India is a nation of music lovers. Be it the birth of a child, a journey, a wedding, a festival or other celebration, or even the sad death of a loved one – we sing, and have a song, for every occasion.
Our choice of music may vary as per individual tastes – some may like the latest Bollywood blockbuster, while some may take comfort in the old-is-gold gems of Kishore-Rafi-Mukesh-Lata-Asha; some may groove to International rock, while some may find familiarity in their regional favourites; some may find enlightenment in ghazals while some may find salvation in bhajans; some may relate to modern fusion music, while some find depth in our centuries old classical music traditions. Yet, collectively, we truly love our music.
However, perhaps the only thing that our love for music comes second to is our love for wanting to use it for free!
An old saying goes: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” There are many commercial users of music who seem to have their own version of this saying: “Since you love (and earn from) music, use it for free. If you can get away with it, it’s yours. If you can’t, spread lies and half-truths and use it anyway!”
That unfortunately, seems to be the current state of music usage in our country and recently, we have seen a spate of press conferences, press releases, social media campaigns and what-not which tend to take a high moral ground and distort facts and the law. But the underlying message is very simple: we shall not pay for music, though we have every right to earn money for ourselves by using it!
The basic thrust of the ‘won’t pay-for-music campaign’ can be summarized as: PPL and IPRS were copyright societies earlier but haven’t applied for re-registration as required by the amended copyright laws. Therefore they need not be paid anymore.
As someone said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And in this case, the distorted truth is a very convenient and enriching thing indeed for the sponsors of this campaign. It is a matter of public record that PPL and IPRS have chosen not to re-register as Copyright Societies but are now conducting business as private limited companies. For those interested in technicalities, earlier they operated under Section 33 of the Copyright Act, and now operate under Section 30 of the Copyright Act.
However, the fundamental truth that this change of corporate structure does not alter is the fact that under both scenarios, PPL and IPRS represent a certain class of owners of music respectively, and if you want to use these rights in a commercial environment then it’s only fair that you pay for this usage – both from a moral and a legal standpoint.
The matter is very simple really when you consider this analogy: if you’ve are a Vodafone consumer and willingly use their services, you cannot refuse to pay the bill at the end of the month just because it was called Hutch when you initially signed up for the service! The service hasn’t changed, nor has your usage, so how can you take shelter under the changed corporate structure of the service provider?
Of course, these untruths and distortions suit the people behind it as it gives them a reason to willfully infringe someone else’s property for personal financial gain. It is really for the ultimate end user – the music loving masses of our country – to ponder over what this denial of rightful dues to the owners of music would mean for the future of music in our country.
It will be a Sad day indeed when owners of music decide that they are better off running restaurants that play someone else’s music to add to the establishment’s ambience or operating an orchestra that makes money by using someone else’s music.. rather than funding the creation of music that adds so much joy to our lives.
Lawyer Who Refuses To Obey The Law!
At a recent press conference in Delhi & Agra, one of the most vocal critics of IPRS was Mr Kaushik Kothari. Interestingly, the same gentleman also runs an orchestra band called ‘Golden Greats’ and refused to take the necessary license for playing music in the orchestra! Given this infringement of copyright, the Delhi High Court granted injunction but he refused to comply with the order. Interestingly, Mr Kothari is also a lawyer so perhaps one would have expected a more accurate interpretation of the law than the distortions that he has been presenting. It would be fair to say that anyone who has any stake or interest in the music business would agree that they are better off without such ‘protectors of music’!
Changed Corporate Structure Doesn’t Mean Copyright Extinguished!
In response to a recent case filed in 2015 by IPRS, the Chandigarh court upheld that IPRS as owner can issue license for the Musical & Literary Works as per section 30 of the Copyright Act. It further directed the Organizer to obtain license for playing of music in public from IPRS. Similarly PPL also filed a suit and the court upheld that PPL is entitled to issue license under section 30 as owner of rights for any playing of music. This unequivocally counters the malicious campaign and distortion that PPL and IPRS need not be paid simply because they chose not to re-register themselves as copyright societies.
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