter with members from all parties supporting the measure for creative artistes whose benefits are cornered by producers.
The bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 17, declares authors as owners of the copyright, which cannot be assigned to producers as was the practice till now.
Noting that poor artistes had been left in the lurch as producers cornered all royalties, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal said the new law will help them live a good life even in old age as they would continue to get their dues for their work during their heyday.
Moving the bill for passage, he gave examples of shehnai exponent Bismillah Khan and music composer Ravi to press home the point that the condition of such excellent artistes was pitiable as they were not able to pay even house rent and hospital charges.
The bill makes it mandatory for broadcasters - both radio and television - to pay royalty to the owners of the copyright each time a work of art is broadcast.
It bans persons from bringing out cover versions of any literary, dramatic or musical work for five years from the first recording of the original creation.
The bill received overwhelming support including from the Opposition which appreciated the government for such a step, though belatedly.
Moving the Bill, Sibal said he wanted the Principal Director to be recognised as the author of a film along with the producer.
However, he said the Parliamentary Standing Committee was of the opinion that time was not ripe for the Principal Director to share royalty. Accordingly, Sibal said the corresponding amendments had been dropped.
The Bill provides for exemption from copyright for any work prepared for the physically challenged in special formats such as Braille. It also permits compulsory licence to be granted for a certain number of copies in non-special formats to non-profit organisations working to help disabled persons.
Observing that producers had cornered governing rights of Copyright Societies, Sibal said the Act has been amended to give authors the right to govern issues related to the rights to their creations.
The minister said the amendment would allow authors to negotiate with music companies for royalty to be paid to them for their creations.
The bill also exempts students from the copyright laws using such material for research purposes. It seeks to impose a fine and two years' imprisonment for persons indulging in piracy.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, welcoming the bill, noted that several great lyricists, including Kuldeep Singh who penned the famous song ‘itni shakti hamen dena daata, mann ka vishwas kamzor na ho', were living in bad conditions.
Noted lyricist and Rajya Sabha member Javed Akhtar, who has been spearheading the campaign for such a measure, was in the visitors gallery as Swaraj said she was supporting the bill despite being told that film producers would be unhappy with her if she did so.
Seeking to do a balancing act, she said what she had done for film producers, nobody else did so. In this regard, she said she was the one who declared film as an industry within three months when she was Information Broadcasting Minister during the NDA rule.
“What was not done for 40 years, was done in three months ....earlier, producers would not get money from banks. They were in the grip of underworld...By that gazette notification, producers started getting crores of rupees,” she said, adding today she wanted “justice” to be given to artistes.
The comments by Swaraj were welcomed and endorsed by Shashi Tharoor (Cong), who said companies have taken undue advantage of creations by artistes who live in penury.
He underlined that artistes like lyricists should be given their due and their “creativity” should not be measured in terms of three or five minute-song but the effort of days or months that goes into it.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) also appreciated Sibal for bringing the bill as he said, “I usually don't agree with any of your work but on this I am with you.”
He hailed Swaraj for her eloquent speech on the touchy issue. “Sushmaji ka swar laga tha, mera nahi. Jab swar lagta hai to parmatma dikhta hai (Sushma struck the chord, I could not. When the chord is touched, one can see God).” Tathagath Satpathy (BJD) however cautioned the government against passing the measure in a hurry and demanded a “rethink”.
He said the measure could help international drug and chemical companies to demand similar laws in their fields. “It should not be used as instrument to beat the country on other fora,” he said.